What does “critical thinking” mean to you? (Or do you like better the idea of “crucial thinking”?) Thinking Man
How do higher level thinking skills apply to the work that you do?
How do you think you can develop your ability to effectively think through complex issues (asking more crucial questions)?

In preparation for the upcoming ICT4D Consortium workshop in Tanzania, Tersia, Erkki and I met with Tim Unwin (UNESCO Chair in ICT4D) and his capable team at Royal Holloway, University of London. In addition to the Edulink related meetings, I appreciated how Tim also allowed us to participate in some of the other classes and discussion groups he held.

On the first day he held a discussion with a group of his PhD students on “critical thinking” (based on Paul, R. and Elder, L., 2008, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking). The discussion stimulated a lot of my own thoughts.
This blog entry is my attempt to capture some of my “take-away” thoughts, and to see how they resonate with others:

• As a term “crucial thinking” not only avoids some of the negative connotation (in English) of “critical thinking” but it also suggests something that is more essential and important. I like it.
• Whatever you call it, higher level thinking skills are so valuable, and so needed in making sense of this complex world, and in asking more powerful questions that can help us get at the heart of essential issues.
• Notice the distinction between seeking to prove something vs. seeking to learn/discover (especially in research questions).
• Often we don’t ask questions we should ask. Sometimes it might be because our parents or culture has taught us to ask less questions? Sometimes it might be because we are afraid of looking like we don’t know something that maybe we think we should know?
• Our typical school system rarely teaches us truth seeking curiosity, but rather the typical “learning” mechanisms Cartoon(e.g. lecture, assignments, etc) and assessments (tests written and graded by a teacher vs. competence based real world projects with expert guides assisting) usually reinforce a lower level of thinking.
• Ask more questions (particularly “why” questions) – be more curious (be more vulnerable in admitting ignorance through asking a lot of questions). What other questions could I be asking?
• Ask myself: What assumptions I am making in the questions I am asking?
• Ask powerful questions – I should post another blog entry sometime on what I mean by this.
• Ask myself: How open am I to that I might be wrong in the solutions I am hypothesizing or that I might even be asking the wrong (less helpful) question(s) to begin with?
• Where do you start and build from in analyzing a situation to improve it? The weaknesses/problems or the strengths and what is going right? Whereas “critical thinking” might imply beginning from being critical of what is not right, crucial thinking could lend itself better to the attitude of starting from strengths, what is going right, (appreciative inquiry), etc.
• What is your claim? How do you justify it?
• Sometimes true crucial thinking is penalized by the existing system, because it often requires you to challenge the status quo (going against sources of money/power/etc). How willing am I to ask honest questions to myself and to those in authority (for the sake of truth), even if they could be seen as a threat or it might mean less privileged favors in the future?

Those are my thoughts. Do you have any to add? Or any answers to the first questions that began this blog entry?