published April 1, 2006

SENCER E-Newsletter, April 2006, Volume 5, Issue 6

Critical Thinking: What Is It and Why It Counts


Over the past decade or more, Pete Facione's paper, "Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts" has been used by a hundreds of faculty throughout the world as an assigned or recommended reading for students. Last semester, Pete, who serves as a SENCER Senior Scholar, updated the paper expanding the discussion of critical thinking by connecting it with recent work in cognitive science.


Pete Facione


The updated essay invites students to think about critical thinking. It provides a sound and research-based conceptual synthesis describing critical thinking skills and dispositions. The emphasis in the essay, beyond the definition developed, is on the personally and socially significant uses of critical thinking. Facione claims that civic engagement without critical thinking may be nothing but noise, polemics, and political deception.


Facione Quote


As indicated on the first page of the essay, reprint permissions for non-commercial uses are readily and freely granted. All who receive the PDF should feel free to share the essay with students and colleagues in either paper or electronic form.


"Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts," can be found on the SENCER website at: Resources.


Here's a sample of what you'll find in Pete's paper:


  • "Knowledge and skills, the staples of the educational philosophy of the mid-twentieth century are not sufficient. We must look to a broader set of outcomes including habits of mind and dispositions, such as civic engagement, concern for the common good, and social responsibility."

  • "Beyond being able to interpret, analyze, evaluate, and infer, good critical thinkers can do two more things. They can explain what they think and how they arrived at that judgment. And, they can apply their powers of critical thinking to themselves and improve on their previous opinions."

  • "Liberal education is about learning to learn, to think for yourself, on your own and in collaboration with others. Liberal education leads us away from naive acceptance of authority, above self-defeating relativism, and beyond ambiguous contextualism. It culminates in principled reflective judgment."