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Critical Thinking Portfolio

Definitions of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is thinking that produces reasoned judgments through the formation of reflective insights
from within a differentiated unity of consciousness.
- Lance Grigg (1992, 2009, 2013)
Critical thinking is thinking that (1) facilitates judgment because (2) it relies on criteria, (3) is selfcorrecting, and (4) sensitive to context.
- Mathew Lipman (2003)
Critical thinking is a learned skill that requires reflective thinking to make a reasoned judgment based on
all relevant evidence.
- Dani MacArthur (2014)

The Elements of Reasoning

1) The first element of reasoning is purpose. We need
to look at why we are looking at an issue and what we
want to accomplish from it. Issues worth looking at
are relevant and important. All authors have a specific
purpose for writing, and the audience has a specific
purpose for reading. Keeping the purpose in mind
while looking at an issue will keep your inquiry

The purpose of reading an article could
be to write an essay for a history class,
to determine whether or not you should
be a vegetarian or perhaps, for
enjoyment. The purpose of writing an
article may be to raise awareness of
child abuse or to assess the use of
Blooms taxonomy in the classroom.

2) The second element of reasoning is question at

issue. Having a specific question to address while
reasoning will keep the reasoning focused and
directed. Determining the main question will eliminate
any other side questions. We need to state the question
at issue clearly and precisely in order to think

Should abortion be legal?

3) Next, we will look at assumptions. After we

determine the purpose and question at issue, we have
to look at the assumptions that we take for granted.
Everyone has biases and opinions. Sometimes we
dont even realize that our assumptions affect our
writing and reading. However it is important to

One might assume there will be food at

a party, all teachers are aware of
inspiring education or that all teachers
would do anything for their students.

To what extent should critical thinking

be incorporated into the classroom?

identify our beliefs to see how they will affect our

4) The fourth element of reasoning is implications and
consequences. After reasoning is finished, we look
at the conclusion to find implications and
consequences. We will look at what will happen or
change now that we have finished reasoning. Maybe
one implication is that more reasoning needs to be
done, or perhaps, you will need to look at what
changes you need to make in your values based on
what you have found. Implications follow logically
from our reasoning.

I need to teach students to think


5) The next element of reasoning is information. In

order to answer a question or reason, you need to look
at relevant information to answer the question at issue.
Information can come in the form of data, statistics,
observation and facts. After assessing and looking at
all the information we can draw conclusions.
Information needs to accurate and reflect both sides of
the issue.
6) The sixth element of reasoning is concepts.
Concepts are ideas that are used to organize
information. They give meaning to the information
that we have. Concepts are usually a single term that
help us make sense of what we are reading. The
concepts need to be described accurately and clearly
in order to think critically.
7) Conclusion is the seventh element of reasoning.
Just as one would think, it is coming to a conclusion
after one has assessed the information. Coming to
conclusion requires one to make a reasoned judgment
that is supported by reasons and evidence. They need
to flow logically from the evidence and be free of
logical fallacies.
8) The next element of reasoning is point of view.
Point of view can also be referred to as a frame of
reference or perspective. Every individual has
different life experiences and we therefore bring
different backgrounds into our reasoning. This
element often overlaps with assumptions. We need
to determine what the point of view of the author is to
focus our critical inquiry.
9) The ninth element of reasoning is alternatives.
Whenever you reason, you have to consider other

1 in 6 children have been abused

mentally, physically, sexually or

Students should memorize information

instead of thinking critically.

The Earth revolves around the Sun in

365.25 days.

Inferential Connections
21st Century Learning

Thinking critically is an important skill

for all students to develop.
Animal testing may be dangerous, but is
essential to provide safety to humans.

Alternative question: How do we
incorporate critical thinking into the

options or possibilities. There is always more than one

option to pick. You could pick a different question or
consider different perspectives on the issue.
10) The tenth and final element of reasoning is context.
Context refers to the circumstances under which
reasoning takes place. It will differ greatly in every
situation. Examples of specific contexts are: historical,
economic, cultural, linguistic, scientific, personal and

Alternative perspective: We should not
test on animals because their rights are
just as important as ours.

Intellectual Standards of Critical Thinking

1. Clearness
Clearness is when something can be easily understood.
There are no misunderstandings about what the author is
discussing and it is straightforward. If you can state and
elaborate on the authors question at issue, then it is most
likely clear.

Howie Mandel is bald is an

unclear statement, while How
Mandel has no hairs on his head is
a clear statement. The word bald is
vague because it does not signify
how bald one is.

2. Accuracy
Something is accurate if it is true. While critical
thinking, one wants to determine if the facts given are
accurate. If they are not accurate, they cannot be used as
evidence to support an argument.

The statement The radius of the

Earth is approximately 12,800 km
in diameter is an accurate
statement. However, Earth is
smaller than Mercury, is an
inaccurate statement.

3. Importance and Relevance

A statement is important and relevant if it pertains to the
topic. Information that is unimportant will not help you
make a reasoned judgment. This is a logical fallacy
called red herring because it often distracts the reader
from what is really important.

The statement Diet coke has zero

calories. is an important and
relevant statement when
determining to what extent is diet
pop good for you. The statement
water has zero calories is
unimportant and irrelevant to the

4. Sufficiency
A statement is sufficient when there is an adequate
amount of information to understand it. A statement may
be accurate and important, but lack evidence needed to
understand it.

The statement The girls went

home is not sufficient, but the
statement The girls went home to
do their homework is sufficient.

5. Depth and Breadth

There are three things to look at when considering
whether a statement is deep enough. The first thing is
realizing that you need to look below the surface to
understand the statement. Next, you need to identify the
complexities that underlie it. Lastly, one must take into
account the complexities and issues while looking at the

Critical thinking is a very important

skill to develop because it allows
one to make a reasoned judgment
based on evidence rather than just
believing everything they hear. It is
also important to memorize
information, so memorizing may be

statement. To consider if something is broad enough, one more important than critical
must recognize that there are other perspectives and
identify them.
6. Precision
A statement is precise when you have been as specific
and detailed as needed to reason through an issue. More
precision is needed if there is not enough information to
think critically about an issue.

The dog jumped is not precise,

however The Border Collie leaped
over a puddle of water is a precise

7. Fairness
All positions need to be considered while critical
thinking in order to be fair. The positions considered
must also have supporting reasons. They should be free
of biases and logical fallacies. All sides of an issue need
to be presented fairly.

Some people think that animal

testing should be stopped because it
is treating animals unjustly, while
others believe we have authority
over animals so we have the right
to test on them.

Critical inquiry is the process at a specific issue in depth to consider all the different points of views
surrounding the issue without bias. Then you come up with criteria to make a reasoned judgment to up
with a solution.
A reasoned judgment is setting criteria to be used to consider different views of an issue to come to a
conclusion. It is a judgment based on a critical evaluation of relevant information and arguments.
An issue is a problem or challenge you are presented with that has several different sides or points of
view and is the focus of critical inquiry. An issue needs to be clear, precise, relevant, and in a neutral
question form that is controversial. An example of an issue is Should teachers get merit pay.
Criteria is a set of specific rules that one uses to make a reasoned judgment about an issue. For example,
when buying a car I would set out criteria for what I am looking for. I want it to be a certain color, make
and year. I also want leather seats, air conditioning, and a low mileage.
A sound argument is a valid deductive argument with true premises. True premises in a valid deductive
guarantee that the conclusion is true. If this is the case, the argument is sound. For example: All narcotics
are illegal. Marijuana is a narcotic. Therefore, marijuana is illegal. Since the argument is deductively
valid and the premise are true, the argument is sound.
A valid argument is an argument where the conclusion follows from its premises. Valid arguments do
not depend on whether the statement is true, but rather if it is in the right form. For example if A=B and
B=C, then A=C.
A deductive argument is an argument where the premises can provide a guarantee of the truth of the
conclusion. Usually deductive arguments start with a general statement and deduce something more
specific that can be implied from the general statement. The premises provide enough support for the
conclusion so that if the premises are true, the conclusion is also true. For example: All blue whales play
good chess. Lance is a blue whale. Therefore, Lance plays good chess.

