Wednesday, October 5th, 2022 10:29:16

Critical Thinking in Classroom…and Beyond

By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
Updated: July 22, 2022 10:20 am

With its vision to improve the overall quality of education, NEP-2020 released on July29, 2020 after a gap of thirty years, brings paradigm shift in the education system of India. The NEP-2020 has sought to overhaul the whole spectrum of Indian Education System by restructuring the contours of higher education. The Policy aims at fostering creativity, critical thinking and the spirit of innovation among students. Creativity and Critical Thinking play a vital role in bringing about transformation by generating new knowledge in varied areas. Critical Thinking is a way to improve thinking; the art of critical thinking involves an approach to thinking-more significantly learning- that embraces changing how one thinks about thinking. Critical thinking incorporates how learners develop and apply thoughts to understand how thinking can be improved. The basic idea undergirding the discipline of Critical Thinking is- to determine strengths and weaknesses in one’s thinking to maintain the strengths and make improvements by targeting the weaknesses. The word ‘Critical’ does not connote a negative approach to thinking; it rather implies evaluation of thoughts, ideas or judgements with awareness, creativity and refinement in these processes as needed.

Problem solving is the ultimate intent of critical thinking. Skills in problem solving, issue analyses and decision making are increasingly expected of employees. Evidence is growing that critical thinking is “expected” in the work place. More than 4000 senior HR professionals were asked in a survey to name the most important skills their employees will need in the next five years- Critical Thinking ranked the highest, more than innovation or the application of information technology. The response reflects how the nature of work and the skills required have been changing dramatically (Society for Human Resources management, 2006) and the NEP-2020 has been designed to cater to this long pending need.

Critical thinkers are those who can move beyond “typical” thinking models to an advanced way of thinking. Critical thinkers produce both more ideas and improved ideas; they become more adept in their thinking by using a variety of probing techniques which enable them to discover new and often improved ideas. Besides, critical thinkers tend to see the problem from many perspectives, to consider many different investigative approaches and to produce many ideas before choosing a course of action. Critical thinkers are also more willing to take intellectual risks, to be adventurous, to consider unusual ideas and to use their imagination while analyzing problems and issues.

NEP-2020 with its focus on critical thinking intends to develop among our learners the capacity to test their first impressions, make important discussions among choices and base their conclusion on evidence rather than their own feelings. Sensitive to their own limitations and predispositions, the learners double check the logic of their thinking and the workability of their solutions, identify imperfections and complications, anticipate negative responses, and generally refine their ideas. Our learners must learn to focus. They do not experience fewer distractions than others do; they simply deal with them more quickly and more effectively than ineffective thinkers do. They practice their skills much like any other learned skills.

Critical thinking relates to acknowledging personal limitations, seeing problems as exciting challenges, using evidence to make judgements, thinking before acting, avoiding emotionalism, keeping an open mind, engaging in active listening, having comprehension as a goal. The critical thinkers are interested in others’ ideas, and are skeptical of extreme views. Contrarily, those who do not possess critical thinking see a limited number of critical perspectives, sometimes just one.

It is pertinent to remember that to think critically does not mean to criticize in a negative manner but rather to think deeply or to question. The goal of critical thinking is to enable the students learn a way or ways to think more deeply, solve problems better, communicate, collaborate and innovate more effectively in our personal as well as organizational lives.

Critical thinking is applicable whenever people are called to make a decision or resolve a problem. Working people make decisions. Good decisions move the business forward and increase profits. On the other hand, poor decisions hurt the business and reduce profits. Our learners who enter the field of Management and become upper- level executives shall not  be having the responsibility of making decisions only; rather it shall accompany the problem solving also. Each person in an organization, no matter what their position is, makes hundreds of decisions everyday, and each one has an opportunity for success or failure.

The practice of critical thinking encourages employees and managers to observe various situations, weigh all possible solutions, then decide a course of action. Using critical thinking proves advantageous, when it is modeled and promoted from top to the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. Advancing critical thinking is not merely a nice thing to do. It can literally improve profits and capabilities of employees. When the enhanced critical thinking is applied, the organizations can witness a more qualitative corporate culture. The improved culture may translate into dollars or more revenue in the long run or improved personal communication, cooperation and collaboration in the short run.

Critical thinking brings new ideas and processes both to the classroom and the workplace. For instance, when approaching the problem solving, the issue surfaces in the classroom/ workplace is that it falls into a predetermined category. Critical thinking does not make any assumption and therefore, using the process of critical thinking in the workplace removes the temptation to immediately classify every issue under something that has happened in the past. Students/ employees can look beyond conventional solutions, search for new ideas, and contemplate the alternatives to address the problem. Applying critical thinking as an approach to problem solving, issue resolution or new products or processes can liberate thinking in many different ways. In addition to, critical thinking looks at the impact beyond a specific step in the decision process; i. e. if step-1 changes into a decision, then the follow-on steps need to be examined critically as well. Thus, critical thinking opens up avenues of possibilities that otherwise would have remained closed.

Critical thinking skills learned in the classroom definitely have an impact on future learning at the workplace. Once learned, these skills enable students (in whatever capacity they are working) to think deeply and critically about problems and issues and their individual role in their resolution. In brief, critical thinking is the life blood of the most essential work place skills including problem solving, decision making, good judgement and sound analysis. NEP-2020 encourages the students to bring forth critical thinking and creative skills. The PM Modi has rightly said, “the education system for the future required skilling, reskilling and upskilling and the new NEP which has been rolled out is addressing these requirements.” Modi also advised the students to work out of the box ideas in diverse areas. As a matter of fact, critical thinking in NEP-2020 is directly related to developing innovative, progressive and prosperous Atmanirbhar Bharat.

By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)

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