Definition of Critical Thinking and its Core Skill

Definition of Critical Thinking and its Core Skill

In the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st century, the ability to think critically is a beacon of intellectual prowess and adaptability. Critical thinking is not merely a buzzword in education; it is a fundamental skill that shapes our capacity to understand, engage with, and thrive in our rapidly changing world. As we embark on a journey to unravel the essence of critical thinking, we will explore its definition, dissect its core skills, and delve into why it is not just an educational imperative but a vital tool for success in the 21st-century knowledge economy.

Definition of Critical Thinking

‘Critical Thinking’ emerged in academic circles and literature in the mid-twentieth century. In 1941, the academic Edward M. Glaser stressed that critical thinking referred to the search for evidence to support (or discredit) a belief or argument. McPeck (1981, p.7) states that critical thinking is “the appropriate use of reflective skepticism within the problem under the investigation.” He added that the proper application of critical thinking might vary with specific areas of expertise and knowledge.

Critical thinking remains a crucial skill in 21st-century education, as it empowers individuals to navigate complex issues, solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to the rapidly changing world.

Sternberg (1986, p. 3) defines this term as the mental process, strategy, and representation used to solve problems, make decisions, and learn new concepts. Although there are many definitions of this term, critical thinking, and its components were not identified until 1990 by a group of scientists who joined the Delphi Panel administered by Facione in the United States (Facione., 1990).

The Core Skill of Critical Thinking

Facione (1990) asserted the five cognitive skills: interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, and explanation and the disposition in critical thinking.

AnalysisStudents have the ability to identify statements, concepts, questions, information, and opinions through comparing and contrasting.Examining ideas, detecting arguments, and analyzing arguments.
EvaluationStudents’ ability to assess the sources’ credibility as they may come from opinion or perception, as well as to assess the logical statements.Assessing claims and assessing arguments.
InferenceCognitive skills involve students identifying elements to draw a reasonable conclusion, form a hypothesis, and draw consequences from data, statements, and evidence.querying evidence, conjecturing alternatives, and drawing a conclusion
ExplanationCognitive skill whereby reasoning and evidence are used to support an argument or particular claimstating results, justifying procedures, and presenting arguments.
DispositionPositive mental constructions (being motivated and positively disposed) used to solve problems or make decisions. 
Five cognitive skills critical thinking

Although teaching critical thinking does not guarantee better living conditions for future students, it can train students to make decisions that affect the future. Making accurate decisions about their lives may make them more independent. Teaching critical thinking takes time and effort, and knows the needs of students. Learning styles make teaching critical thinking easier (Rayneri et al.., 2006). Furthermore, knowing the learning styles of students and teachers’ teaching needs to have involvement of the subject (Boydak., 2008; Rudd & Baker., 2000)

In conclusion, critical thinking occurs when students analyze, evaluate, interpret, or synthesizing information and apply creative thought to form an argument, solve a problem, or reach a conclusion.

Characteristics of a Critical Thinker

The students who are Critical thinkers typically (Ruggiero, 2012):

  • Acknowledge personal limitations.
  • See problems as exciting challenges.
  • Have understanding as a goal.
  • Use evidence to make judgments.
  • Are interested in others’ ideas.
  • Are skeptical of extreme views.
  • Think before acting. • Avoid emotionalism
  • Keep an open mind • Engage in active listening

Conversely, non-critical thinker students typically (Ruggiero, 2012):

  • See a limited number of perspectives (sometimes just one)
  • Take the first approach that occurs to them
  • Judge quickly—maybe too quickly and not critically
  • Fail to listen actively
  • Think their ideas are the best–all others are less
  • Resist change
  • Think in stereotypes
  • Deceive themselves often


  • Boydak, A. (2008). Learning Styles *Öğrenme Stilleri+. Istanbul: Beyaz Publications.
  • Ennis, R.H. (2015). “Critical Thinking”, The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education, Palgrave; Macmillan.
  • McPeck, J.E. (1981). Critical Thinking and Education. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). The art of thinking: A guide to critical and creative thought (10th ed.). New York, NY: Longman.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1986). Teaching critical thinking: Eight easy ways to fail before you begin. The Phi Delta Kappan 68(6): 456 -459.
  • University of Leeds (n/d). A model for critical thinking. Retrieved from
Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

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