In this lesson, you’ll learn the steps involved in the critical thinking process. You’ll consider how coming to a conclusion effectively involves multiple questions that get you thinking about a topic in a new way.
A Passion for Motorcycles
Max and his friend Claudia are discussing their passion for motorcycles. They both love their bikes and spend every weekend riding.
But there’s one major difference between the two friends: Max insists on wearing a helmet, while Claudia rarely does.In this lesson, you’ll hear the two friends talk and learn how Max understands this issue. You’ll find out more about the critical thinking process he’s used to come to the conclusion that a universal helmet law is necessary for public safety.
The critical thinking process is a model for how to analyze an issue. This process includes steps and questions that help you to think through a topic thoroughly.
Stating a Point of View
Max will first state an initial point of view, a first step in the critical thinking process. He says to Claudia, ‘It’s my view that helmets are extremely important for rider safety, and we must wear them.’Claudia’s point of view is very different. She feels that helmet laws interfere with personal freedom. But Claudia decides that today’s the day to find out more about why he is such an advocate for helmets.
‘Okay, I’ll listen – for now,’ she says.Max then goes on to define a point of view more clearly, including stating that, ‘A universal helmet law is the most effective way to save lives in motorcycle accidents.’ This pinpoints his perspective even more clearly than simply saying that it’s best to wear a helmet. To make sure his argument is fully understood, he could give examples. For instance, he could explain that a universal helmet law requires all motorcycle riders and passengers of all ages to wear helmets.
He can explain how some states have partial helmet laws that only apply to certain groups and ages.
Origins and Assumptions
Max has given the topic of helmets a lot of thought. He lost his cousin to a motorcycle accident when his cousin was 25 and died of a brain injury resulting from when his head hit the pavement. If Max wants to think through the issue carefully, he will consider the origins of his position.Max and Claudia also make two very different assumptions that factor into their thinking and reasoning. If they both identify their assumptions, they might say something like the following:Max: ‘At times, concerns for public safety must outweigh certain personal freedoms.’Claudia: ‘Personal freedoms should not be limited for public safety, except in extreme cases.
‘Identifying assumptions can help to clarify what is factoring into their argument. If their assumptions are more transparent to their audience and to themselves, they can think through the issues more thoroughly.
Evidence, Conclusions, and Consequences
Max moves on to weigh the facts about helmets. He will use reasons and evidence as he considers the topic.
He notes Center for Disease Control statistics, including their findings that ‘helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and head injury by 69%.’ He also looks at how alternative options, like a partial helmet law, are harder to enforce, and so do not save as many lives.As a critical thinker, he also wants to hear Claudia’s perspective. He aims to acknowledge other points of view rather than dismiss her thinking without understanding it. He asks her to follow the same process he has in laying out her rationale for why she and others should not be required to wear helmets.In her critical thinking process, Claudia cites that there is limited funding provided to educational programs for drivers and bikers on how to avoid collisions.
She suggests that a next step could be more research into whether other efforts could save lives as effectively.Max will arrive at a conclusion after he has given the topic more thought. He may ultimately find that he’s convinced that his original point of view has sufficient evidence, or he may have developed his perspective further through the steps of the process. He may also have chosen a specific action to take, such as advocating for a universal helmet law in public or in the legislature. In this case, he concludes that enacting the law, which has been researched to be effective, is a better bet for saving lives immediately rather than funding education to assess if this could be as effective.Finally, he will need to consider the consequences of his conclusion. In this case, such a law will save lives.
Yet, could more be saved with better education? Max will weigh the consequences to determine whether to alter his point of view, tweak it, or stick with his conclusion, even if there are some consequences that are less than ideal. Ultimately, he decides that a universal helmet law is one answer and that the impact of education should be researched and considered, too.
The critical thinking process is a model for how to analyze an issue. This process includes steps and questions that help you to think through a topic more thoroughly. First, a person will state an initial point of view, and then they will define a point of view more clearly.
In order to be most effective, a person will give examples of their point of view.A person will also consider the origins of their perspective and identify their assumptions. Next, they’ll use reasons and evidence and acknowledge other points of view to weigh all of the possibilities. In the end, the critical thinking process helps us to arrive at a conclusion, and then consider the consequences of what we have decided.
When you are finished reviewing this lesson, you should be able to describe and discuss the critical thinking process and its steps.