Developing a Critical Thinking Attitude

A critical thinking attitude is a habitual willingness or commitment to engage in effortful deliberation. It is the foundation of critical thinking behavior (Halpern, 2003; Nelson, 2005; Paul, 1995).

According to Halpern (1998, p.452), this attitude consists of:

  • a willingness to engage in and persist at a complex task,
  • the habitual use of plans and the suppression of impulsive activity,
  • flexibility or open-mindedness,
  • a willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct, and
  • flexibility an awareness of the social realities that need to be overcome (such as the need to seek consensus or compromise) so that thoughts can become actions.

  • This section's thinking skill modules

    Inquiry - Learning by questioning, exploration and discovery as opposed to memorization and drill.

    Challenging Assumptions - Examining unstated premises upon which a conclusion depends.
    Not only must we teach our students to challenge assumptions in the world around them, but we must challenge our own assumptions about what first-year students arrive on campus actually able to do.

    This section's featured instructional method

    Discussion - Using the in-class exchange of ideas and opinions to stimulate critical thinking.
    Many teachers already include discussion of some kind in their courses, but this module equips the user with tools and insights to increase the amount of critical thinking that occurs in discussion.


    Halpern, D.F. (2003). Thought and knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking (4th Edition). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Halpern, D.F. (1998). Teaching critical thinking for transfer across domains: Dispositions, skills, structure training, and metacognitive monitoring. American Psychologist, 53(4): 449-455.

    McKeachie, W.J., & Svinicki, M. (2006). McKeachies' teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. New York, NY: Houghton-Mifflin.

    Nelson, J. (2005). Cultivating judgment: A sourcebook for teaching critical thinking. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

    Paul, R.W. (1995). Critical thinking: How to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking.