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The Secret to Powerful Critical Thinking

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”

~ John W. Gardner

Last week was all about Brilliance in Action; effective collaboration. The 17th week of this year brings us to the intersection of life and art. This time we're chatting about being artistic, the secret to powerful critical thinking.

A Primer Course

When I was in the classroom, some of my favorite lessons to deliver were those meant to strengthen our critical thinking skills. In all fairness, there were components of each lesson that were intentionally placed to help build critical thinking skills. The lessons I'm referring to are those whose entirety was to help scholars understand what critical thinking is, to discover the importance of thinking critically, and to digest ways in which they can begin to think more intentionally about their own critical thinking skills.

Why were these my favorite? These were the class sessions where the lightbulbs not only came on, but continued to shine brightly; applying lessons learned throughout the remainder of the semester. Through a two-stage approach, my scholars began to rough in the skills needed to develop solid critical thinking skills, and then refine them much like that of an artist. In fact, the development of well-honed critical thinking skills can be considered artistic in and of itself.

What is Critical Thinking?

Overcoming our own inherent biases is a challenge that all of us face. Doing so requires us to use processing skills that give us the chance to process how the world may look through a different lens. Our unique perspective, or the lenses through which we view the world, are shaped by our experiences and our values, as are the lenses through which others view the world. Since the chances of someone having the exact same set of experiences and values as us is very slim, we need an objective method of gathering relevant information, formulating ideas and testing them, and drawing conclusions or solutions. This is where critical thinking steps in.

Critical thinking is defined as:

  1. disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence

  2. the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion

So how is this related to being artistic?

Rough In vs. Refined

Our #Go52 word of the week is Artistic, which is all about exhibiting excellence in execution and discriminating judgement. Generally when we hear this word we think about creative execution in the arts; visual, performing, etc. But being artistic encompasses more than the arts. I can be an artistic thinker. I can have artistic principles. We can create an artistic production. You can artistically handle a situation with diplomacy. The list could stretch on and on.

My ability to execute any given task at a high level means I have worked through the draft stages and refined the work until it there is nothing left to change. Through great observation, I gathered the relevant information that would help me improve and then consistently and intentionally tested the ideas until I grew stronger. The same steps I used to think critically, I also used to move from sketch to masterpiece.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The same can be said of you and the work you do to improve and grow in certain areas. You are in pursuit of excellence and your journey will take you from a rough sketch to a more refined piece. The secret power of critical thinking is that it grants us the promise of refining our skills to become artistic powerhouses in whatever area we channel our focus. We become more adept at drawing without an eraser because we have learned the art of consistent and rapid observation, gathering and testing info, and drawing conclusions. Our sketches will become a masterpiece.

So, where are you channeling your artistic power?

C. L. Fails

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