Critical thinking is the process by which knowledge is built or constructed. Use of effective critical thinking is evident when "thinking" opens itself to other opinions, opposing ideas and alternate perspectives. As thought develops there is a commitment to the cultivation of intellectual integrity with a fair minded approach. John Dewey contends that critical thinking can be broken down into two applications. First, one must construct his/her mind to internalize the basic principle, ideas and theories, therefore focusing on the internal. Second, the focus is on the application as an individual effectively uses ideas, principles, and theories thereby applying learned relevance to his/her own life.(Wikipedia, 2012) To further understand critical thinking, it is important to first consider it's history, practices and implementations.
Socrates is noted as the first philosopher or teacher to encourage in depth questioning while encouraging the focusing on the importance of seeking evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing out implications.(Paul & Elder, 1997) Over the years, critical thinking has taken on new shape, but at it's very core remains Socrates original assertion in which probing questions remain integral to the development of critical thought.
Most often times, it's easy to relate critical thinking to education. Having experience teaching, it was my responsibility to ask questions to "stimulate thinking essential to the construction of knowledge".(Wikipedia, 2012) Because I taught design, it was essential to stay away from "art directing" students. Instead it became imperative to cultivate their individual design through critical thinking .
While it may be difficult to think of critical thinking visually, let me explain. As a creative director, critical thinking is key to the development of a finished product. Essentially critical thinking begins in each department from research/development, creative, production and/or sales etc. In the creative department, comps or rough drafts of the work are typically submitted to a creative director before they're submitted to a client. During this time, the creative director has the opportunity to art direct the piece or cultivate a great designer. When I first began as an creative director, I selfishly directed the pieces. In this way, I was creating a team of designers dependent on me to create great design. This is an excellent example of critical thought based in selfish motives allowing a skillful manipulation of the result.
Instead, when I begin to ask probing questions about hierarchy, layout, typography, imagery, communication, rather than providing the answers, designers and later, students, were able to consider design solutions opposite to what they first thought of and became open to other avenues of thought. I began to cultivate designers with an ability to go beyond myself as a creative director(keeping me on my toes) and create excellent work. The reason the work became excellent is because they did not learn an equation from me(A+B=great print ad), they learned how to develop successful design through internalizing the questions, reworking the design and then applying their knowledge to a visually successful piece. In the end, I became a very small part of their journey. I've often heard it said, that the success of a great teacher or leader is evident when he or she leaves the post. If the class/individual/business/team/etc. can operate successfully on it's own then the teacher/leader has succeeded.
In conclusion, I would assert that critical thinking shows up in every facet of life, even visually. As individuals, we're constantly presented with information to sift through and determine our thought. Over the course of this week, I believe that critical thinking is best when practiced over the course of time, it is a skill that takes keen awareness, exercise and patience to develop. To be a successful critical thinker, one must consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably and empathetically while being acutely aware of the inherenly flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. To think critically, one must examine his/her own motives, become self aware(not an easy task), raise vital questions, assess information, think openly, communicate effectively, and develop well reasoned conclusions.(Scriven & Paul) In this way, you are growing individually and encouraging the growth of those around you.
Critical thinking. (2012, August 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Critical_thinking&oldid=508673047
Elder, L. & Paul, R. (2001). Critical thinking in everyday life: 9 strategies. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-everyday-life-9-strategies/512
Paul, R., Elder, L., & Bartell, T. (1997, March). California teacher preparation for instruction in critical thinking: Research findings and policy recommendations. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/a-brief-history-of-the-idea-of-critical-thinking/408
Scriven, M., & Paul, R. (n.d.). Defining critical thinking. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/410