Lesson p.2

the critical thinking moves

Critical thinking is more than a collection of classroom or academic skills. It is something we do throughout our daily lives. Whenever we encounter a task, a situation, or an opportunity that requires us to make a choice–whether this concerns what to eat or where to work, what to buy or how to vote–we are being called on to undertake some kind of critical thinking. 

The challenge, of course, is that we’re not always aware we are doing this kind of thinking as we are doing it. Despite how much time we spend asking questions, weighing options, looking for patterns, making predictions, or considering consequences, the specific steps we follow as we do all of this often remain invisible to us–just beneath the level of our own conscious awareness. What we need is a vocabulary that enables us to describe all the critical thinking work we are already doing at the same moment we are doing it. 

This is precisely the goal behind the Critical Thinking Scaffold.  The authors and scholars of the Independent Critical Thinking and Writing Company have used their 100+ years of combined teaching and research experience to compile a list (over 112 items long, and counting) of the specific moves inherent to the critical thinking process. Because this process is so fluid, and because the specific critical thinking moves appropriate for one situation to the next will vary, the Scaffold does not present them in a static order, but rather as a flexible constellation of terms that can be combined and recombined to suit any task or text. 

Here is a list of some of the specific critical thinking moves you’ll encounter in this lesson:

  • Abstraction: to extrapolate the key concepts or ideas a text is presenting
  • Articulation: to identify strategies a text uses to present each main idea/concept
  • Attention: to examine a text closely and carefully
  • Characterization: to order and prioritize a text’s formal elements
  • Evaluation: to assess a text’s rhetorical or persuasive power on you
  • Identification: to address a text’s claims or ideas from a perspective other than your own
  • Noticing: to identify which specific elements most catch your attention
  • Reflection: to consider the purpose or goal a text brings to its encounter with you
  • Self-Inventory: to review your own assumptions around a text or topic
  • Self-Reflection: to consider how the assumptions shape your interactions with a text or topic
  • Synthesis: to find patterns and/or parallels among different perspectives