Back to navigation  | Flash site | About this site
Critical Thinking "In the Wild"

Critical Thinking "In The Wild"


Critical thinking is a habit, and to help your students develop that habit, assignments can be helpful which require them to look and listen in their own world for the kinds of thinking all around them.

The activity

Provide the students with a list of important critical thinking terms, briefly defined. Hare's 2004 "glossary of open-minded inquiry" is an excellent example, but if you do not have access to it, then you can use the vocabulary and definitions we have employed in these modules:

  • Inquiry - Learning by questioning, exploration and discovery as opposed to memorization and drill.
  • Challenging Assumptions - Revealing unstated premises upon which a conclusion depends.
  • Determining causality - Identifying where influence exists and the direction of that influence.
  • Analysis - Identifying the elements of something complex and the relationships among those elements.
  • Inference - Drawing a logical conclusion from premises, evidence and sometimes assumptions.
  • Synthesis - Combining separate elements to create something new.
  • Multiple solutions - Generating more than one option to meet a given set of criteria.
  • Ethics - Reasoning based upon the fulfillment of one's moral duties.
  • Reflection - Assessing one's own thoughts, actions or work.
  • Feedback - Eliciting and evaluating responses from others to what we say or do.

Require students to look and listen throughout a week for examples of behavior that they recognize from the list, and ideally even someone using these words in daily language.

Either commit class time to discussing the experience, or require students to journal about it in a reflection notebook. In either format, you can give the students some reflective prompts like "When you saw or heard these critical thinking terms in the wild: (1) Were they used correctly? (2) Were they effective? (3) How could they have been used better or differently?"


Hare, W. (2004). Open-minded inquiry: A glossary of key concepts. Inquiry: Critical thinking across the disciplines, 23(3), 37-41.