By Stephanie M. Heald-Fisher, Graduate Program Chair, Online Division Minnesota School of Business
Although the title says graduate level thinking, the skill that is the focus of this article is critical thinking. As you move through your graduate level courses, you may receive feedback from instructors telling you to use your critical thinking skills. In order to do so, it is important to understand what critical thinking is.
By definition, critical thinking is “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence” (Dictionary, 2013, para. 1). If you visit the Foundation for Critical Thinking web site, you will find a much longer and more detailed explanation of the term. This is one of the hallmarks of critical thinking. It is detailed oriented. It is thinking that goes beyond the obvious.
When instructors guide you to use these skills, they are asking you to consider a topic from multiple perspectives. Critical thinking goes beyond the initial question. It considers additional questions, issues, or ideas that might arise as a result of the answer to the initial question. Effective critical thinking requires us to analyze ideas, evaluate information, and synthesize our conclusions.
This is more than just reporting what we found out about a topic. Reporting tells us what other people think on the topic. Critical thinking tells the world what we think about the topic.
At the graduate level of our education, we are challenged with more than just reporting on concepts and ideas. We are challenged to investigate and analyze the information we find. Our answers can no longer just be our opinion. They must be supported with factual evidence based on research. Our instructors will no longer spoon feed us the answers. We must go out and find them. In order to do all of this, we must use our critical thinking skills. And by doing so, we help ourselves to succeed at the graduate level.
For a great resource on critical thinking and all that it entails, check out the Foundation for Critical Thinking’s web site.