Hetac Level 7 Standards Of Critical Thinking

We all have a system to break down how we understand things, how the world looks to us, how we make sense of the world. The ways we think are called the Elements of Thought.

But once we have thought about something, how do we know if we’re right? How do we know if our thinking is any good?

Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t think well. We tend to favor decisions and ideas that favor us, put our own group over other groups. We are…ego-centric and socio-centric. So, we need to force ourselves to look at things the way they truly are. So, to assess the quality of our thinking, we use the Intellectual Standards.

A standard is a measure of how good something is. The ancient Romans used symbols on the top of long poles to show the troops where they should stand and which way to face. It brought order to a crazy and chaotic battlefield. In much the same way, we use standards in thinking to make sure that hold our feet to the fire, to make sure that what we say and do is actually right.

There are nine Intellectual Standards we use to assess thinking: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, and Fairness. Let’s check them out one-by-one.

Clarity forces the thinking to be explained well so that it is easy to understand. When thinking is easy to follow, it has Clarity.

Accuracy makes sure that all information is correct and free from error. If the thinking is reliable, then it has Accuracy.

Precision goes one step further than Accuracy. It demands that the words and data used are exact. If no more details could be added, then it has Precision.

Relevance means that everything included is important, that each part makes a difference. If something is focused on what needs to be said, there is Relevance.

Depth makes the argument thorough. It forces us to explore the complexities. If an argument includes all the nuances necessary to make the point, it has Depth.

Breadth demands that additional viewpoints are taken into account. Are all perspectives considered? When all sides of an argument are discussed, then we find Breadth.

Logical means that an argument is reasonable, the thinking is consistent and the conclusions follow from the evidence. When something makes sense step-by-step, then it is Logical.

Significance compels us to include the most important ideas. We don’t want to leave out crucial facts that would help to make a point. When everything that is essential is included, then we find Significance.

Fairness means that the argument is balanced and free from bias. It pushes us to be impartial and evenhanded toward other positions. When an argument is objective, there is Fairness.

There are more Intellectual Standards, but if you use these nine to assess thinking, then you’re on your way to thinking like a pro.

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Universal Intellectual Standards



by Linda Elder and Richard Paul

Universal intellectual standards are standards which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. To think critically entails having command of these standards. To help students learn them, teachers should pose questions which probe student thinking; questions which hold students accountable for their thinking; questions which, through consistent use by the teacher in the classroom, become internalized by students as questions they need to ask themselves.

The ultimate goal, then, is for these questions to become infused in the thinking of students, forming part of their inner voice, which then guides them to better and better reasoning. While there are many universal standards, the following are some of the most essential:

CLARITY:Could you elaborate further on that point? Could you express that point in another way? Could you give me an illustration? Could you give me an example? Clarity is the gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it because we don't yet know what it is saying. For example, the question, "What can be done about the education system in America?" is unclear. In order to address the question adequately, we would need to have a clearer understanding of what the person asking the question is considering the "problem" to be. A clearer question might be "What can educators do to ensure that students learn the skills and abilities which help them function successfully on the job and in their daily decision-making?" 
   
ACCURACY: Is that really true? How could we check that? How could we find out if that is true?  A statement can be clear but not accurate, as in "Most dogs are over 300 pounds in weight."

PRECISION:Could you give more details? Could you be more specific?
A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in "Jack is overweight." (We don’t know how overweight Jack is, one pound or 500 pounds.)

RELEVANCE:How is that connected to the question? How does that bear on the issue?
A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise, but not relevant to the question at issue. For example, students often think that the amount of effort they put into a course should be used in raising their grade in a course. Often, however, the "effort" does not measure the quality of student learning; and when this is so, effort is irrelevant to their appropriate grade.

DEPTH:How does your answer address the complexities in the question? How are you taking into account the problems in the question? Is that dealing with the most significant factors? A statement can be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant, but superficial (that is, lack depth). For example, the statement, "Just say No!" which is often used to discourage children and teens from using drugs, is clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. Nevertheless, it lacks depth because it treats an extremely complex issue, the pervasive problem of drug use among young people, superficially. It fails to deal with the complexities of the issue.

BREADTH:Do we need to consider another point of view? Is there another way to look at this question? What would this look like from a conservative standpoint? What would this look like from the point of view of . . .?  A line of reasoning may be clear accurate, precise, relevant, and deep, but lack breadth (as in an argument from either the conservative or liberal standpoint which gets deeply into an issue, but only recognizes the insights of one side of the question.)

LOGIC:Does this really make sense? Does that follow from what you said? How does that follow? But before you implied this, and now you are saying that; how can both be true? When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order. When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense in combination, the thinking is "logical." When the combination is not mutually supporting, is contradictory in some sense or does not "make sense," the combination is not logical.

FAIRNESSDo I have a vested interest in this issue?  Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?  Human think is often biased in the direction of the thinker - in what are the perceived interests of the thinker.  Humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others on the same plane with their own rights and needs.  We therefore must actively work to make sure we are applying the intellectual standard of fairness to our thinking.  Since we naturally see ourselves as fair even when we are unfair, this can be very difficult.  A commitment to fairmindedness is a starting place.

For a deeper understanding of intellectual standards and their relationship with critical thinking, see the Thinker's Guide to Intellectual Standards.



 

 


 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

( Paul, R. and Elder, L. (October 2010). Foundation For Critical Thinking, online at website: www.criticalthinking.org)

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Universal Intellectual Standards

Sublinks:

Content Is Thinking, Thinking is Content
Critical Thinking in Every Domain of Knowledge and Belief
Using Intellectual Standards to Assess Student Reasoning
Open-minded inquiry
Valuable Intellectual Traits
Universal Intellectual Standards
Thinking With Concepts
The Analysis & Assessment of Thinking
Glossary of Critical Thinking Terms
Distinguishing Between Inert Information, Activated Ignorance, Activated Knowledge
Critical Thinking: Identifying the Targets
Distinguishing Between Inferences and Assumptions
Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory
Becoming a Critic Of Your Thinking
Bertrand Russell on Critical Thinking


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