Our Journal

March 10, 2017

3C Thinking | Fraser Academy (Part 3a) – Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has been a buzz word in education for a while now, and as such, comes with many connotations and interpretations about its importance and meaning. Sometimes it even has a stigma of being negative. That is because we sometimes equate critical thinking with being critical (negative) of something. However, critical thinking isn’t primarily about being negative; instead, it would be better described as criteria thinking or thinking by applying criteria.

At Fraser Academy, we have defined critical thinking as “the process of analyzing background knowledge to arrive at a reasoned, criteria-based conclusion”. In other words, we look at the information on a topic (background knowledge), analyze it, and work towards a judgment, or conclusion that is well supported (reasoned) and meets the criteria for the situation. As people, we do this all the time, but sometimes it’s done better than other times.

Critical Thinking can be used in as simple a situation as deciding what to eat for breakfast. Background knowledge might be what is available in the house, what nutrition you need, the food’s nutritional value, how much time you have, what you feel like eating, how much effort you want to put in etc. This quickly translates into the criteria for making a decision, such as a breakfast that is fast, easy, delicious (for you), healthy and available. We then analyze what food meets all those criteria, and how well it meets our criteria. The best choice for us in that time becomes our reasoned conclusion. In situations like this, it usually takes less time to think and decide, than it took to read this paragraph. Other times, the process is long and in depth, like deciding who to vote for.

Of course, there are much more complex decisions, like which job to have, how to vote, what to think about complex issues like economics or foreign policies, but what’s involved is essentially the same, we analyze the information available to us on the topic, and work towards a judgement or conclusion that is well supported and meets the criteria of the situation.

Travis Thielmann, MEd, is the Team Lead of the 3C Thinking Curriculum at Fraser Academy. He teaches middle and senior science, and coaches the technology and robotics teams.