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  Critical thinking and reasoned argument

Image: human brainMany see “Critical Thinking” as part of higher order thinking and the thinking skills set. Others see it as a particular element in its own right because of its relationship with logic and reason and the links with debate and argument. In the context of this site, critical thinking is seen as an important development for any student seeking to become increasingly autonomous and responsible for their own learning. The nature of the debates which lie behind or derive from the Stern Review are sophisticated and complex and therefore require both critical analysis and reasoned argument. There is also the need for thinking in terms of the “big picture” and the ability to identify key aspects and priorities. Critical thinking is sometimes equated with convergent thinking, but the focus of this site calls for creative and divergent thinking too, as well as problem solving not least in finding innovative solutions for the future of humanity and the planet.

It is perhaps especially important in a world of spin v substance, to be able to think critically and see beneath the cosmetics of presented information. Reasoned argument and critical analysis enable an objective approach to be taken, and some useful tools and tutorials are available to help this process e.g. argument mapping software like Austhink’s “Rationale” or its forerunner “Reason!Able” (still available)

Critical thinking and reasoned argument can introduce students to Socrates and Plato, argument, debate, and dialectic and to specific meanings for a host of terms including argument, premise, objection, contention, reason etc and to argument mapping as a visual method and tool, much like concept or mind mapping. Whilst the issues from the Stern Review might be a useful context in which to learn about and use these techniques, they can be applied widely thereafter providing the student with powerful tools. An appreciation of how some of the techniques might be applied can be gained from considering Donald Sensing’s recent blog "Consensus" and global warming.

As with mind and concept mapping much of the advantage is gained through the process of construction of an argument map, and through sharing with peers.
  Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills
Critical and Creative Thinking - Bloom's Taxonomy
Constructing a Reasoned Argument (powerpoint)
Critical Thinking Skills in Education and Life (includes Problem solving and creative thinking)
Skills for OU study – Critical thinking
A-level Critical Thinking (OCR) unofficial support site
Argument mapping software
Argument mapping tutorials
“Consensus" and global warming

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