Critical Thinking is about three things:
- understanding arguments
- evaluating arguments
- constructing your own arguments
Understanding an argument involves recognising the conclusion that an author wants you to accept and getting clear about their reasoning. Evaluating an argument is asking two questions: ‘Are the reasons likely to be true?’ and ‘If the reasons are true, does the conclusion have to be true?’
We believe that Critical Thinking is useful for everyone. Most students agree that it helps them with their other A-Levels as they often need to understand other people’s arguments, evaluate them, and present clear, well-structured arguments of their own. Critical Thinking makes these things easier. At Oxford High, we teach Critical Thinking by giving each student a chance to practise these skills. It can be taught in one lesson per week (with homework) because there are no facts to learn. These skills are particularly useful in university interviews, where students may be asked to analyse and evaluate an unfamiliar piece of reasoning, or to argue a case for an unfamiliar position.
In addition, Critical Thinking prepares the girls for when they are at university. The ability to clarify reasoning can show you the purpose of a huge volume of material. Skill in evaluating reasoning will make it easier to decide whom to believe, even when almost everything seems to be disputed, and to present a reasoned case for rejecting somebody’s position. Our students often express their gratitude for the key skills they learnt in Critical Thinking once they reach university.
It is even useful in daily life. The ability to imagine a full range of options, and evaluate them skilfully, helps us make good decisions. The ability to recognise key issues makes us more productive and less likely to be worried by unnecessary concerns. Persuasiveness makes it easier to get what we want. Some employers, particularly in the legal, financial, and consultancy sectors, now use Critical Thinking tests as part of their recruitment process.