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Critical thinking vs problem solving: what’s the difference.

In our blog “Importance of  Problem Solving Skills in Leadership ,” we highlighted problem solving skills as a distinct skill set. We outlined a 7-step approach in how the best leaders solve problems.

Table of Contents

Critical thinking vs. problem solving

But are critical thinking and problem solving the same? Also, if there are differences, what are they? Although many educators and business leaders lump critical thinking and problem solving together, there are differences:

Problem solving  uses many of the same skills required for critical thinking; e.g., observation, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and reflection.  Critical thinking  is an important ingredient of problem solving.

Critical thinking vs. problem solving: Not all problems require critical thinking skills

Not every problem-solving skill is a critical thinking skill. That is because not every problem requires thinking. A problem like opening a stubborn pickle jar could simply require brute strength. On the other hand, it becomes a thinking skill when you remember to tap the edge of the pickle jar lid to loosen the seal.

Also, some problem-solving skills are the exact opposite of critical thinking. When you follow directions or use muscle memory or rote (memorization) thinking, there is no critical thinking required. Likewise, skills of persuasion or public oratory are thinking skills, but aren’t necessarily critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking vs. problem solving: The role of emotional intelligence

In our blog “ What is the role of communication in critical thinking ?” we highlighted one author’s argument that critical thinking and problem solving is not always a purely rational process. While critical thinkers are in great demand in the hiring marketplace, employees who are emotionally intelligent bring even greater value to an organization.

Writing for  Business News Daily ,  editor Chad Brooks describes emotional intelligence as “the ability to understand your emotions and recognize the emotions and motivations of those around you.”

So, when looking for star performers, research shows “that emotional intelligence counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills combined in determining who will be a star performer.”

Further, in today’s collaborative workplace environment, “hiring employees who can understand and control their emotions – while also identifying what makes those around them tick—is of the utmost importance.”

Finally, one expert notes that dealing with emotions is an important part of critical thinking. Emotions can be at the root of a problem. They are frequently symptomatic of problems below the surface. Problem solving when dealing with emotions requires openness to authentic emotional expressions. It requires the understanding that when someone is in pain, it is a problem that is real.

The Ultimate Guide To Critical Thinking

  • Is Critical Thinking A Soft Skill Or Hard Skill?
  • How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills At Work And Make Better Decisions
  • 5 Creative and Critical Thinking Examples In Workplace
  • 25 In-Demand Jobs That Require Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
  • Brainstorming: Techniques Used To Boost Critical Thinking and Creativity

Critical thinking and problem solving: A deeper dive

A recap of the distinct differences between critical thinking and problem solving.

Critical thinking,  according to an article on Drexel  University’s Graduate College webpage  “utilizes analysis, reflection, evaluation, interpretation, and inference to synthesize information that is obtained through reading, observing, communicating, or experience.”

The goal of critical thinking is to evaluate the credibility of both the information and its source. It questions the central issue and how the information will inform intelligent decisions. Finally, it asks the question, “Where does this information lead me?”

Problem solving , as previously mentioned, uses many of those skills, but “it takes the process a step further to identify obstacles and then to strategically map out a set of solutions to solve the problem. That extra step in problem solving is  identifying obstacles  as well as mapping out a strategic set of solutions to resolve the problem.

How to develop critical thinking skills to become a better problem solver

1. develop your analytical skills..

Pay attention and be more observant. Ask the questions “who, what, where, and why” and learn as much as possible about the topic or problem.  Map everything out  to imprint or gain a visual understanding and focus on the differences between fact, opinion, and your own bias.

2. Learn the skill of evaluating

As a subset of analysis, you can become skilled in evaluation by:

  • comparing similar and related topics, programs, and issues. How are they different, and where are the similarities?
  • looking for trends that support (or refute) what you intuitively feel is the solution
  • recognizing barriers or conflicts to successful problem resolution
  • asking questions and gathering information—assuming nothing, ever.

3. Interpretation with the help of a mentor or someone more experienced

Interpreting a problem accurately employs both analytical and evaluating skills. With practice, you can develop this skill, but to hone your interpretation skills, it is advisable to seek the help of an experienced mentor.

You’ll need to do the following:

  • know how your own biases or opinions can be a roadblock to the best decision making
  • recognize that cultural differences can be a barrier to communication
  • look at the problem from the point of view of others
  • learn as much as you can about the problem, topic, or experience
  • synthesize everything you have learned in order to make the connections and put the elements of a problem together to form its solution

4. Acquire the skill and habit of reflection.

Being reflective is applicable to almost every aspect of your personal and professional life. To open your mind to reflection, think back to your educational experience. Your instructor may have asked you to keep a  reflective journal  of your learning-related experiences. A reflective journal requires expressive writing, which, in turn, relieves stress.

Perhaps you have just had a disagreement with a coworker, who became abusive and personal. Not everyone can come up with those instant snappy comebacks on the spot, and it is usually best to disengage before the situation gets worse.

Here’s where reflective journaling helps. When you’re in a calmer state of mind, you can journal the incident to:

  • gain deeper insights into your thought processes and actions—How do you feel about not defending yourself from the colleague’s accusations or personal abuse? What was the perfect response that eluded you in the stress of the moment?
  • build a different approach to problems—It could be that your co-worker perceives you as unapproachable or unreceptive to suggestions and criticism. Maybe it’s time to have a frank discussion to help you see yourself through the eyes of the coworker.
  • get closer to making significant changes in your life—Your journal entries may have displayed a pattern of your behavior on the job, which elicits consistent negative reactions from more than one co-worker.

Your takeaways:

  • When evaluating critical thinking vs. problem solving, the elements of both appear to blend into a distinction without a difference.
  • Good problem solvers employ the steps of critical thinking, but not all problem solving involves critical thinking.
  • Emotional intelligence is an attribute that is a hybrid skill of problem solving and critical thinking.
  • You can hone your critical thinking skills to become a better problem solver through application of analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and reflection.
  • 10 Best Books On Critical Thinking And Problem Solving

12 Common Barriers To Critical Thinking (And How To Overcome Them)

  • How To Promote Critical Thinking In The Workplace

Is Critical Thinking Overrated?  Disadvantages Of Critical Thinking

  • 11 Principles Of Critical Thinking  

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Jenny Palmer

Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

Further Reading...

creative and critical thinking examples in workplace

5 Creative and Critical Thinking Examples In Workplace  

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What Is The Role Of Communication In Critical Thinking?  

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Critical Thinking vs. Problem-Solving: What’s the Difference?

The risk of a fire occurring due to dirty refrigerator coils is a possibility, although it is not a common occurrence. Refrigerator coils are located on the back or bottom of the appliance and act as a heat exchange system, dissipating heat from the refrigerator. When these coils become clogged with dust, dirt and debris, the efficiency of the cooling system is reduced and the appliance has to work harder, creating more heat in the process. This could potentially lead to an increase in the temperature of the coils, resulting in a potential fire hazard. To reduce the risk of a fire, it is important to ensure that the refrigerator coils are regularly cleaned and maintained. Additionally, it is recommended to keep combustible items away from the coils, as

The Role of Critical Thinking in Problem-Solving

What is problem-solving?

You can use problem-solving techniques to find answers to problems. When you want to identify the root of problems in your personal and professional life and put a plan of action in place, you can use problem-solving techniques. Since you might use problem-solving when unforeseen events occur, it frequently necessitates the capacity to recognize the variables that shape these issues and the capacity to improvise efficient solutions. You might be able to solve problems more quickly, visualize issues more clearly, and carry out research more successfully if you develop this skill.

What is critical thinking?

It’s a habit to critically evaluate your own thought process and look for ways to make it better. Analyzing your thoughts will help you think more quickly, organize your thoughts more intuitively, and become more conscious of your biases. When you think critically, you can examine arguments, consider the evidence that backs them up, and decide logically whether the arguments are valid. You can commit to the process of lifelong learning, consider the perspectives of peers more frequently, and be more honest about your errors if you develop critical thinking as a long-term habit.

