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Success at a course in critical thinking depends on, besides the obvious pedagogical skill—organization, time management, work ethic, etc.—consists of four essential elements. 1. control of the vocabulary of the discipline; 2. discernment between false and true logic; 3. sensitivity to the weight of evidence; and 4. rhetorical control of language (in the final written essay or assignment of the class).
- Learn the kinds of critical thinking and the tools of organizing an argument, as those term are introduced—categorization, taxonomizing, charting, parallel constructions, syntax of argument, metaphor, exampling, dualities, etc.—and be sure you can give examples and can use the tools in constructing an argument;
- Separate true logic—cause and effect, surveying, citing authorities, etc.—from false logic and logical fallacies—post hoc, selective sampling, either/or, etc.;
- Learn the order of veracity in citing evidence—citing authorities vs. citing non-experts, widely accepted opinions of many experts in a field vs. personal opinions that can be countered, large comprehensive samples vs. small self-justifying samples, etc.;
- Words have denotation and connotation, so in your written summation of your critical thinking, be sensitive to both (“a random sampling survey” vs. “a hit-and miss approach to the survey”).
The best students of critical thinking set emotional, subjective argument aside, and give value to clear, logical, intellectual evidence and conclusions.
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