Discussion Board Topic (DB-L510) – Topic of Discussion Critical and Creative Thinking and Assessment
Instructions: Write a 300-500 word substantive journal describing how a graduate of the SMC-DL would employ critical and creative thinking to assist with the assessment of an organization.
As you reflect upon this module, think about how creative thinking is related to critical thinking and how a Sergeant Major can benefit by incorporating the concepts to solve problems within their organizations by maintaining awareness of their cognitive biases.
In your journaling process, think about how the concepts of critical and creative thinking could help you assess an organization. Consider explaining the concepts of the three main topics and then illustrate in a example of how you would use as a Sergeant Major.
Post should be:
Double Spaced the entire paper IAW APA 7th Edition 20
Standard-sized paper (8.5″ x 11″)
1″ margins on all sides
Size 12 pt. Times New Roman font
Use flush-left alignment and ragged right; do not divide words at the end of the line.
Indent paragraphs five spaces (Set the tab key)
Use one space at the end of a sentence.
Abbreviations: The first time you use a term, spell it out in full, followed by its abbreviation in parentheses; thereafter, you may use the abbreviation only.
Minimum of 2 references.
L103 Reading B 1
SERGEANTS MAJOR ACADEMY
Sergeants Major Course (SMC)
L100: Foundational Leadership Concepts
Lesson Plan for L103
Introduction to Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
FOUNDATIONS OF AN ARMY LEADER INTELLECT
4-1. Intellect is fundamental to successful leadership. Intellect consists of one’s brainpower and knowledge. Intellect enables
leaders to think creatively and critically to gain situational understanding, make sound judgments, solve problems, and take
action. Intellect allows leaders to reason analytically, critically, ethically, and with cultural sensitivity. Intellect is involved in
considering the intended and unintended consequences of the decisions a leader makes. Effective leaders must anticipate the
second- and third-order effects of their decisions.
4-2. A leader’s mental abilities affect how well they think and lead others. People differ in intellectual strengths and ways of
thinking—there is no one right way to think. Each leader needs to be self-aware of their strengths and limitations and apply
them accordingly. Experience informs intellect. Table 4-1 is a summary of the intellect attributes (see page 4-5).
4-3. The leader attributes making up an Army leader’s intellect include—
4-4. Mental agility is the ability to think flexibly. Mental agility helps leaders effectively react to change and adapt to the
dynamic situations inherent to military operations. Mental agility keeps leaders from fixating on the wrong problems or getting
stuck on poor solutions. Agility enables thinking when current decisions or actions are not producing the desired results and a
new approach is necessary. Mental agility in leaders and followers provides organizations with the adaptability necessary for
the disciplined initiative essential to mission command.
4-5. Mental agility relies upon curiosity and the ability to reason critically. Inquisitive or intellectually curious leaders are eager
to understand a broad range of topics and keep an open mind to multiple possibilities before reaching decisions. Critical thinking
is purposeful and helps find facts, challenge assumptions, solve problems, and make decisions. Critical thinking enables
understanding of changing situations, arriving at justifiable conclusions, making judgments, and learning from experience.
Critical and creative thinking provide the basis for understanding, visualizing, and describing complex, ill-structured problems
and developing approaches to solve them. Critical thinking provides a basis for reflection and continual learning. Creative
thinking involves thinking in innovative ways using imagination, insight, and novel ideas. Critical and innovative thought are
abilities that enable adaptability.
4-6. Critical thinking examines a problem in depth from multiple points of view. The first and most important step in finding
an appropriate solution is to isolate the main problem. A leader’s mental agility to quickly isolate a problem and identify
solutions facilitates seizing initiative and adapting effectively during operations when many things occur simultaneously and
in close succession. Leaders must instill agility and initiative within subordinates by creating a climate that encourages risk
taking within the commander’s intent. Underwriting risk and accepting honest mistakes in training makes subordinates more
likely to develop and take initiative.
L103 Reading B 2
Judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgments. General of the Army Omar N. Bradley Address at the U.S.
Army War College (1971)
4-7. Judgment requires the capacity to assess situations accurately, draw rational conclusions, and make decisions. Sound
judgment enables leaders to make sensible decisions in a timely manner, a quality critical to building trust with subordinates
and earning their confidence. Experience contributes to the development of sound judgment when it contributes to learning.
Leaders acquire experience through trial and error and by observing others. Learning from others can occur through mentoring
and coaching (see chapter 6).
4-8. Often, leaders must balance facts, question assumptions, and sense intangible factors like morale or the enemy’s intent.
Judgment contributes to the ability to compare possible courses of action and decide what one to take. There are times,
particularly in combat, where there are no good decisions, only the least bad decision possible in the moment. Sound judgment
requires consideration of consequences. It also includes the ability to assess strengths and weaknesses of subordinates, peers,
and the enemy. Like mental agility, sound judgement is a critical part of problem solving and decision making.
4-9. Innovation describes the ability to introduce or implement something new. Innovative problem solvers tend to be
inquisitive, looking to understand why something is the way it is or questioning how something could work better. Being
innovative requires creative thinking that uses both adaptive (drawing from expertise and prior knowledge) and innovative
approaches (developing completely new ideas).
4-10. Innovative leaders prevent complacency by finding new ways to challenge subordinates with alternative approaches and
ideas. They recognize that other people have good ideas and they recognize those who do. To be innovators, leaders rely on
intuition, experience, knowledge, and input from subordinates, peers, and superiors. Innovative leaders reinforce team building
by making everybody responsible for—and stakeholders in—innovation.
THINKING ABOUT THINKING
5-11. Thinking about thinking is one way to develop better judgment. Metacognition involves both self- awareness and self-
regulation of thought. Metacognition is important to military leaders dealing with complex problems because it involves
adapting to the situation. By increasing the awareness of one’s own thinking, mental capabilities can be allocated to the pressing
problems at hand. Being self-aware means having insight into how one learns, and the thought patterns and strategies that are
typically used when thinking. Being better in touch with how one thinks can increase the chances for successful thinking. To
improve thinking capacity for good judgment and to self-regulate thinking in the moment, leaders should practice thinking
about how to solve problems and how to decide.
Memory and thought processes are complex, but consider if they were simply files. An increased number of
files become available as the individual studies and learns. The more often the individual accesses the files,
their contents become more familiar, and chances increase that a file will be the best match to a future situation.
5-12. Improving judgment requires self-reflection and hard work to adopt new habits. Making thinking more deliberate will
prompt self-reflection. Through practice, new ways of thinking will become easier to use in daily operations and especially in
pressure situations where they are most beneficial. Improved thinking strategies will create greater self-confidence, making it
more likely to address rather than avoid complex challenges. Table 5-1 provides questions to help leaders reflect on their
thinking and develop better judgment.
5-13. Critical thinking is composed of various techniques to consider the soundness and relevance of ideas as they apply to
understanding a situation or determining a way ahead. Teams that engage in critical thinking make assumptions explicit and
identify differences and similarities in how facts apply to the situation. Critical thinking is an active process in situation
assessment that seeks to obtain the most thorough and accurate understanding possible. Situation assessment is a dynamic
process that requires time and effort. Practice develops skill at critical thinking. Skill will facilitate the ease and smoothness of
application to assessment and problem solving. (See ATP 2-33.4 Intelligence Analysis for information on critical thinking
L103 Reading B 3
5-14. High performance teams demonstrate mental agility (see ADRP 6-22) in their willingness to approach problems from
different viewpoints and to hold and work on opposing ideas until identifying the best solution. High performing teams adopt
the practice of using different perspectives in their critical thinking. Leaders can encourage critical thinking by how they
challenge and pose questions to their teams. The leaders best at developing others actively lead the team to consider alternative
points of view, multiple contingencies and first, second and third consequences of multiple courses of action. Teams that
practice critical thinking and reflect on it will broaden their capabilities for tackling complex problems—difficult to solve
because of incomplete, contradictory, or changing requirements.
5-15. Creativity is largely an attitude. To become more creative, leaders must be willing to make unusual connections that defy
convention. They must be prepared to accept the risks of being different or wrong. Unusual connections may arise out of either
effortful thought or from a relaxed, open state. Creative thinking involves examining problems from a fresh perspective to
develop innovative solutions. Creative thinking occurs by consciously generating new ideas, and re-evaluating or combining
old ideas, to solve a problem. Creativity is a willingness to accept change and apply a flexible outlook for new ideas and
5-16. Looking at problems from different perspectives can improve one’s understanding of a situation. It can lead one to see
new goals and available options. Choosing to take multiple perspectives helps to understand situations, find new or creative
solutions, and evaluate solutions. Any shortcoming or restriction in one’s perspective is a possible source of problems in
reasoning. Problem solvers can adopt different perspectives by taking on the role of another (such as the enemy, a neutral
bystander, or adjacent unit commander), using new or different frames of reference, shifting importance about various
problem elements, or reversing the goal. These require an openness of mind willing to apply a different perspective and
practice in shifting perspectives. Adopting different perspectives is a way to enhance creativity and critical thinking.
5-17. Identifying hidden assumptions can be useful for developing greater creativity and insight. Coming up with reasons
against a preferred conclusion or option instead of in favor of that conclusion or option will improve how thorough reasoning
is done. This will also help identify contingencies that may occur. One can force oneself to imagine what causes a speculative
conclusion to be incorrect. Considering ways something would not be true, allows determination of other possible aspects of a
situation and ways to shape the outcome to avoid those undesired states.
Finding hidden assumptions or imagining failure are similar techniques that protect against group think and
hasty agreement with conventional wisdom. To check for hidden assumptions, start with an assessment or
course of action, consider that it is not true or has failed. Force yourself to think about what caused it to fail.
Those causes are likely to be assumptions that were not evident.
CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING DEVELOPMENT
5-18. Critical and creative thinking come together as practical thinking that captures the strengths of how people approach
everyday problems, calling on experience over formal models such as classical logic. Creative thinking techniques help generate
new insights. Critical thinking brings out differences that are not normally obvious. Both types of thinking fill in gaps in
knowledge and resolve uncertainty. Signs of a practical thinker include a willingness to try alternate approaches to thinking,
being open to others’ positions, being prepared to think about issues instead of ignoring or dismissing them, and asking
5-19. Leaders should develop critical and creative thinking in team members. These abilities and capacities for intellectual and
critical thought are essential to effective problem solving. The actions of subordinates, based on their own critical thinking
skills, will often dictate the success of the team. One of the best ways to develop critical thinking in an organization is through
example, by being a critical thinker. Thinking critically and setting conditions that encourage others to think critically are
effective ways to enhance the process by team members. Leaders should be willing to take risks and encourage prudent risk
taking by others. Thinking critically and creatively and thinking about thinking can cause people to question their own abilities.
Leaders can counteract the unsettled feeling by listening attentively, affirming their subordinates’ abilities, and reflecting about
the processes of thinking and successful outcomes achieved from thorough thinking.
5-20. How people think and feel about learning and knowing affects their critical and creative thinking and development of
judgment. For example, an attitude that thinking can resolve problems will lead to better results in overcoming difficulties
through thinking. Attitudes that conflict with sound thinking should be diminished. These attitudes include feeling that changing
one’s mind is a sign of weakness, that being open and deliberating among options leads to confusion, that quick decision making
is how one demonstrates expertise, and that truth comes from authority.
5-21. Positive attitudes that contribute to developing critical and creative thinking include—
L103 Reading B 4
Persistence. If one line of thought or action is not working, then finding another line may work.
Willingness to expend effort. A willingness to engage in deeper, more thorough thinking is important for critical thinking, even when the effort may not initially seem useful.
Active fair-mindedness. Taking special effort to find out whether one’s ideas will work by imagining what is wrong with them is a good way to be fair-minded. Using the same standards, regardless of the issue or who supports a
position is another quality of fair-mindedness.
Detachment of ego. Keeping reasoning separate from self-esteem helps guard against being caught up in being on the right side of an argument or rationalizing why failure was out of one’s control.
Tolerance of uncertainty. Believing it is fine not to know something is a positive characteristic. Yet, being motivated to resolve uncertainty once it is recognized is even more important. There is an advantage to having to think through
problems to figure them out, instead of using minimal, surface cues that could lead to interpreting a situation
Openness. Being open to different and multiple possibilities leads to better decisions.
Retraction of commitment. Willing to change beliefs about a preferred solution or a problem viewpoint is an attitude that has positive effects.
Flexibility of process. Realize that standard processes will not work for novel, ill-defined, or complex problems. Adapting or discovering a new way of thinking that will help reach a solution.
Willingness to learn. It is natural for leaders to feel an expectation to have the knowledge and experience to perform well. Being willing to engage in learning is adaptive. One characteristic of experts is that they understand what they
know and what they need to learn.
5-22. Thinking ahead and predicting potential ways that a situation assessment may be wrong or that a course of action could
depart from the anticipated plan will make leaders better prepared to handle the unknown. Having identified and thought about
various contingencies better prepares the team for what could occur.
APPLY CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING
1-65. Thinking includes awareness, perception, reasoning, and intuition. Thinking is naturally influenced by emotion,
experience, and bias. As such, commanders and staffs apply critical and creative thinking throughout the operations process to
assist them with understanding situations, making decisions, directing actions, and assessing operations.
1-66. Critical thinking is purposeful and reflective thought about what to believe or what to do in response to observations,
experiences, verbal or written expressions, or arguments. By thinking critically, individuals formulate judgments about whether
the information they encounter is true or false, or if it falls somewhere along a scale of plausibility between true or false. Critical
thinking involves questioning information, assumptions, conclusions, and points of view to evaluate evidence, develop
understanding, and clarify goals. Critical thinking helps commanders and staffs identify causes of problems, arrive at justifiable
conclusions, and make good judgments. Critical thinking helps commanders counter their biases and avoid logic errors.
1-67. Creative thinking examines problems from a fresh perspective to develop innovative solutions. Creative thinking creates
new and useful ideas, and reevaluates or combines old ideas to solve problems. Leaders face unfamiliar problems that require
new or original approaches to solve them. This requires creativity and a willingness to accept change, newness, and a flexible
outlook of new ideas and possibilities.
1-68. Breaking old habits of thought, questioning the status quo, visualizing a better future, and devising responses to new
problems require creative thinking. During operations, leaders routinely face unfamiliar problems or old problems under new
conditions. Leaders apply creative thinking to gain new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and new ways of
understanding problems and conceiving ways to solve them. (See ATP 5-0.1 for creative thinking tools and techniques.)
1-69. Both critical and creative thinking must intentionally include ethical reasoning—the deliberate evaluation that decisions
and actions conform to accepted standards of conduct. Ethical reasoning within critical and creative thinking helps commanders
and staffs anticipate ethical hazards and consider options to prevent or mitigate the hazards within their proposed COAs. (See
ADP 6-22 for a detailed discussion of ethical reasoning.)
1-70. Commanders may form red teams to help the staff think critically and creatively and to avoid groupthink, mirror
imaging, cultural missteps, and tunnel vision. Red teaming enables commanders to explore alternative plans and operations in
the context of an OE and from the perspective of unified action partners, adversaries, and others. Throughout the operations
process, red team members help clarify the problem and explain how others (unified action partners, the population, and the
enemy) potentially view the challenge assumptions and the analysis used to build the plan. (See JP 5-0 for a detailed
discussion of red teams and red teaming.)
L103 Reading B 5
ARMY PROBLEM SOLVING
2-99. The ability to recognize and effectively solve problems is an essential skill for Army leaders. Where the previous
methodologies are designed for planning operations, Army problem solving is a methodology available for leaders in
identifying and solving a variety of problems. Similar in logic to the MDMP, Army problem solving is an analytical approach
to defining a problem, developing possible solutions to solve the problem, arriving at the best solution, developing a plan,
and implementing that plan to solve the problem. The steps to Army problem solving are—
Step 1 – Gather information.
Step 2 – Identify the problem.