Critical thinking vs. problem-solving

You can overcome obstacles by using both critical thinking and problem-solving techniques, but each has a different goal and set of techniques. Here are some differences between the two skills:

Critical thinking

In contrast to problem-solving, which is a set of tactics focused on finding solutions, this is a way of thinking. Learning new skills, such as problem-solving, is made simpler because critical thinking strengthens your reasoning. Enhancing your critical thinking skills can also help you gain a better understanding of who you are, including your values, learning preferences, and strongest skills. Critical thinking comprises five steps, which are :

Problem-solving

Unlike critical thinking, which you practice continuously to hone your thinking skills, problem-solving is a set of techniques you use to find solutions that actually work. It can be used to deal with problems as they arise or to plan ahead and create solutions before a problem even arises. Enhancing your problem-solving abilities can help you think more creatively and analytically, as well as make you a more valuable team member. Four steps make up problem-solving, and they are listed below:

Is problem-solving another name for critical thinking?

Examples of Critical Thinking A triage nurse evaluates the current cases and determines the sequence of care for the patients. A plumber assesses the materials that would be most appropriate for a specific job. An attorney examines the evidence and develops a plan to win the case or determines whether to reach a settlement outside of court.

What is the difference between critical thinking and problem-solving in nursing?

Critical thinking can also be called ‘problem solving. No additional effort is required to think critically. To use critical thinking abilities, you need to be informed about more than just the facts.

What are the five critical thinking skills?

Critical thinking abilities have been associated with better patient outcomes, better patient care quality, and better safety outcomes. Critical thinking entails asking insightful questions and evaluating solutions, whereas problem-solving typically focuses on the identification and solution of a problem.

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Critical thinking and problem-solving, jump to: , what is critical thinking, characteristics of critical thinking, why teach critical thinking.

  • Teaching Strategies to Help Promote Critical Thinking Skills

References and Resources

When examining the vast literature on critical thinking, various definitions of critical thinking emerge. Here are some samples:

  • "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" (Scriven, 1996).
  • "Most formal definitions characterize critical thinking as the intentional application of rational, higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, problem recognition and problem solving, inference, and evaluation" (Angelo, 1995, p. 6).
  • "Critical thinking is thinking that assesses itself" (Center for Critical Thinking, 1996b).
  • "Critical thinking is the ability to think about one's thinking in such a way as 1. To recognize its strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, 2. To recast the thinking in improved form" (Center for Critical Thinking, 1996c).

Perhaps the simplest definition is offered by Beyer (1995) : "Critical thinking... means making reasoned judgments" (p. 8). Basically, Beyer sees critical thinking as using criteria to judge the quality of something, from cooking to a conclusion of a research paper. In essence, critical thinking is a disciplined manner of thought that a person uses to assess the validity of something (statements, news stories, arguments, research, etc.).

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Wade (1995) identifies eight characteristics of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity. Dealing with ambiguity is also seen by Strohm & Baukus (1995) as an essential part of critical thinking, "Ambiguity and doubt serve a critical-thinking function and are a necessary and even a productive part of the process" (p. 56).

Another characteristic of critical thinking identified by many sources is metacognition. Metacognition is thinking about one's own thinking. More specifically, "metacognition is being aware of one's thinking as one performs specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what one is doing" (Jones & Ratcliff, 1993, p. 10 ).

