What do we mean by critical thinking?

You may come across the term ‘critical thinking’ in various educational contexts – from policy documents to advertisements. Many organizations say they aim at developing critical thinking in their audiences. 

The term is often just a buzz word (a term without any real meaning which sounds impressive and valuable). I am always skeptical of organizations which claim to improve students’ critical thinking abilities. Hence, it would be very reasonable if you were skeptical when Inquire says we aim at developing in students the ability to think critically.

By critical thinking, we mean something which sounds very simple – the ability to evaluate claims. These could be claims about truth in the real world, truth in mathematical worlds, value systems in ethics, and so on. 

Critical thinking inherently relies on how different disciplines justify claims. If you do not understand statistical arguments, you cannot evaluate a quantitative scientific claim. If you do not understand what a mathematical proof is, you cannot evaluate the truth of the claim the proof was presented for. If you have never constructed an argument to justify a conclusion in ethics, you are unlikely to be able to evaluate the consistency of an ethical system.

Hence, while critical thinking is a crucial part of what we do, we ground that critical thinking in inquiry. We believe that the only way to actually develop critical thinking abilities in students is by getting them to actually construct knowledge on their own – or by engaging in inquiry. In our workshops, courses and webinars, students are will learn tools that will enable them to think like mathematicians, scientists, philosophers, historians, and so on. They will engage in discovering and justifying claims across disciplines, along with evaluating claims they are presented. 

A short article like this ought not to end your skepticism of Inquire and our work. We can show you our badges and give you examples of our past work. However, every organization does that, each one sounding more impressive than the last. We at Inquire would like for you to experience our work before shedding your skepticism. Once you have done that, you can decide whether we are charlatans or an organization worth your time.

This blog post was written by Madhav Kaushish.

Madhav Kaushish co-founded ThinQ in 2014. Before that he had created SmarterGrades, an online, adaptive numeracy learning portal in 2011 with funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffmann Foundation. He then worked with Universal Learn Today (The educational wing of India Today) as a Curriculum Developer and Mathematics Education Specialist, and later as their Manager of Online Educational Product Development. He then worked as a consultant for UNESCO MGIEP. He started work on his PhD in Mathematics, with a focus on Mathematics Education, in 2016 at The University of Arizona, Tucson. He received his Masters in Mathematics in 2019 and is now a PhD candidate. His Master's thesis was titled 'Assumption Digging in Euclidean Geometry.'