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Chapter 3 Thinking about Thought

Figure 3.1

Where Are You Now?

Assess your present knowledge and attitudes.

Yes Unsure No
1. I am a good problem solver.
2. I am considered creative by my friends.
3. I have good judgment.
4. I find it easy to make decisions quickly.
5. My decisions usually turn out to be good decisions.
6. I like to think things through before speaking.
7. I am not shy about asking questions when I don’t understand something.
8. I enjoy good discussions and arguments.
9. I regularly practice an art form (music, acting, painting, etc.)
10. I enjoy hearing other people’s points of view, even when I disagree with them.
11. I usually question information presented as fact on the Internet or television.

Where Do You Want to Go?

Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your level of thinking skills at this time?

Poor thinking skills Excellent thinking skills
1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

In the following list, circle the three most important areas in which you think you can improve:

  • Applying information
  • Analyzing information
  • Thinking critically
  • Asking questions about information
  • Evaluating information
  • Coming up with new ideas
  • Solving problems
  • Making decisions
  • Identifying weaknesses in ideas
  • Choosing sources for research

Are there other areas in which you can improve your thinking skills? Write down other things you feel you need to work on.

__________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________

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How to Get There

Here’s what we’ll work on in this chapter:

  • Understanding what makes thinking in college different from thinking in high school
  • Learning how to think
  • Knowing the types of thinking
  • Recognizing why all types of thinking are important
  • Understanding what critical thinking is
  • Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies and faulty assumptions
  • Establishing critical thinking habits
  • Researching and thinking critically
  • Understanding what creative thinking is
  • Developing creative thinking habits
  • Solving problems
  • Making decisions
  • Brainstorming

It’s All in Your Head

Throughout this book, we make the case that college is really quite different from high school. Sure, the social life is different, and there are different pressures in college, perhaps a family to support or a job schedule to coordinate with studies. But the two most fundamental differences involve expectations—the expectation that you will be independent and take responsibility for your actions and the expectation that you will think for yourself.

Remember the heavy “thinking” you did in high school? Most of it was recalling facts or information you had previously committed to memory. Perhaps in some courses you were asked to support a statement or hypothesis using content from your textbook or class. Your thinking in high school was very structured and tied closely to reflecting what was taught in class.

In college, you are expected to think for yourself; to access and evaluate new approaches and ideas; to contribute to your knowledge base; and to develop or create new, fresh ideas. You will be required to develop and use a variety of thinking skills—higher-order thinking skills—which you seldom used in high school. In college, your instructors’ roles will be not only to supply a base of new information and ideas, as good instructors will challenge you to stretch your skills and knowledge base through critical and creative thinking. Much of their teaching involves the questions they ask, not the directions they give. Your success in college education—and in life beyond college—is directly linked to becoming a better and more complete thinker. Becoming a better and more complete thinker requires mastering some skills and consistent practice.