Step 3 – Develop criteria.
Step 4 – Generate possible solutions.
Step 4 – Analyze possible solutions.
Step 6 – Compare possible solutions.
Step 7 – Make and implement the decision.
(See FM 6-0 for a detailed discussion of Army problem solving.)
Problem Solving Problem solving is a daily activity for leaders. This chapter describes types of problems
followed by a description of a systematic approach to assist in solving well and medium-
PROBLEMS 4-1. The ability to recognize and effectively solve problems is an essential skill for leaders. A problem is an issue or obstacle
that makes it difficult to achieve a desired goal or end state. The degree of interactive complexity of a given situation is the
primary factor that determines that problem’s structure. Problems range from well-structured to ill-structured. (See ADRP 5-0
more discussion on types of problems.)
4-2. Well-structured problems are easy to identify, required information is available, and methods to solve them are somewhat
obvious. While often difficult to solve, well-structured problems have verifiable solutions. Problems of mathematics and time
and space relationships, as in the case with detailed logistics planning and engineering projects, illustrate well-structured
problems. For well-structured problems, leaders may use the problem solving process, troop leading procedures, or the military
decision making process (MDMP).
4-3. Medium-structured problems are more interactively complex than well-structured problems. For example, a field manual
describes how a combined arms battalion conducts a defense, but it offers no single solution that applies to all circumstances.
Leaders may agree on the problem and the end state for the operation. However, they may disagree about how to apply the
doctrinal principles to a specific piece of terrain against a specific enemy. Medium-structured problems may require iterations
of the problem solving process, troop leading procedures, or the MDMP.
4-4. Ill-structured problems are complex, nonlinear, and dynamic; therefore, they are the most challenging to understand and
solve. Unlike well- or medium-structured problems, leaders disagree about how to solve ill-structured problems, what the end
state should be, and whether the desired end state is even achievable. Army design methodology assists leaders in
understanding ill-structured problems and developing operational approaches to manage or solve those problems. (See ADRP
5-0 for more information on the Army design methodology.)
4-5. Not all problems require lengthy analysis. For well-structured problems, leaders may make quick decisions based on their
experiences. For well-structured or medium-structured problems involving a variety of factors, leaders need a systematic
problem-solving process. The objective of problem solving is not just to solve near-term problems, but to also do so in a way
that forms the basis for long-term success.
L103 Reading B 6
THE PROBLEM SOLVING PROCESS 4-6. Troop leading procedures and the MDMP are specifically designed for planning and problem solving for conducting
operations. For situations when operational planning is not appropriate, the Army’s approach to problem solving involves the
Gather information and knowledge.
Identify the problem.
Generate possible solutions.
Analyze possible solutions.
Compare possible solutions.
Make and implement the decision.
GATHER INFORMATION AND KNOWLEDGE 4-7. Gathering information and knowledge and is an important first step in problem solving. Leaders cannot understand or
identify the problem without first gathering information and knowledge. While described as a step, gathering information and
knowledge continues throughout the problem solving process. It helps leaders understand the situation and determine what the
problem is by defining its limitations and scope. Leaders never stop acquiring and assessing the impact of new or additional
information relevant to the problem.
4-8. Leaders require facts and assumptions to solve problems. Understanding facts and assumptions is critical to understanding
problem solving. In addition, leaders need to know how to handle opinions and organize information.
Facts 4-9. Facts are verifiable pieces of information that have objective reality. They form the foundation on which leaders base
solutions to problems. Regulations, policies, doctrinal publications, commander’s guidance, plans and orders, and personal
experiences are just a few sources of facts.
Assumptions 4-10. An assumption is a supposition on the current situation or a presupposition on the future course of events, either or both
assumed to be true in the absence of positive proof, necessary to enable the commander in the process of planning to complete
an estimate of the situation and make a decision on the course of action (JP 5-0). In other words, an assumption is information
that is accepted as true in the absence of facts, but cannot be verified. Appropriate assumptions used in decision making have
They are valid; that is, they are likely to be true.
They are necessary; that is, they are essential to continuing the problem solving process.
4-11. If the process can continue without making a particular assumption, leaders discard that assumption. So long as an
assumption is both valid and necessary, leaders treat it as a fact. Problem solvers continually seek to confirm or deny the
validity of their assumptions.
Opinions 4-12. When gathering information, leaders evaluate opinions carefully. An opinion is a personal judgment that the leader or
another individual makes. Opinions cannot be totally discounted. They are often the result of years of experience. Leaders
objectively evaluate opinions to determine whether to accept them as facts, include them as opinions, or reject them.
Organizing Information 4-13. Leaders check each piece of information to verify its accuracy. If possible, two individuals should check and confirm the
accuracy of facts and the validity of assumptions. Being able to establish whether a piece of information is a fact or an
assumption is of little value if those working on the problem do not know the information exists. Leaders share information
with the decision maker, subordinates, and peers, as appropriate. A proposed solution to a problem is only as good as the
information that forms the basis of the solution. Sharing information among members of a problem-solving team increases the
likelihood that a team member will uncover the information that leads to the best solution.
4-14. Organizing information includes coordination with units and agencies that may be affected by the problem or its solution.
Leaders determine these as they gather information. They coordinate with other leaders as they solve problems, both to obtain
assistance and to keep others informed of situations that may affect them. Such coordination may be informal and routine. For
an informal example, a squad leader checks with the squad to the right to make sure their fields of fire overlap. For a formal
example, a division action officer staffs a decision paper with the major subordinate commands. As a minimum, leaders always
coordinate with units or agencies that might be affected by a solution they propose before they present it to the decision maker.
L103 Reading B 7
IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM 4-15. A problem exists when the current state or condition differs from or impedes achieving the desired end state or condition.
Leaders identify problems from a variety of sources. These include—
Higher headquarters’ directives or guidance.
4-16. When identifying a problem, leaders actively seek to identify its root cause, not merely the symptoms on the surface.
Symptoms may be the reason that the problem became visible. They are often the first things noticed and frequently require
attention. However, focusing on the symptoms of a problem may lead to false conclusions or inappropriate solutions. Using a
systematic approach to identifying the real problem helps avoid the “solving symptoms” pitfall.
4-17. Leaders do the following to identify the root cause of a problem:
Compare the current situation to the desired end state.
Define the problem’s scope or boundaries.
Answer the following questions:
Who does the problem affect?
What does the problem affect?
When did the problem occur?
Where is the problem?
Why did the problem occur?
Determine the cause of obstacles between current and desired end state.
Write a draft problem statement.
Focus information collection efforts specific to the problem.
Redefine the problem as necessary as the staff acquires and assesses new knowledge and information.
Update facts and assumptions.
4-18. After identifying the root causes, leaders develop a problem statement—a statement that clearly describes the problem to
be solved. When the staff bases the problem upon a directive from a higher authority, it is best to submit the problem statement
to the decision maker for approval. This ensures the problem solver has understood the decision maker’s guidance before
4-19. Once leaders develop a problem statement, they make a plan to solve the problem. Leaders make the best possible use of
available time and allocate time for each problem-solving step. This allocation provides a series of deadlines to meet in solving
the problem. Leaders use reverse planning to prepare their problem-solving timeline. They use this timeline to periodically
assess progress. They do not let real or perceived pressure cause them to abandon solving the problem systematically. They
change time allocations as necessary, but they do not omit steps.
DEVELOP CRITERIA 4-20. The third step in the problem-solving process is developing criteria. A criterion is a standard, rule, or test by which
something can be judged—a measure of value. Problem solvers develop criteria to assist them in formulating and evaluating
possible solutions to a problem. Criteria are based on facts or assumptions. Problem solvers develop two types of criteria:
screening and evaluation.
SCREENING CRITERIA 4-21. Leaders use screening criteria to ensure solutions they consider can solve the problem. Screening criteria defines the
limits of an acceptable solution. They are tools to establish the baseline products for analysis. Leaders may reject a solution
based solely on the application of screening criteria. Leaders commonly ask five questions of screening criteria to test a
Is it suitable?—Does it solve the problem and is it legal and ethical?
Is it feasible?—Does it fit within available resources?
Is it acceptable?—Is it worth the cost or risk?
Is it distinguishable?—Does it differ significantly from other solutions?
Is it complete?—Does it contain the critical aspects of solving the problem from start to finish?
EVALUATION CRITERIA 4-22. After developing screening criteria, the problem solver develops the evaluation criteria in order to differentiate among
possible solutions. (See figure 4-1.) Well-defined evaluation criteria have five elements:
L103 Reading B 8
Short Title—the criterion name.
Definition—a clear description of the feature being evaluated.
Unit of Measure—a standard element used to quantify the criterion. Examples of units of measure are U.S. dollars, miles
per gallon, and feet.
Benchmark—a value that defines the desired state or “good” for a solution in terms of a particular criterion.
Formula—an expression of how changes in the value of the criterion affect the desirability of the possible solution. The
problem solver states the formula in comparative terms (for example, less is better) or absolute terms (for example, a night
movement is better than a day movement).
Figure 4-1. Sample evaluation criterion 4-23. A well thought-out benchmark is critical for meaningful analysis. Decision makers employ analysis to judge a solution
against a standard, determining whether that solution is good in an objective sense. It differs from comparison, in which
decision makers judge possible solutions against each other, determining whether a solution is better or worse in a relative
sense. Benchmarks are the standards used in such analysis. They may be prescribed by regulations or guidance from the
decision maker. Sometimes, a decision maker can infer the benchmark by the tangible return expected from the problem’s
solution. Often, however, leaders establish benchmarks themselves. Four common methods for doing this are:
Reasoning—based on personal experience and judgment as to what is good.
Historical precedent—based on relevant examples of prior success.
Current example—based on an existing condition, which is considered desirable.
Averaging—based on the mathematical average of the solutions being considered. Averaging is the least preferred of all
methods because it essentially duplicates the process of comparison.
4-24. In practice, the criteria by which choices are made are almost never of equal importance. Because of this, it is often
convenient to assign weights to each evaluation criterion. Weighting criteria establishes the relative importance of each one
with respect to the others. Weighting should reflect the judgment of the decision maker or acknowledged experts as closely as
possible. For example, a decision maker or expert might judge that two criteria are equal in importance, or that one criterion is
slightly favored in importance, or moderately or strongly favored. If decision makers assign these verbal assessments numerical
values, from 1 to 4 respectively, they can use mathematical techniques to produce meaningful numerical criteria weights.
GENERATE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS 4-25. After gathering information relevant to the problem and developing criteria, leaders formulate possible solutions. They
carefully consider the guidance provided by the commander or their superiors, and develop several alternatives to solve the
problem. Too many possible solutions may result in time wasted on similar options. Experience and time available determine
how many solutions leaders consider. Leaders should consider at least two solutions. Limiting solutions enables the problem
solver to use both analysis and comparison as problem-solving tools. Developing only one solution to “save time” may produce
a faster solution but risks creating more problems from factors not considered.
4-26. When developing solutions, leaders generate options. They then summarize solutions in writing, sketches, or both.
GENERATE OPTIONS 4-27. Leaders must use creativity to develop effective solutions. Often, groups can be far more creative than individuals.
However, those working on solutions should have some knowledge of or background in the problem area.
4-28. The basic technique for developing new ideas in a group setting is brainstorming. Brainstorming is characterized by
unrestrained participation in discussion. While brainstorming, leaders—
State the problem and make sure all participants understand it.
Appoint someone to record all ideas.
L103 Reading B 9
Withhold judgment of ideas.
Encourage independent thoughts.
Aim for quantity, not quality.
Hitchhike ideas—combine one person’s thoughts with those of others.
At the conclusion of brainstorming, leaders may discard solutions that clearly miss the standards described by the screening
criteria. If this informal screen leaves only one or no solution, then leaders need to generate more options.
SUMMARIZE THE SOLUTION IN WRITING AND SKETCHES 4-29. After generating options, leaders accurately record each possible solution. The solution statement clearly portrays how
the action or actions solve the problem. In some circumstances, the solution statement may be a single sentence. For example,
it might be “Provide tribal leader with the means to dig a well.” In other circumstances, the solution statement may require
more detail, including sketches or concept diagrams. For example, if the problem is to develop a multipurpose small-arms
range, leaders may choose to portray each solution with a narrative and a separate sketch or blueprint of each proposed range.
ANALYZE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS 4-30. Having identified possible solutions, leaders analyze each one to determine its merits and drawbacks. If criteria are well
defined, including a careful selection of benchmarks, analysis is greatly simplified. 4-31. Leaders use screening criteria and
benchmarks to analyze possible solutions. They apply screening criteria to judge whether a solution meets minimum
requirements. For quantitative criteria, they measure, compute, or estimate the raw data values for each solution and each
criterion. In analyzing solutions that involve predicting future events, they use war-gaming, models, and simulations to
visualize events and estimate raw data values for use in analysis. Once raw data values have been determined, the leader judges
them against applicable screening criteria to determine if a possible solution merits further consideration. Leaders screen out
any solution that fails to meet or exceeds the set threshold of one or more screening criteria.
4-32. After applying the screening criteria to all possible solutions, leaders use benchmarks to judge them with respect to the
desired state. Data values that meet or exceed the benchmark indicate that the possible solution achieves the desired end state.
Data values that fail to meet the benchmark indicate a poor solution that fails to achieve the desired end state. For each
solution, leaders list the areas in which analysis reveals it to be good or not good. Sometimes the considered solutions fail to
reach the benchmark. When this occurs, the leader points out the failure to the decision maker.
4-33. Leaders carefully avoid comparing solutions during analysis. Comparing solutions during analysis undermines the
integrity of the process and tempts problem solvers to jump to conclusions. They examine each possible solution independently
to identify its strengths and weaknesses. They are also careful not to introduce new criteria.
COMPARE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS 4-34. During this step, leaders compare each solution against the others to determine the optimum one. Comparing solutions
identifies which solution best solves the problem based on the evaluation criteria. Leaders use any comparison technique that
helps reach the best recommendation. The most common technique is a decision matrix. (See paragraphs 9-176 through 9-182
for information on using a decision matrix.)
MAKE AND IMPLEMENT THE DECISION 4-35. After completing their analysis and comparison, leaders identify the preferred solution. If a superior assigned the
problem, leaders prepare the necessary products (verbal, written, or both) needed to present the recommendation to the decision
maker. Before presenting the findings and a recommendation, leaders coordinate their recommendation with those affected by
the problem or the solutions. In formal situations, leaders present their findings and recommendations to the decision maker as
staff studies, decision papers, or decision briefings.
4-36. A good solution can be lost if the leader cannot persuade the audience that it is correct. Every problem requires both a
solution and the ability to communicate the solution clearly. The writing and briefing skills a leader possesses may ultimately
be as important as good problem-solving skills.
4-37. Based on the decision maker’s decision and final guidance, leaders refine the solution and prepare necessary
implementing instructions. Formal implementing instructions can be issued as a memorandum of instruction, policy letter, or
command directive. Once leaders have given instructions, they monitor their implementation and compare results to the
measure of success and the desired end state established in the approved solution. When necessary, they issue additional
4-38. A feedback system that provides timely and accurate information, periodic review, and the flexibility to adjust must also
be built into the implementation plan. Leaders stay involved and carefully avoid creating new problems because of
uncoordinated implementation of the solution. Army problem solving does not end with identifying the best solution or
obtaining approval of a recommendation.
Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts & Tools, 7th Edition.pdf
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THINKER’S GUIDE LIBRARY
Richard Paul & Linda Elder
CritiCal thinking Concepts & Tools
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Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2014 by Richard Paul and Linda Elder. All rights reserved. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Seventh Edition… over one million in use.
This miniature guide focuses on the essence of critical thinking concepts and tools distilled into pocket size. For faculty it provides a shared concept of critical thinking. For students it is a critical thinking supplement to any textbook for any course. Faculty can use it to design instruction, assignments, and tests in any subject. Students can use it to improve their learning in any content area.
Its generic skills apply to all subjects. For example, critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical, and fair. They apply these skills to their reading and writing as well as to their speaking and listening. They apply them in history, science, math, philosophy, and the arts; in professional and personal life.
When this guide is used as a supplement to the textbook in multiple courses, students begin to perceive the usefulness of critical thinking in every domain of learning. And if their instructors provide examples of the application of the subject to daily life, students begin to see that education is a tool for improving the quality of their lives.
If you are a student using this mini-guide, get in the habit of carrying it with you to every class. Consult it frequently in analyzing and synthesizing what you are learning. Aim for deep internalization of the principles you find in it—until using them becomes second nature.
If successful, this guide will serve faculty, students, and the educational program simultaneously.
Richard Paul Linda Elder Center for Critical Thinking Foundation for Critical Thinking
Why A Critical Thinking Mini-Guide?
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 1
Contents Why Critical Thinking? � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 2
The Elements of Thought � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 3
A Checklist for Reasoning� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 4
Questions Using the Elements of Thought � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 6
Three Levels of Thought � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 7
Universal Intellectual Standards � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 8
Analyzing the Logic of an Article� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 11
Criteria for Evaluating Reasoning � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 12
Essential Intellectual Traits � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 13
Three Kinds of Questions � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 16
A Template for Problem-Solving � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 17
Analyzing and Assessing Research� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 18
What Critical Thinkers Routinely Do� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 19
Stages of Critical Thinking Development� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 20
The Problem of Egocentric Thinking � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 21
The Problem of Sociocentric Thinking � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 22
Envisioning Critical Societies� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 23
The Human Mind� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � 24
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
2 The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
Why Critical Thinking? The Problem: Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.
A Definition: Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.
The Result: A well cultivated critical thinker: • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and
precisely; • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
interpret it effectively; • comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against
relevant criteria and standards; • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought,
recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
• communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self- corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcoming our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 3
The Elements of Thought
Point of View frames of reference,
Purpose goals, objectives
Question at issue problem, issue
Implications and Consequences
Assumptions presuppositions, axioms, taking for granted
Information data, facts, reasons
evidence Interpretation and Inference conclusions, solutions
definitions, laws, principles, models
Used With Sensitivity to Universal Intellectual Standards
Clarity A Accuracy A Depth A Breadth A Significance Precision Relevance Fairness
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
4 The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
A Checklist for Reasoning
1) All reasoning has a PURPOSE. • Can you state your purpose clearly? • What is the objective of your reasoning? • Does your reasoning focus throughout on your goal? • Is your goal realistic?
2) All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some QUESTION, to solve some PROBLEM. • What question are you trying to answer? • Are there other ways to think about the question? • Can you divide the question into sub-questions? • Is this a question that has one right answer or can there be more than
one reasonable answer? • Does this question require judgment rather than facts alone?
3) All reasoning is based on ASSUMPTIONS. • What assumptions are you making? Are they justified? • How are your assumptions shaping your point of view? • Which of your assumptions might reasonably be questioned?
4) All reasoning is done from some POINT OF VIEW. • What is your point of view? What insights is it based on? What are its
weaknesses? • What other points of view should be considered in reasoning through this
problem? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these viewpoints? Are you fairmindedly considering the insights behind these viewpoints?
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 5
5) All reasoning is based on DATA, INFORMATION, and EVIDENCE. • To what extent is your reasoning supported by relevant data? • Do the data suggest explanations that differ from those you have given? • How clear, accurate, and relevant are the data to the question at issue? • Have you gathered data sufficient to reaching a reasonable conclusion?
6) All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, CONCEPTS and THEORIES. • What key concepts and theories are guiding your reasoning? • What alternative explanations might be possible, given these concepts
and theories? • Are you clear and precise in using concepts and theories in your
reasoning? • Are you distorting ideas to fit your agenda?
7) All reasoning contains INFERENCES or INTERPRETATIONS by which we draw CONCLUSIONS and give meaning to data. • To what extent do the data support your conclusions? • Are your inferences consistent with each other? • Are there other reasonable inferences that should be considered?
8) All reasoning leads somewhere or has IMPLICATIONS and CONSEQUENCES. • What implications and consequences follow from your reasoning? • If we accept your line of reasoning, what implications or consequences
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
6 The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
Questions Using the Elements of Thought (in a paper, an activity, a reading assignment…)
Purpose: What am I trying to accomplish? What is my central aim? My purpose?
Questions: What question am I raising? What question am I addressing? Am I considering the complexities in the question?
Information: What information am I using in coming to that conclusion? What experience have I had to support this claim? What information do I need to settle the question?
How did I reach this conclusion? Is there another way to interpret the information?
Concepts: What is the main idea here? Can I explain this idea?
Assumptions: What am I taking for granted? What assumption has led me to that conclusion?
If someone accepted my position, what would be the implications? What am I implying?
Points of View: From what point of view am I looking at this issue? Is there another point of view I should consider?
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 7
Level 3: Highest Order Thinking
• Explicitly reflective • Highest skill level • Routine use of critical thinking tools in
analyzing and assessing thinking • Consistently fair
Level 2: Higher Order Thinking
• Selectively reflective • High skill level • Lacks critical thinking vocabulary
• Inconsistently fair, may be skilled in sophistry
Level 1: Lower Order Thinking
• Unreflective • Low to mixed skill level • Frequently relies on gut intuition
• Largely self-serving/ self-deceived
Three Levels of Thought
Lower order thinking is often distinguished from higher order thinking. But higher order thinking can be inconsistent in quality. It can be fair or unfair. To think at the highest level of quality, we need
not only intellectual skills, but intellectual traits as well.
Three Levels of Thought
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
8 The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
Universal Intellectual Standards: And questions that can be used to apply them
Universal intellectual standards are standards which should be applied to thinking to ensure its quality. To be learned they must be taught explicitly. The ultimate goal, then, is for these standards to become infused in the thinking of students, forming part of their inner voice, guiding them to reason better.
Clarity: Could you elaborate further on that point? Could you express that point in another way? Could you give me an illustration? Could you give me an example?
Clarity is a gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it because we don’t yet know what it is saying. For example, the question “What can be done about the education system in America?” is unclear. In order to adequately address the question, we would need to have a clearer understanding of what the person asking the question is considering the “problem” to be. A clearer question might be “What can educators do to ensure that students learn the skills and abilities which help them function successfully on the job and in their daily decision-making?”
Accuracy: Is that really true? How could we check that? How could we find out if that is true?
A statement can be clear but not accurate, as in “Most dogs weigh more than 300 pounds.”
Precision: Could you give me more details? Could you be more specific?
A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in “Jack is overweight.” (We don’t know how overweight Jack is, one pound or 500 pounds.)
Relevance: How is that connected to the question? How does that bear on the issue?
A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise, but not relevant to the question at issue. For example, students often think that the amount of effort they put into a course should be used in raising their grade in a course. Often, however, “effort” does not measure the quality of student learning, and when that is so, effort is irrelevant to their appropriate grade.
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 9
Depth: How does your answer address the complexities in the question? How are you taking into account the problems in the question? Are you dealing with the most significant factors?
A statement can be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant, but superficial (that is, lack depth). For example, the statement “Just Say No”, which was used for a number of years to discourage children and teens from using drugs, is clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. Nevertheless, those who use this approach treat a highly complex issue, the pervasive problem of drug use among young people, superficially. It fails to deal with the complexities of the issue.
Breadth: Do we need to consider another point of view? Is there another way to look at this question? What would this look like from a conservative standpoint? What would this look like from the point of view of…?
A line of reasoning may be clear, accurate, precise, relevant, and deep, but lack breadth (as in an argument from either the conservative or liberal standpoints which gets deeply into an issue, but only recognizes the insights of one side of the question).
Logic: Does this really make sense? Does that follow from what you said? How does that follow? Before you implied this and now you are saying that, I don’t see how both can be true.
When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order. When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense in combination, the thinking is “logical.” When the combination is not mutually supporting, is contradictory in some sense, or does not “make sense,” the combination is “not logical.”
Fairness: Are we considering all relevant viewpoints in good faith? Are we distorting some information to maintain our biased perspective? Are we more concerned about our vested interests than the common good?
We naturally think from our own perspective, from a point of view which tends to privilege our position. Fairness implies the treating of all relevant viewpoints alike without reference to one’s own feelings or interests. Because we tend to be biased in favor of our own viewpoint, it is important to keep the standard of fairness at the forefront of our thinking. This is especially important when the situation may call on us to see things we don’t want to see, or give something up that we want to hold onto.
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
10 The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
Clarity Could you elaborate further?
Could you give me an example? Could you illustrate what you mean?
Accuracy How could we check on that?
How could we find out if that is true? How could we verify or test that?
Precision Could you be more specific?
Could you give me more details? Could you be more exact?
Relevance How does that relate to the problem?
How does that bear on the question? How does that help us with the issue?
Depth What factors make this a difficult problem?
What are some of the complexities of this question? What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?
Breadth Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
Do we need to consider another point of view? Do we need to look at this in other ways?
Logic Does all this make sense together?
Does your first paragraph fit in with your last? Does what you say follow from the evidence?
Significance Is this the most important problem to consider?
Is this the central idea to focus on? Which of these facts are most important?
Fairness Do I have any vested interest in this issue?
Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?
Foundation for Critical Thinking www.criticalthinking.org
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools 11
Template for Analyzing the Logic of an Article Take an article that you have been assigned to read for class,
completing the “logic” of it using the template below. This template can be modified for analyzing the logic of a chapter in a textbook.
The Logic of “(name of the article)”
1) The main purpose of this article is ________________________________. (State as accurately as possible the author’s purpose for writing the article.)
2) The key question that the author is addressing is ____________________. (Figure out the key question in the mind of the author when s/he wrote the article.)
3) The most important information in this article is ___________________. (Figure out the facts, experiences, data the author is using to support her/his conclusions.)
4) The main inferences/conclusions in this article are __________________. (Identify the key conclusions the author comes to and presents in the article.)
5) The key concept(s) we need to understand in this article is (are) ____________. By these concepts the author means ___________________. (Figure out the most important ideas you would have to understand in order to understand the author’s line of reasoning.)
6) The main assumption(s) underlying the author’s thinking is (are) ___________. (Figure out what the author is taking for granted [that might be questioned].)
7a) If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ______________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people take the author’s line of reasoning seriously?)
7b) If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are __________. (What consequences are likely to follow if people ignore the author’s reasoning?)
8) The main point(s) of view presented in this article is (are)_________________. (What is the author looking at, and how is s/he seeing it?)