Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking 

Critical thinking is a scope of various complex skills related to a higher level of thinking. It is a self-directed thinking that produces new and innovative ideas and solves problems. It assumes reflecting critically on learning experiences and processes, and making effective decisions by avoiding common pitfalls, for example seeing only one side of an issue, discounting new evidence that disconfirms your ideas, reasoning from passion rather than logic, and failing to support statements with evidence.

In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving is a mental process involving the ability to analyze and find the solution that best resolves the problem. It describes the process where there is a goal that is blocked for any reason – lack of resources, lack of information and so on – that presents a problem. Whatever is done in order to achieve the set goal is problem solving. 

There are routine problems and non-routine problems. Routine problems can be solved using methods familiar to students by replicating previously learned methods in a step-by-step fashion. Non-routine problems are problems for ‘which there is not a predictable, well-rehearsed approach or pathway explicitly suggested by the task, task instructions or a worked-out example’. Everyone needs problem solving skill in everyday life. It assumes a group of skills which, in addition to cognitive, includes social and other skills, helping us to define causes to the problem and to find efficient solutions. We use critical and creative thinking in order to solve problems. 

Benefits of learning critical thinking and problem solving skills

Benefits of learning critical thinking

  • Critical thinking improves students’ flexibility and learning skills. We don’t know how technology will change by the time young people leave education. Learning critical thinking and problem solving will prepare them to learn and adapt faster and keep up to date with relevant changes in their fields of study, whatever they may be
  • Critical thinking makes education less passive and more interactive. Teaching students how to approach critically any subject makes it more relevant for them. It helps them better understand and get more involved with the subject and its importance in their lives, making them feel as they are active participants
  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills enhances academic performance. Rather than relying on teachers and classroom time for instruction and guidance, students with critical thinking skills become more independent, self-directed learners
  • Critical thinking is the foundation of science and a liberal democratic society. Science requires the critical use of reason in experimentation and theory confirmation. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice.

Benefits of learning problem solving

  • Students gain the ability to reflect critically on learning experiences and processes and to make effective decisions
  • While solving problems, students also learn other important skills such as creativity, collaboration and cooperation
  • Critical thinking enables separation of facts from opinions and helps consider all possible options in solving a problem
  • Students are getting prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet. The work environment is changing fast and we simply do not know what jobs will exist and even less so what will be required to do them. Workers will be  likely selected based on their ability to learn fast, adapt to changes and work independently, make job-related decisions independently and be able to solve problems on their own.