A valid deductive argument is an argument in which if the premises are true, the conclusion must be
true. A deductively valid argument with true premises is called a sound argument. Deductively valid
arguments are limited to conclusions that follow from definitions, mathematics and rules of formal logic.
For example: All triangles have 3 sides. I have a 3 sided object. Therefore, it is a triangle.
An inductive argument is an argument where the premises provide support for the conclusion, but do not
guarantee it. This means that inductive arguments can never be true. For example: Metal X1 expanded
when heated. Metal X2 expanded when heated. Metal X3 expanded when heated. Metal Xn expanded
when heated (n refers to any metal found). We can conclude that all metals expand when heated.
Although there is a very good probability that all metals expand when heated, we cannot guarantee it.
A strong inductive argument is an inductive argument where if the premises are true, it is likely that the
conclusion is true. For example: Metal X1 expanded when heated. Metal X2 expanded when heated.
Metal X3 expanded when heated. Metal Xn expanded when heated (n refers to any metal found). We can
conclude that all metals expand when heated. Since the premises are true, it is likely that the conclusion
is also true.
A fallacy is an argument pattern whose persuasive power greatly exceeds its probative worth. It comes
across as a very strong argument, but in fact, it is a weak or false argument. They can be dangerous when
trying to make a reasoned judgment if you are not aware of them.
The logical fallacy red herring is committed when the person introduces an irrelevant issue that distracts
the reader from the question at hand. It is usually used when an argument is weak, or perhaps there is no
argument at all so that the reader is distracted and doesnt notice that it was a weak argument. Since the
information introduced is irrelevant to the issue it cannot contribute to resolving the original issue. For
example: After a recent protest at the tar sands in Alberta, a Greenpeace spokesperson, Melina
Laboucan-Massimo, made the following comment: Theres no way to process.... oil in a clean way. Its
dirty, dirty oil. Its the bottom of the barrel that we are dealing with here. We definitely need to turn away
from tar sands expansion and turn towards investment in clean, renewable energy. A representative of
Shell Oil replied that Shell was developing an important resource that society needs, and doing it safely,
responsibly and in compliance with all laws and regulations. The reply by Shell oil is a red herring
because it is addressing a completely different issue from Melinas and is distracting others from her
Arguers commit the fallacy of ad hominem if they reject a proponents argument on the basis of critical
remarks about the proponent rather than the proponents argument. A proponent is not guilty every time
they attack a person. It is only a fallacy if they attack the person to dismiss their argument. For example:
Well, youre a thief and a criminal, so there goes your argument. The proponent disregards their
argument just because of their background and behavior. However, the authors background is irrelevant
to his or her argument.
Arguers commit the fallacy of hasty generalization when they generalize from only a few cases. It is in
our human nature to generalize things, but many of our generalizations do not provide reliable
information. In order to avoid this error, considerable evidence must be given to any generalizations made
in an argument. An example of this logical fallacy is: Sam is riding her bike in her hometown in Maine,
minding her own business. A station wagon comes up behind her and the driver starts beeping his horn

and then tries to force her off the road. As he goes by, the driver yells "get on the sidewalk where you
belong!" Sam sees that the car has Ohio plates and concludes that all Ohio drivers are jerks.
The fallacy of affirming the consequent is when the converse is presumed as true from the original
statement. That is,
does not suggest
only if
. For example: If I have the
flu, then I have a sore throat. I have a sore throat. Therefore, I have the flu.
The fallacy of denying the antecedent is inferring the inverse of a statement. That is,
does not
. For example: If I am President of the United States, then I can veto Congress. I
am not President. Therefore, I cannot veto Congress.
The term loaded language refers to words, phrases, and overall verbal and written communication that is
intended to inspire emotion in the reader or listener. This usage of language to appeal to emotion is used
in everyday conversation. Because of the differing emotional connotations of words or expressions, the
choice of language used to frame issues and arguments can affect and even slant the direction of inquiry.
An example of using loaded language in a question would be Should we send starving children in Africa
food? or Should overpaid teachers be paid more for just showing up?
Factual judgments describe the way the world is. They are based off of observation and facts. They
focus on describing and explaining how the world is.. One common misconception is that factual
judgments are true. One must keep in mind that all judgments are fallible and need to be subject to
revision if new evidence is provided. An example of a factual judgment is The sun goes up and down in
the sky. There are two different types of actual judgments: descriptive judgments and explanatory
judgments. Explanatory judgments can also be broken down into causal judgments and reason
An evaluative judgment expresses an evaluation or assessment of an object, action or phenomenon. For
example, Nancy is a person of integrity is an evaluative judgment, but more specifically an ethical
judgment. There are four different types of explanatory judgments. First, we can make ethical judgments,
which deal with the question of right or wrong, or good and bad. Next, we have aesthetic judgments,
which take information from our sensory systems. Third, instrumental judgments deal with questions
having to do with reasoning about means to an end or goal. Last, comparative judgments deal with
questions concerning what is of worth or value and the comparative importance of difference values in
making a judgment.
Interpretive judgments deal with questions of meaning and involve making sense of data or phenomena
within a particular framework. They usually involve setting criteria and using them to make a judgment.
An example of an interpretive judgment is the fact that water came to a boil at 95 degrees Celsius means
that we are higher than sea level.
We commit the naturalistic fallacy when we try to come to a judgment on an issue which has an
evaluative dimension purely on the basis of factual considerations. Nature gives people diseases and
sickness; therefore, it is morally wrong to interfere with nature and treat sick people with medicine.
Dialect refers to the argumentation exchange between various sides on an issue. Laying out the dialect of
an issue in chart form can be helpful to see an overview of the different sides. Example from Reasoning in
the Balance:

Table of Arguments Pro and Con Capital Punishment

Argument Name

Argument Summary




CP prevents convicted
murderers from
committing more

There are less drastic

means to achieve this.


CP will prevent or
discourage people from
committing murders.

There is evidence that

CP doesnt work as a

Experience attests to
effectiveness. Some studies
show a deterrent effect.


Justice requires that

punishment be
proportional to crime.

Revenge is not morally

defensible. Individuals
are products of their

Murderers deserve to die. An

eye for an eye: is acceptable
in the Bible. Individuals are
responsible and deserve what
they get.


It is too expensive to
keep people in prison.

Cost is not an


Taking a life is morally


Taking life is justified

if the person
himself/herself took a


Punishment should serve

to rehabilitate but a
person cant be
rehabilitated if dead.

Protecting innocent
citizens is more
important than

Executing the

Innocent people are

sometimes executed.

The risk is small

compared to the

Killing the innocent is never


Social Causality

Criminals are often a

product of a
dysfunctional social
environment and should
be treated accordingly.

This argument fails to

acknowledge the
personal responsibility
of criminals for their

This is supported by statistical

and psychological evidence.
The argument is used only to
mitigate the sentence, not to
exonerate the criminal.

Guidelines for reaching a reasoned judgment:

Ensure that relevant arguments, objections, and responses have been identified.
Evaluate the individual arguments.
Establish, if possible, which view bears the burden of proof.
Assess the possibilities in light of the alternatives.
Consider differences in how the issues and arguments are frames.
Recognize points that may be valid in various views.
Synthesize the strengths of different views into the judgment.
Weigh and balance different considerations, values, and arguments.
Consider whether your own personal convictions and experiences may be coloring your

Three Critical Thinking Activities to use in the Classroom:

Critical Reading Activity
This activity is can be used when the students read anything within the classroom. It is in chart
form and the left column has the titles purpose, question-at-issue, information, context, concepts, point of
view, conclusion, implications and consequences, alternatives and assumptions which are all of the
elements of reasoning. Under each title are a few questions that need to be answered. For example, under
conclusion are the questions What key conclusions does the author some to? and Are those
conclusions justified? We used this in class for articles and political cartoons. It can be used in the
classroom to get students to breakdown the reading to identify the main issue, see what argument the
author is making and assess it.
Reading Guide
A reading guide has questions about a chapter, or selected pages for the student to answer before
going over it in class. It serves as a critical thinking activity to get the students thinking about what they
will be learning in the next couple of lessons.
Reasoning Map
A reasoning map combines two critical thinking activities. It involves stating the question at issue
at the top and then you supporting reasons and a rebuttal position stemming from it in a concept web.
However, your supporting reasons need to be in the form of SEE-Is. SEE-I stands for state, elaborate,
example and image. Students must clearly state the supporting reason, elaborate and expand on it, give
examples and counterexamples and finally illustrate their point with an image or analogy. SEE-Is may
also be used independently of this activity and are especially helpful when introducing a new topic.
Reasoning maps help students identify their argument and think about what the other points of view
might be.