E. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking means 'correct thinking in the pursuit of relevant and reliable knowledge about the world'. It can also be described as 'reasonable, reflective, responsible, and skilful thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do'.

Critical thinking is important in academic work. We all think but much of our thinking is biased, distorted or sometimes even prejudiced. In working towards the IB diploma you should learn to pay attention to the quality of your thought and systematically cultivate critical thinking. This requires thinking about how you think while you're thinking in order to make your thinking more clear and accurate. The critical thinker is able to
 ask important questions and formulate them clearly
 gather and assess relevant information, interpret it using relevant criteria and come to well-reasoned conclusions
 consider alternative explanations
 communicate effectively

In order to develop critical thinking you must be willing to look critically at your own thinking and correct it. This will not only help you in the academic work but also give you more effective communicative and problem solving abilities. And being part of an international community it is also important to have skills that help you to look critically at ethnocentrism.

Some guidelines for Critical Thinking
1. Ask questions; be willing to wonder. Always be on the lookout for questions that have not been answered in the textbooks, by the experts in the field or by the media. Be willing to ask "What's wrong here?" and/or "Why is it like this, and how did it come to be that way?"
2. Define the problem. An inadequate formulation of the question can produce misleading or incomplete answers. Ask neutral questions that don't presuppose answers.
3. Examine the evidence. Ask yourself, "What evidence supports or refutes this argument and its opposition?" Just because many people believe it, including so-called experts, doesn't make it so.
4. Analyze assumptions and biases. All of us are subject to biases, beliefs that prevent us from being impartial. Evaluate the assumptions and biases that lie behind arguments, including your own.
5. Avoid emotional reasoning: "If I feel this way, it must be true." Passionate commitment to a view can motivate a person to think boldly without fear of what others will say, but when "gut feelings" replace clear thinking, the results can be disastrous.
6. Don't oversimplify. Look beyond the obvious, easy generalizations, reject either/or thinking. Don't argue by anecdote.
7. Consider other interpretations. Formulate hypotheses that offer reasonable explanations of characteristics, behaviour, and events.
8. Tolerate uncertainty. Sometimes the evidence merely allows us to draw tentative conclusions. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know." Don't demand "the" answer.
(Based on "Critical and Creative Thinking" C. Wade and C. Tavris. Harper Collins, 1993)

You are here


Apollolaan 1
2341 BA Oegstgeest
Tel 071 519 35 55
Fax 071 519 35 01