In the book, Critical Thinking, Beyer elaborately explains what he sees as essential aspects of critical thinking. These are:

  • Dispositions: Critical thinkers are skeptical, open-minded, value fair-mindedness, respect evidence and reasoning, respect clarity and precision, look at different points of view, and will change positions when reason leads them to do so.
  • Criteria: To think critically, must apply criteria. Need to have conditions that must be met for something to be judged as believable. Although the argument can be made that each subject area has different criteria, some standards apply to all subjects. "... an assertion must... be based on relevant, accurate facts; based on credible sources; precise; unbiased; free from logical fallacies; logically consistent; and strongly reasoned" (p. 12).
  • Argument: Is a statement or proposition with supporting evidence. Critical thinking involves identifying, evaluating, and constructing arguments.
  • Reasoning: The ability to infer a conclusion from one or multiple premises. To do so requires examining logical relationships among statements or data.
  • Point of View: The way one views the world, which shapes one's construction of meaning. In a search for understanding, critical thinkers view phenomena from many different points of view.
  • Procedures for Applying Criteria: Other types of thinking use a general procedure. Critical thinking makes use of many procedures. These procedures include asking questions, making judgments, and identifying assumptions.

Oliver & Utermohlen (1995) see students as too often being passive receptors of information. Through technology, the amount of information available today is massive. This information explosion is likely to continue in the future. Students need a guide to weed through the information and not just passively accept it. Students need to "develop and effectively apply critical thinking skills to their academic studies, to the complex problems that they will face, and to the critical choices they will be forced to make as a result of the information explosion and other rapid technological changes" (Oliver & Utermohlen, p. 1 ).

As mentioned in the section, Characteristics of Critical Thinking , critical thinking involves questioning. It is important to teach students how to ask good questions, to think critically, in order to continue the advancement of the very fields we are teaching. "Every field stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously" (Center for Critical Thinking, 1996a ).

Beyer sees the teaching of critical thinking as important to the very state of our nation. He argues that to live successfully in a democracy, people must be able to think critically in order to make sound decisions about personal and civic affairs. If students learn to think critically, then they can use good thinking as the guide by which they live their lives.

Teaching Strategies to Help Promote Critical Thinking

The 1995, Volume 22, issue 1, of the journal, Teaching of Psychology , is devoted to the teaching critical thinking. Most of the strategies included in this section come from the various articles that compose this issue.

  • CATS (Classroom Assessment Techniques): Angelo stresses the use of ongoing classroom assessment as a way to monitor and facilitate students' critical thinking. An example of a CAT is to ask students to write a "Minute Paper" responding to questions such as "What was the most important thing you learned in today's class? What question related to this session remains uppermost in your mind?" The teacher selects some of the papers and prepares responses for the next class meeting.
  • Cooperative Learning Strategies: Cooper (1995) argues that putting students in group learning situations is the best way to foster critical thinking. "In properly structured cooperative learning environments, students perform more of the active, critical thinking with continuous support and feedback from other students and the teacher" (p. 8).
  • Case Study /Discussion Method: McDade (1995) describes this method as the teacher presenting a case (or story) to the class without a conclusion. Using prepared questions, the teacher then leads students through a discussion, allowing students to construct a conclusion for the case.
  • Using Questions: King (1995) identifies ways of using questions in the classroom:
  • Reciprocal Peer Questioning: Following lecture, the teacher displays a list of question stems (such as, "What are the strengths and weaknesses of...). Students must write questions about the lecture material. In small groups, the students ask each other the questions. Then, the whole class discusses some of the questions from each small group.
  • Reader's Questions: Require students to write questions on assigned reading and turn them in at the beginning of class. Select a few of the questions as the impetus for class discussion.
  • Conference Style Learning: The teacher does not "teach" the class in the sense of lecturing. The teacher is a facilitator of a conference. Students must thoroughly read all required material before class. Assigned readings should be in the zone of proximal development. That is, readings should be able to be understood by students, but also challenging. The class consists of the students asking questions of each other and discussing these questions. The teacher does not remain passive, but rather, helps "direct and mold discussions by posing strategic questions and helping students build on each others' ideas" (Underwood & Wald, 1995, p. 18 ).
  • Use Writing Assignments: Wade sees the use of writing as fundamental to developing critical thinking skills. "With written assignments, an instructor can encourage the development of dialectic reasoning by requiring students to argue both [or more] sides of an issue" (p. 24).
  • Written dialogues: Give students written dialogues to analyze. In small groups, students must identify the different viewpoints of each participant in the dialogue. Must look for biases, presence or exclusion of important evidence, alternative interpretations, misstatement of facts, and errors in reasoning. Each group must decide which view is the most reasonable. After coming to a conclusion, each group acts out their dialogue and explains their analysis of it.
  • Spontaneous Group Dialogue: One group of students are assigned roles to play in a discussion (such as leader, information giver, opinion seeker, and disagreer). Four observer groups are formed with the functions of determining what roles are being played by whom, identifying biases and errors in thinking, evaluating reasoning skills, and examining ethical implications of the content.
  • Ambiguity: Strohm & Baukus advocate producing much ambiguity in the classroom. Don't give students clear cut material. Give them conflicting information that they must think their way through.
  • Angelo, T. A. (1995). Beginning the dialogue: Thoughts on promoting critical thinking: Classroom assessment for critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 6-7.
  • Beyer, B. K. (1995). Critical thinking. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
  • Center for Critical Thinking (1996a). The role of questions in thinking, teaching, and learning. [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univlibrary/library.nclk
  • Center for Critical Thinking (1996b). Structures for student self-assessment. [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univclass/trc.nclk
  • Center for Critical Thinking (1996c). Three definitions of critical thinking [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univlibrary/library.nclk
  • Cooper, J. L. (1995). Cooperative learning and critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 7-8.
  • Jones, E. A. & Ratcliff, G. (1993). Critical thinking skills for college students. National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, University Park, PA. (Eric Document Reproduction Services No. ED 358 772)
  • King, A. (1995). Designing the instructional process to enhance critical thinking across the curriculum: Inquiring minds really do want to know: Using questioning to teach critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22 (1) , 13-17.
  • McDade, S. A. (1995). Case study pedagogy to advance critical thinking. Teaching Psychology, 22(1), 9-10.
  • Oliver, H. & Utermohlen, R. (1995). An innovative teaching strategy: Using critical thinking to give students a guide to the future.(Eric Document Reproduction Services No. 389 702)
  • Robertson, J. F. & Rane-Szostak, D. (1996). Using dialogues to develop critical thinking skills: A practical approach. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 39(7), 552-556.
  • Scriven, M. & Paul, R. (1996). Defining critical thinking: A draft statement for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univlibrary/library.nclk
  • Strohm, S. M., & Baukus, R. A. (1995). Strategies for fostering critical thinking skills. Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, 50 (1), 55-62.
  • Underwood, M. K., & Wald, R. L. (1995). Conference-style learning: A method for fostering critical thinking with heart. Teaching Psychology, 22(1), 17-21.
  • Wade, C. (1995). Using writing to develop and assess critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 24-28.

Other Reading

  • Bean, J. C. (1996). Engaging ideas: The professor's guide to integrating writing, critical thinking, & active learning in the classroom. Jossey-Bass.
  • Bernstein, D. A. (1995). A negotiation model for teaching critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 22-24.
  • Carlson, E. R. (1995). Evaluating the credibility of sources. A missing link in the teaching of critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 39-41.
  • Facione, P. A., Sanchez, C. A., Facione, N. C., & Gainen, J. (1995). The disposition toward critical thinking. The Journal of General Education, 44(1), 1-25.
  • Halpern, D. F., & Nummedal, S. G. (1995). Closing thoughts about helping students improve how they think. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 82-83.
  • Isbell, D. (1995). Teaching writing and research as inseparable: A faculty-librarian teaching team. Reference Services Review, 23(4), 51-62.
  • Jones, J. M. & Safrit, R. D. (1994). Developing critical thinking skills in adult learners through innovative distance learning. Paper presented at the International Conference on the practice of adult education and social development. Jinan, China. (Eric Document Reproduction Services No. ED 373 159)
  • Sanchez, M. A. (1995). Using critical-thinking principles as a guide to college-level instruction. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 72-74.
  • Spicer, K. L. & Hanks, W. E. (1995). Multiple measures of critical thinking skills and predisposition in assessment of critical thinking. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Antonio, TX. (Eric Document Reproduction Services No. ED 391 185)
  • Terenzini, P. T., Springer, L., Pascarella, E. T., & Nora, A. (1995). Influences affecting the development of students' critical thinking skills. Research in Higher Education, 36(1), 23-39.

On the Internet

  • Carr, K. S. (1990). How can we teach critical thinking. Eric Digest. [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://ericps.ed.uiuc.edu/eece/pubs/digests/1990/carr90.html
  • The Center for Critical Thinking (1996). Home Page. Available HTTP: http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/
  • Ennis, Bob (No date). Critical thinking. [On-line], April 4, 1997. Available HTTP: http://www.cof.orst.edu/cof/teach/for442/ct.htm
  • Montclair State University (1995). Curriculum resource center. Critical thinking resources: An annotated bibliography. [On-line]. Available HTTP: http://www.montclair.edu/Pages/CRC/Bibliographies/CriticalThinking.html
  • No author, No date. Critical Thinking is ... [On-line], April 4, 1997. Available HTTP: http://library.usask.ca/ustudy/critical/
  • Sheridan, Marcia (No date). Internet education topics hotlink page. [On-line], April 4, 1997. Available HTTP: http://sun1.iusb.edu/~msherida/topics/critical.html

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Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Madhuri Thakur

Updated July 29, 2023

Critical-Thinking-and-Problem-Solving

Table of Contents

  • Critical Thinking Meaning (with Example)
  • Problem Solving Definition (with Example)
  • How to Improve?
  • Comparison Table

What is Critical Thinking and Problem Solving?

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are crucial to survive and succeed in today’s increasingly complex life. Rather than just collecting information, we need to be able to think fast and make effective decisions quickly. Moreover, we need to think about ourselves as well as everyone else involved and come up with a quick, effective, and practical solution. Here is where critical thinking and problem solving come in. Employing your critical thinking and problem-solving skills will not only help you personally but will also benefit society.

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Critical thinking and problem-solving have similarities and differences in advantages, improvement methods, and more. This article will cover everything that is similar as well as that differs for both skills.

Critical Thinking Meaning

Critical thinking is when you think about ideas carefully and ask questions to understand information in a better way. It means processing information in multiple ways, thinking about the topic from different angles. It helps cover all aspects of an issue or idea before taking action, which helps make sensible and thoughtful life decisions.

Imagine Agatha, a passionate and ambitious entrepreneur, running a successful tech startup. However, the demand for her main product is falling because her competitors are rising with the use of new cutting-edge technology.

Rather than giving up, Agatha arranges a brainstorming session with her team. They use the SCAMPER ( Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put, Eliminate, Reverse ) technique to analyze their product and determine how to increase its demand. Using this critical thinking technique, Agatha and her team realize that they need to upgrade their product. After evaluating all aspects of the issue, they conclude that rather than improving their product, they must steer their business towards providing consultancy services to the new companies entering the technology world. Their valuable expertise and resources help them revive their business.

Problem Solving Definition

Problem solving is the step-by-step process where you first identify the main problem as well as other small relative issues, collect information and use this data to find a practical solution. Being proficient in this skill will help you solve any issue easily and quickly in all areas of your life.

Ben, a product manager at a top firm in Los Angeles, is currently working on launching a new product. After completing the product design & manufacturing, the team prepares for the launch. However, as the company faces financial challenges, Ben is told to keep the expenses for the launch minimum.

Rather than just accepting the situation, Ben uses his problem-solving skills to find a way to get the necessary funds. First, he works to find the cause of the financial constraint. He finds that due to simultaneous advertising of other products, there is excessive spending. So, he creates a presentation to ask the higher management to stop advertising the company’s other products except for the best-selling products. This way, they can move the funds to this launch, and the customer’s sole focus will be on the launch, making it a hit.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

Critical-Thinking-and-Problem-Solving-Skills

Apart from a few common skills, several skills are specifically fit for each individual. In this section, we first see the skills common between both and then the differing skills.

Common Skills

Along with each skill, we added a technique to help you practice and improve your skill.

1. Analysis

It is the ability to understand the information by breaking it into smaller pieces of data and then analyzing each aspect individually to find an effective solution.

Six Thinking Hats Technique: Developed by Edward de Bono, this technique suggests that you use six different thinking styles or perspectives (hats) while analyzing an issue.

2. Creativity

When you have to think about one single topic in several different ways, you need a creative approach where you find the connection between seemingly unrelated subjects.

Fishbone/Ishikawa Diagram Technique: This diagram contains all possible causes for the presented problem, which can help us identify the leading causes quickly.

3. Decision-Making

A necessary step in critical thinking and problem solving is the decision-making process. Here, you need to collect all the initial information, weigh the pros and cons, give your input, and arrive at a final decision.

Decision Matrix Technique: It is a matrix that checks how effective various solutions can be to solve specific criteria.

Differing Skills

Before accepting or rejecting a solution, it is necessary to evaluate if the source is valid and if the information is relevant and of high quality. Collecting relevant, correct, and valid information is vital for solving an issue.
It is the skill of interpreting, i.e., understanding the purpose, motive, and meaning of the presented data accurately. Take inputs from several people regarding the issue to get diverse perspectives and expertise, which can help you arrive at comprehensive solutions.
To share your knowledge, you need effective . That way, you can present and explain your ideas to others clearly. Encountering challenges while trying to solve a problem is common. Thus, you must be able to adapt to changes and continue through setbacks.
It is the most crucial aspect of critical thinking, where you must find or create proper reasons/evidence behind your actions before using them. Most of the time, problem solving is time-sensitive and urgent. Thus, allocate your time efficiently so that you can prevent any delays.

Why is Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Important?

Common advantages.

  • Adapting to Change: Once you master the skill of critical thinking and problem solving, you can quickly adapt to any change in your life. It is because both skills require you to keep going through any unexpected or unfamiliar situations and challenges.
  • Better Decision Making: Once you learn to analyze and evaluate information comprehensively, you see every decision as a problem and use critical thinking or problem solving to make the best decision for you and everyone else.
  • Enhanced Creativity: When you practice critical thinking and problem solving often, your mind becomes used to viewing every detail in a creative manner. It then encourages you to think differently in every situation.

Differing Advantages

By thinking critically, you learn to organize and express your ideas clearly and logically, making it easier for others to understand. As the main idea of problem-solving skills is to resolve an issue, it makes you goal-oriented and teaches you to achieve your goals no matter what.
Once you start understanding everything rather than just memorizing, your learning experience enhances. Being able to solve critical problems allows you to navigate through conflicts and find mutually agreeable resolutions easily.
Thinking about every aspect of a subject leads you to see ideas and opportunities that others may not see. Each time you tackle a challenge successfully, you become more confident in your skills and abilities.

How to Improve Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills?

Techniques-to-Improve-Critical-Thinking-and-Problem-Solving-Ski

Common Techniques

1. be inquisitive.

The best thing one can do to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills is to ask questions. Asking questions whenever you encounter a new or unknown situation will help you gain knowledge and a deeper understanding of the subject.

2. Solve Puzzles

Working on brain teasers, puzzles, sudoku, etc., will help you think logically, creatively, and sometimes within time constraints. All this improves your ability to think critically and solve problems easily.

3. Encourage Feedback

Ask your trusted colleagues, friends, family, and social network for feedback on your presentation skills, communication skills, ideas, written blogs, etc. It will help you improve several necessary skills, improving your critical thinking and problem solving skills.

4. Keep a Journal to Practice Self-Reflection

After every problem or conflict you resolve, write it down in a journal. It will help you go back to your past experiences and either improve our methods or help your decision-making process.

