Chapter 4: Critical Thinking
The process of gathering and analyzing information and perspectives to make better decisions.
Introduction (Why is it important?):
Critical thinking and creative thinking to quickly solve problems is an increasingly sought after skill. Being able to look at a unique situation to come up with viable solutions, and make decisions in order to act on those solutions is an asset in any work environment.
Understand the five subsets of critical thinking. The five subsets of critical thinking are:
Gather and explore new information or diverse perspectives to strengthen your understanding.
Address challenges, solve problems or create positive change.
Break down complex concepts into component parts in order to better understand the relationship between those parts.
Find your AHA! Moment, where you weave together information to develop novel insight or create something new.
The following are all examples of the five sub sets of critical thinking. Try to match each example to either exploration, application, analyzation, integration, or evaluation.
- Accessibility Resource Center: Working with peers and/or staff members to write, edit or revise a policy related to emotional support animals at UNM. Answer: ____________________
- Children’s Campus: learning child development and diversity theories through workshops and/or staff training sessions. Answer: ____________________
- STEM Gateway: as a PLF or SI leader, take the material given by an instructor, break it apart and reassemble to present differently to students during office hours. Answer: ____________________
- Career Services: learning career development skills and building career-related self-awareness through credit-bearing courses. Answer: ____________________
- ROP McNair: collecting data and other information in support of faculty-mentored research. Answer: ____________________
- Recreation Services: participating in high and low ropes courses designed to teach collaboration and problem solving. Answer: ____________________
- Residence Life and New Student Orientation: Participating in training sessions and/or workshops designed to help you understand topics from perspectives that are different from your own. Answer: ____________________
- ASUNM & GPSA: Designing, amedning and/or interpreting the UNM SFRB policy. Answer: ____________________
There are many decision making models out there to help guide you in the process of making decisions. Most models involve looking and weighing the facts while others may focus on your feelings or judgements around that decision. All are important factors to consider when dealing with making a tough or thoughtful decision.
Here are 5 generalized steps to helping you make an informed decision:
- State the issue or problem. What is the problem or situation? This first step is important as it helps you state clearly and definitively the issue – and helps you define it in your mind.
- Look at your Choices/Alternatives. This is often done by consulting or speaking to someone about your options. This can also involve researching options. Sometimes the options may be you either do it or not do it. But then, even this dichotomy leads to the next step.
- Evaluating those choices and alternatives. This is where the work comes in. You must be able to look at this logically (which can be tough for some and with some decisions). Some researchers suggest conducting a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This is often done with businesses in evaluating their programs, projects and objectives. Some may do a pro-con- list which will help look at each choice. And, others may consult with experts or friends/co-workers that may have helpful suggestions and objective sight into your choices and alternatives.
- Make an informed decision. This is the tough part. After evaluating your options, you may have one or two options/alternatives that stick out as viable decisions. You then should look closely at these options/alternatives. Go back and re-evaluate utilizing the step 4 analysis again. Often times, stepping away from the decision for a few hours or days may help see things clearly when you aren’t pressured into making a decision.
- Move forward with your decision. This is the where you will implement your decision.
We would always suggest consulting with your supervisors when you are faced with a tough decision at work that may affect your work environment or tasks. Consultation is the best key to all tough decision making dilemmas. Have a strategy and you will be better prepared to make tough decisions.
Keys to successful decision making = Solving problems + Thinking through + Knowing your resources + Consultation!
So, how does this relate to your student employment job?
Here are a few Critical Thinking skill examples from student employee jobs here on campus:
|Student Job on Campus||Collaboration Method|
|Career Services IT support||Addressing the needs of all levels of staff in Career Services with their computer needs and issues. Users do not always “speak” computer!|
|Recreational Services - Gym Attendant||A guest/student falls and hurts themselves while playing basketball in the gym, you will need to assess the situation and handle it effectively. What is the necessary steps needed to get his guest/student medical assistance? How do you evaluate the situation?|
|El Centro de la Raza||When mentoring students as a peer mentor, you may need to help students deal with issues around their classes. This may involve speaking with professors and other university staff members to help the student solve their dilemmas.|
|Mentoring Institute||When assisting with the Mentoring conference, you may have to critically think through problems with registration for one of the participants – how would you handle someone who says they registered, but they are not registered.|
|Student Activities Center||Working within the Greek community, you may have some Public Relations (PR) opportunities that need to be handled professionally and with thoughtful response.|
|STEM Collaborative||You are working on a research project with one of the professors and have found what appears to be an issue with the data set you are analyzing – you may need to think through this issue and present it to the faculty member in a professional way.|
Here are how your academic classes can also help you learn effective critical thinking skills:
|Classes||Professionalism Skills Developed|
|Phil 156 (Reasoning and Critical Thinking)||A whole class devoted to critical thinking!|
|UHON 201 (Rhetoric and Discourse)||Learning to see all sides of an issue – and then presenting ideas through discussions, papers and presentations.|
|Political Science Courses||Understanding the social, political and historical nature of the world – reflective thoughts on how it plays out in today’s world.|