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Section 2 Becoming a Researcher/Scholar / Chapter 6 Critical Thinking: The Means to Inquire
In an era in which increasing advances in technology offer wider access to information and education outlets, colleges and universities place a premium on developing critical-thinking skills to deliver a more educated and engaged workforce (Richardson & Ice, 2010; Saade, Morin, & Thomas, 2012). Critical thinking provides a means of engaging learning processes across academic and professional spectrums, “bridging the gap between theory and practice and between the academy and the workplace” (Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2005, p. 182). Why is critical thinking as a process and application important? As Wiggins (1989) observed,
The sign of a poor education … is not ignorance. It is … the thoughtless habit of believing [in] unexamined, superficial or [outdated] opinions and feelings are the truth; or the habit of timid silence when [an individual] does not understand what someone else is talking about (p. 57).
Wiggins pointed out that not having an answer is not the problem per se, rather the problem lies in a belief that the totality of what people have learned is all they will ever need to know, and people tend not to examine what they know or do not know.
A few basic questions will help to open this discussion: What comes to mind when presented with the term critical thinking? How can critical thinking support doctoral learners' development as scholars producing scholarly works? What critical-thinking skills help to produce outcomes that are both informed and clear?
This chapter seeks to engage a discussion of these and other questions related to critical thinking: how doctoral learners perform critical thinking, how to prepare for thinking critically, and how to engage critical thinking in the approach to new information at the cross-section of our identities and knowledge sources. Also discussed are the benefits, types, and characteristics of critical thinking, as well as examples of thinking critically in different contexts.