How to be a critical thinker? Concepts of critical thinking and tips to develop it!

Critical thinking skills are one of four skills in the 21st Century known as 4C or Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, and Communication. In this article, I will share the concept of critical thinking, the characteristics of critical thinkers, issues related to critical thinking skills, challenges to developing critical thinking skills, and tips on developing critical thinking skills.

How to be a critical thinker?
How to be a critical thinker?

The concept of critical thinking

Scriven & Paul[3] in the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform in 1987 stated,

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

Critical thinking ability is defined as our ability to receive and process the information obtained critically and reflectively so that a thorough understanding is obtained and is able to implement it appropriately.

Characteristics of critical thinkers

Critical thinkers or those who are able to think critically have characteristics, including being able to express reasons effectively or effective reasoning, use systems thinking, make judgments and decisions, and use the results of their analysis to solve problems[4].

Ability to express reasons / reasoning

The ability to express reasons (reasoning) can be inductive or deductive. Inductively means reasoning obtained from collecting and analyzing data first.

For example, we see Friend A playing an online game and delaying completing his task. Likewise, Friends B and C play online games and delay completing their assignments. 

The conclusion we draw is that playing online games causes delays in completing tasks. This is obtained from specific things and drawn conclusions or generalizations. While deductive reasoning starts from general statements first. For example, all cats are meowing, the angora is a cat, so the angora meows.

Systems thinking skills

Next up is a systems thinking skill, which is now increasing in popularity, both in the context of education in schools, as well as professional training. 

Systems thinking skills, namely the ability to analyze the relationship between each component to produce a complex system. For example, analyzing the relationship between computer components, where the components are integrated to form a complex system, such as the ability to manage information. The implication is that in life the ability to think systems helps us analyze various components that affect a situation/problem.

Ability to assess and make decisions (judgment and decision-making)

The third skill is the ability to judge and make decisions. This skill includes how we are able to analyze and interpret data from various points of view, and determine conclusions from the results of the analysis. 

How is it different from systems thinking? Systems thinking focuses on the interactions between components in the system. Meanwhile, the ability to assess and make decisions can be done on a particular component or problem.

Ability to solve problems (problem-solving)

Fourth, problem-solving skills. This ability indicates that we are able to solve problems both in conventional and innovative ways. A conventional method is a method that is already commonly used, while the innovative method is related to a new or unusual way that is used. In addition, he is also able to identify problems from various points of view and determine the right solution.

Issues related to critical thinking skills

We are now in an era where digital technology is developing rapidly. This facilitates the acquisition of information and communication. However, it also has challenges to be faced. Some of the challenges that are closely related to critical thinking skills include:

  • Become a “blind follower”, which is to follow trends that occur without first analyzing what or who is being followed.
  • Spreading hoaxes and misconceptions. The hoax is fake news, while misconception is related to understanding the wrong concept.
  • Issues related to digital privacy and security.

The challenge of developing critical thinking skills

We all want to be critical thinkers. However, often we are not aware of the factors that prevent us from developing critical thinking skills. The challenges in developing critical thinking skills [1][2], among others.

Egocentric and arrogant nature. Egocentricity and arrogance make us only focus on our own knowledge or skills without considering the feelings and opinions of others. This causes us to be unable to develop proper critical thinking skills. We tend to use our thinking skills to try to find faults rather than solve problems.

Lack of in-depth knowledge. Lack of knowledge causes us to be unable to analyze a problem because we do not know what and how to analyze it. It is mainly concerned with analyzing from multiple points of view. Lack of knowledge can also be caused by not wanting to seek answers, such as asking and reading.

Group thinking. This is one of the reasons that makes it difficult for us to develop critical thinking skills, which tend to choose to think in-group thinking. Don't want to be different, afraid to be different. Group thinking is a 'comfort zone' rather than expressing the wrong opinion for some people. Another reason for group thinking is the reluctance to criticize the opinion of an expert or someone who is considered more 'senior'.

Feeling emotionally depressed. Yes, stress and fatigue can cause us to be unable to develop critical thinking skills. Although there is a view that critical thinking skills can develop under pressure. The development is more effective in a comfortable atmosphere.

Tips for developing critical thinking skills

Some tips that I can suggest (based on direct experience and information from other sources), are as follows.

Understand the reason for your difficulty in developing critical thinking skills, whether it is a lack of knowledge, a fear of being wrong or criticizing others, or perhaps thinking you are the best. Then determine the solution based on the problem.

If you lack knowledge, try to enrich your knowledge. For example, reading a book or newspaper, watching videos on YouTube or television news, listening to podcasts, or having discussions with other people. You can also attend conferences or online courses, many of which are free too. The key is that you are willing to try to enrich your knowledge.

If you are afraid of being wrong or even in a depressed state, make yourself more relaxed, discuss your feelings with people you trust, it's not even wrong for us to see a counseling expert. Try to get along in an environment that supports developing critical thinking skills, not the other way around.

Is it because you feel the most right? Come on, guys! You're not the only special person in the world. You can check the article about the book review The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck.

Don't give too much pressure on yourself. What does that mean? Everyone's cognitive processes are different. It's not that you can't think critically, but still in the process of developing that ability. Asking lots of questions and learning is very important for critical thinking skills. The point is the process that must be followed. If you push too hard and feel depressed, it can eventually cause the development of critical thinking skills to be hampered.

Practicing on active listening exercise. This relates to how to increase knowledge and also improve your ability to analyze. When hearing certain information, try to question various things about the information, not just listen.

Discuss and communicate your opinion. Not only active listening, we also need to 'force' to train ourselves to express opinions. Can be through writing or direct speech. For example, writing a diary or blog, group discussion with friends about current issues. Even write comments on other people's posts! But, do not share hate speech, please!

Does this article help you improve your understanding of critical thinking skills? The point is that critical thinking is one of the most essential skills for us. Critical thinking skills can help us analyze and find solutions to the problems we face. Do you have any other tips for developing critical thinking skills?


[1] Bhasin, H. (2019). 10 Common Barriers to Critical Thinking. Tersedia:

[2] OpenLearn. (-). 1 Barriers to Critical Thinking. The Open University. Tersedia: 

[3] The Foundation for Critical Thinking. (-). Defining Critical Thinking. Tersedia:

[4] Trilling, B. & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in Our Times.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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