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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinking Skills

I have a serious concern. I see evidence around me that as a society, we lack the ability to think critically. We are superficial. We are self absorbed. And, we cannot think beyond the topical level. If my perceptions are correct, this lack of critical thinking skills can have a large negative impact on all aspects of our society.
There are seven levels of thinking and evaluation. However, many I meet use one, two, or three at the most. And it is thinking at the fourth through seventh levels that brings success.
Here are the seven levels of thinking and evaluation. The first four levels come from Donald Kirkpatrick's work (1994). The fifth level from Jack Phillips (1996). The sixth level from Kaufman and Keller (1992). And, the seventh level from O'Brien (2003).
Level 1) Did you like it. Was the experience enjoyable? Maybe people call this the smiley face level of thinking or evaluation. This is often the major criterion used to assess worth and value. Problem is, not everything of value in life is always fun, exciting, or pleasurable.
Level 2) Did you learn something? At this level, one can ask, "Do I know more than I did before the experience?" Or, "Will I know more after the experience if I do it?" Growth requires learning, so this is a necessary step toward personal improvement and the widening of our knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Level 3) Can you apply what you learned? This stage is where the separation of individuals begins to occur. Here, we not only have to have learned something, we must be able to apply what we learned. Many learn new information through passive activities like listening or reading. Fewer try to apply what they've learned in their daily lives.
Level 4) Did it make a difference? This stage rates performance. After we applied what we've learned, did it improve our performance significantly compared to pre-experience levels?
Level 5) Was it worth the time, energy, and effort? This is the return on investment level. First we determine, "yes, what we learned and applied did have a measurable, positive impact on our lives." Then, we decide whether the size of improvement was worth the price paid to attain it. This is not only a monetary consideration. It includes all energy, effort, and resources used to affect the change.
Level 6) Did society benefit? If an experience, event or situation is worth the effort, we now ask "what impact did it have on society?" Ethically, if anything we do has a negative impact on the environment or other people, we should not engage in it. This holds true, regardless of how profitable it is. Tobacco is an example of a highly profitable product that an ethical person should not deal with.
Level 7) Is it in line with your purpose in life? Initially, this is the seventh level of thinking and evaluation. Even if something passes through the first six screens, if it does not align with your purpose in life, it is an activity to avoid. There is no neutral area here. Either something takes you closer to the fulfillment of your life's purpose or it takes you away from it. Once you are clear on your purpose in life, this then becomes the first step when considering ideas, propositions and contemplated actions. If it passes the screen of purpose, then you can run it through the other six steps.
Once you know your purpose, you can drop most ideas quickly because they don't align with your purpose. Also, have your second level of evaluation be the societal screen. If it makes it past your purpose, but fails the societal screen, take two actions. First, drop the idea. And second, reevaluate your purpose to see how and why it fails to align with the good for society level of evaluation.
If you use this seven step process to think about and evaluate your life, you will avoid many false starts and ethical dilemmas or conflicts. Remember, when you think on the societal level, don't use situational ethics. Use a strict, "does it help anyone, or does it hurt them," filter. Hold yourself to a high standard, even if others around you don't.
8 Steps to solution
If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." That cliché is old and often followed. "Insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result," Erhart.

That line shows the fallacy of blindly following the first quote. If we fail or experience a setback, and simply try again in the same way, why should we expect a different result?

The difference between success and failure often lies within the plan used in our approach. If we have no formal plan, we risk failure at every turn. If we have a plan that follows no logical progression, it will be an ineffective plan. Here is an eight step model for success. It originally comes from the realm of academics and instructional design.

 Now it is an integral part of the Human and Organizational improvement movement. It has a simple name, the ADDIE Model: analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate.

This original form has five steps. I have expanded it to eight steps: AADDIIEE.

1) Assess the situation or problem. What are all the parts and pieces? Who is involved? How are they involved?

2) Analyze the information gathered during your assessment. Once you have identified all the parts ask yourself, "What role does each of these play? How important are each of these in relationship to the others? Are any of these critical? Are any of these unnecessary?"

3) Design a plan or approach to the problem. Based on the first two steps, how do you think you should approach the problem or situation? What is the most logical way to approach this? Create an outline of each major step you will follow.

4) Develop the parts of the plan into a working model. Now, fill in the outline. How will you actually perform step one? How will it become step two? Repeat this filling out process until you have a detailed, itemized plan.

 5) Implement your plan and see how it works. "Taking action is the ultimate requirement to achieve the success you want,” Zakaryan. A good plan is no plan until you act on it. Plan to a point then get going. Those who are afraid of failing, do, because they never try.

6) Iterate, or refine and retry. Watch and take notes as you carry out your plan. What works? What doesn't? Why? How can you improve the plan? What should you change, adjust or drop? Make changes as you continue to work towards success. Make the changes. Keep trying. See how those changes affect the plan.

7) Evaluate how effective you are at each step of this process. Look for ways to improve and make your approach both more effective and efficient. The easiest way to determine progress is simply to ask, "Am I, closer to or farther away from my goals?" Once you have an effective plan that works, you can begin to make it more efficient to make it work better and faster.

8) Endure, keep refining and retrying until you find what works. This is where the try and try again method is a good idea. However, make sure with each new effort, that you have refined your process and have learned from each of your prior setbacks. It might sound complicated and difficult. It isn't. It is, however, systematic and should increase your chances for success. Obviously, you don't need to use a process like this on simple situations; either of the cantaloupes at the grocery store will probably be fine. It is a good approach for major decisions or obstacles you face in life. With practice, you will automatically run through the eight steps without thinking about it. Once you are to that point, your success rate will likely be much higher than it was before you read this article.

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