Universitas Kristen Indonesia
The term critical is derived from the Greek word kritikos meaning discerning. Thus, it etymologically means to think deeply. It is a kind of thinking in which one does not take things for granted but questions, analyzes, evaluates, and synthesizes what he reads and hears before concluding. Facione (1990) defined it as one’s ability to analyze, interpret, explain and conclude a discourse he is facing and regulate his thinking. So, a critical thinker questions and evaluates everything he is facing, analyzes the way he thinks, and presents sound evidence for his ideas. That’s why a critical thinker can detect and will not believe in hoaxes.
A critical thinker has two fundamental aspects. First, he owns the quality of being open-mindedness, humble, inquisitive, and truth-searching. Open-mindedness makes him open to any new concept or experience. He postpones judging anything, including something contradictory or odd to what he knows before understanding it deeply. He is also curious about the world around him so that he keeps on asking the right questions and search the answers. His humility makes him aware that he does not know everything so that, supported by his inquisition, he always searches for the truth. Secondly he is skillful to (a) question and analyze assumptions, claims, arguments, or evidence; (b) evaluate based on evidence; (c) make inference using inductive or deductive reasoning; and (d) make decisions and/or solve problems through reasoning. These two dispositions make a critical thinker thinks clearly, rationally, and objectively—i.e., without influence from personal feelings, opinions, or biases—and it focuses solely on factual information.
Critical thinking is crucially important because it enables one to make decisions, solve problems, and act as accurately as possible. Thus it supports every one’s success in academic, personal, working and social life. Critical thinking is essential to succeed academic life because it helps students to become an active and effective lifelong learner, gain understanding, evaluate various perspectives, improve problem solving skills, manage his own thinking (Lai, 2011). Haseli and Rezaii (2013) reported that the teaching of critical thinking increased students’ educational achievement and reduced their test anxiety. In the same way, Karimi and Veisi’s (2016) study revealed that that teaching critical thinking skills positively affected EFL learners’ reading comprehension performance.
The importance of critical thinking to succeed in career and social life is supported by the views of World Academic Forum, American Management Association, and Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) that critical thinking is a key skill that will even more important in the future. The analysis of 4.2 million online job postings from 6000 different sources in the period 2013-2015 reported in The New Basics showed that the demand for new graduates’ critical thinking skills has increased 158% in three years.
Due to its growing importance, develop critical thinking is crucial for everyone. Like other skills, critical thinking is not genetically inherited. It is developed through learning and practice. In the context of school life, to hone critical thinking, students should not only obtain and memorize, facts, information, or concepts. But, they should also use the facts, information, or concepts they are learning as the contexts, materials, and opportunities for thinking skills cultivation. In short, critical thinking skills must be integrated into every learning activity. Pardede elaborated this idea by in Honing Students’ critical Thinking Using Fiction and Integrating Critical Thinking into Integrated English Skills Learning.
What students can do to develop their critical thinking? First, after studying a new lesson, they need to regularly ask themselves thought-provoking questions, like “What is the most/least important …?”, “Who benefits from this?”, and “What we can change to make this better?” Such questions are also effective to provoke thoughts in group discussions. Second, they should learn the critical reading sub-skills, such as distinguishing fact from opinion; interpreting connotations of words; discovering the author’s point of view; making an inference, recognizing fallacious thinking, and detecting propaganda devices and ask them to apply them anytime they are dealing with a discourse.
The third activity they could do is to list the potential solution for a problem relevant to the lesson they are taking. For instance, they could be assigned to list as many ways as they can think of how to enlarge their English vocabulary. Fourth, they can write an analysis on short stories, articles, and books they have just read or movies they have just watched. Fifth, they can do self-assessment and peer-assessment, two techniques that will enable them to independently assess their own and other students’ progress confidently so that they are not always relying on their teacher’s judgment. Finally, they can also make an online research on a hot issue and have a debate on the research results.***