Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal.Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal.
In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a).
Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment.
Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking.
The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.
“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it.
Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot's position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat.
Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course.
Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA).
“Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate.
The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities.