Choices, decisions and information overload, oh my! Part 4

Evaluating our critical thinking process.

At any given time on any given day we are thinking about a variety of issues. Those issues may include what to eat for dinner, what song shall I listen to, why the gas prices are what they are, and why is wearing a seat belt the law. We are constantly bombarded with issues, questions, laws, preferences, choices and this not only occurs in our own home, but our neighborhood, city, town, state, and tribe, country and beyond! How do we begin to make the best choices for us, our family, tribe, and community? As we have moved into an era of technology where information is at our finger tips, we are able to review an abundant amount of data on any of the questions and situations that we face on a daily basis. But how do we synthesize all the information that we are seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing? A better question is why would we want to synthesize and think critically? The answer simply is to ensure that we are creating a quality of life which is based on our quality of thought.

As we explore critical thinking there are established universal intellectual standards and questions which are used to reason a problem, issue or situation. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools written by Richard Paul and Lind Elder (2006) stated there are eight key elements for evaluating reasoning:

  1. Purpose: Is the purpose clearly stated or clearly implied? Is it justifiable?
  2. Question: Is the question clear and unbiased?
  3. Information: Does the writer cite relevant evidence, experiences, and/or information essential to the issues? Is the information accurate?
  4. Concepts: Does the writer clarify key concepts when necessary?
  5. Assumptions: Does the writer show sensitivity to what he or she is taking for granted or assuming?
  6. Inferences: Does the writer develop a line of reasoning explain well how she or he is arriving at her or his main conclusion?
  7. Point of View: Does the writer show sensitivity to alternative relevant points of view or lines of reasoning?
  8. Implications: Does the writer show sensitivity to the implication and consequences of the position she or he is taking?

As we continue to explore and interrupt our experiences, it is vital to raise questions and clearly articulate the purpose of the question. As critical thinkers, the information that is gathered is relevant and essential to the question being asked. The eight elements are there for individuals to analyze their thoughts to ensure that the conclusion that is made is based on logic, fairness and with as much information as possible. However, it is also important to think critically about where and who developed the information that is being used as reliable information.

To learn more about Government and Public Policy programs offered through Michigan State University Extension please contact me, Tribal Extension educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or To contact an expert in your area, visit the expert page, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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