Understanding Critical Thinking: A Minimal English Approach
There has been in recent years the emphasis for schools to future proof their curriculum. To help students become intellectually fit so they can rise to the challenges of a rapidly changing world, critical thinking (CT), in particular, is often foregrounded. This emphasis on CT imposes a question. What is CT? Paul and Elder (2020) define CT as “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it”. Facione (1990) links CT to learning outcomes with a clear use of reporting verbs to guide learning with criticality. Kronholm (1996) provides an instructional model that helps students advance their CT skills through seven phases of instruction and related activity. At the same time, a variety of sub-skills are often intertwined with CT. Critical reading (CR) is often needed in order to think critically, while critical writing (CW) is often needed in order to assess students’ CT skills. What are CR and CW? Hajare et al. (2016) define CR as the means of assessing the strength of an argument and a process of evaluating the purpose of the author to them. Çavdar and Doe (2012) refer CW as the development of writing skills needed to critique and process retrieved information. However, despite the many discussions, CT, CR and CW have not been clearly defined and explained. Scholars’ definitions presented above do little to facilitate a good understanding of these terms. Without fully understanding what CT, CR and CW are, educators who teach these skills will not know what exactly they are teaching, and students will not know exactly what they are expected to learn.
Furthermore, if we expect CT to be a universal cognitive skill, it has to be explained not in complex English terms but in terms that are universally accessible or, in other words, terms that are maximally cross-translatable. This presentation aims to explain CT, CR and CW using a ‘minimal language’ approach. The explanation is constructed from maximally accessible and cross-translatable English.