Diana Halpern's (1996)

Framework for Critical Thinking

Definition: Critical thinking is the use of cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a good outcome. CT is purposeful, reasoned, and goal-directed.

Answer the following questions:

1. What is the goal?

First step in improving thinking is to be clear about the goal or goals. Sometimes there are multiple goals; sometimes the goal changes as we work on a problem. If the overall goal is not OPERATIONAL (i.e., "get a good grade" or "reach a good decision"), then identify operational goals (write clearly, address all elements of the assignment, evaluate the consequences of alternative decisions).

2. What is known?

Review what is known. You may know more than you realize, once you start taking a census. You may also realize that some of the apparently information is not certain at all. If you are completing an assignment or solving a problem for someone else, review guidelines for the assignment and ask yourself what the person cares about and values in a solution.

3. Which thinking skills will get you to your goal? [apply skills]

How will you get there? Generate some tactics, strategies. Diagram the problem. Analyze written materials for underlying assumptions. Consider the credibility of evidence and experts. Scrutinize words for ambiguity, emotional bias, flawed logic. What are the limitations of metaphors or analogies? Ask questions. Explain the problem to someone else to get a better grasp on it yourself.

4. Have you reached your goal?

Did you solve the problem you set out to solve? Check your solution against the criteria. Does it work? Are all subgoals addressed? Does you solution exhibit the qualities that your audience/customer/employer values?