Mapping the territory of critical thinking

This is a review of the second part of “Critical Thinking” by Jennifer Moon.  In this chapter, she tries to pin down a definition of “critical thinking”.   She has run workshops on Critical Thinking and asked the attendees to write a definition of the term at the start of the workshop.  The professional educators and writers all come up with substantially different definitions.  Her point here is to show that although it is often assumed in pedagogy that terms such as critical thinking have a set and agreed meaning, the truth is they don’t.

The differences in the definitions she found included:-

Critical thinking is about ….

  • challenging ideas  yet about the development of one’s own argument.
  • is about the consideration of one’s own situation yet is related to the work of others
  • analysing what is “right” or “wrong” in the presented material and is about “where did I go right or wrong?”
  • mentions objectivity or depends on subjective understandings.
  • the object with which critical thinking is engaged is seen as material or problem or situation or talks of critical thinking being applied to “one’s understanding” of a situation or problem.

Learners asked to define Critical Reflection came up with these categorizations:-

  • weighing up, seeing both sides
  • looking at subject from all angles and viewpoints
  • looking back on a situation
  • looking beyond what is there


Jennifer Moon’s conclusions are that Critical Thinking is a collection of ideas:-

  • assessment of evidence to make a judgement
  • an aspect of the activity of thinking.  A form of learning in that it is a means of generating new knowledge by processing existing knowldege using tools eg. analysis, understanding, synthesis.
  • a multiple tool for the manipulation of knowledge
  • Working towards an anticipated form of outcome which is a judgement involving deep engagement with the subject matter.


A lot to think about!




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