5. Collaborate with Others

Engaging in debates, group discussions, book clubs, etc., helps you learn how others think and analyze situations. This broadens your perspective and enhances your skills.

Differing Techniques

Expanding your knowledge is a crucial habit to improve your critical thinking skills. Thus, read books, and scientific journals, keep up with the news, etc. : When you face any complex problem, always break the issue into smaller tasks and enforce creative thinking to find solutions.
Before accepting any suggestions and decisions, always ensure the information comes from a  valid source, and you completely understand every detail of it. : If you are solving an issue similar to a problem you solved in the past, think about it and learn to avoid any similar mistakes.
Learn to pay attention to someone who’s speaking and listen actively. It lets you understand the speaker’s perspective and reasoning on the topic. : When solving one problem, it is evident that there will be smaller issues arising. Thus, you need to stay positive as well as determined. This way, you can solve the main problem despite all the challenges.

Critical Thinking vs. Problem Solving – Comparison Table

It is the process of breaking information down to analyze and evaluate it to make informed decisions. It is the process of finding the cause of a problem and determining the best way to resolve it.
Analyzing and evaluating information, arguments, or situations. Identifying the problem and generating the best solution.
Academic settings for research, debates, evaluating arguments, etc. Business, engineering, project management, etc.
Easily understand complex issues, make sound judgments, and make reasonable arguments. Efficiently overcome challenges, achieve goals, and provide excellent solutions for any issue.
The main aim of using critical thinking is to provide a reasonable solution to any personal or professional problem, whether small or big. While solving a problem, a person requires critical thinking to check if the solutions are valid and the best course of action.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. what are the 6 stages of critical thinking.

Answer: Proposed by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, the six stages of critical thinking are as follows:

  • Unreflective Thinker: It is when you just go with your instinct, guts, and emotions.
  • Challenged Thinker: When you face a situation that goes against your belief, you start questioning your beliefs and biases.
  • Beginning Thinker: At this stage, you start critical thinking by questioning everything and believing facts based on evidence and reasoning only.
  • Practicing Thinker: Now, you start applying your critical thinking skill to every situation.
  • Advanced Thinker: Once you practice the skill enough, you can easily and quickly resolve any issues by making accurate judgments.
  • Master Thinker: This is when you become an expert critical thinker and make well-thought decisions exceptionally quickly.

Q2. What is the AAA approach to critical thinking?

Answer: The AAA approach in critical thinking consists of three steps: Ask, Assess, and Assert. It involves asking relevant questions, assessing the information critically, and then making a well-structured assertion (claim) based on the evidence.

Q3. Courses to learn problem-solving skills.

Answer: Courses to learn problem-solving skills:

  • Data Analysis and Data Science
  • Project Management
  • Computer Science and Programming
  • Mathematics and Logic
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making
  • Critical Thinking

Recommended Articles

This article guides you through the various similarities and differences between critical thinking and problem solving. We explore its meanings with examples, skills, and their importance. We have also mentioned methods that you can use to improve these skills. To learn more about similar topics, visit the recommended articles below.

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Critical thinking vs. problem solving: the definitions

I was recently chatting with a colleague about the kinds of skills kids need to develop to be successful on the job, and in life. I started running down a list, and she said something along the lines of, “Well, critical thinking and problem solving… they’re the same thing right?” That’s a really interesting question! For my colleague, “critical thinking” and “problem solving” are just phrases that are out there, somehow related to learning. And just like with anything else in life, when you haven’t had a reason to investigate them deeply, they might just be ideas that seem to mean something vaguely similar… but what do these ideas really mean?

First, let’s start with some basic definitions. Critical thinking, according to dictionary.com, is “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded and informed by evidence.” Well, that certainly sounds like something I want my kids to be proficient in! According to Merriam-Webster, problem solving is “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem”, and there’s another no-brainer, definitely something I want to instill in my children. Can we move from these definitions to a real understanding of the differences between these two skill sets?

Looking deeper: what skills are involved in critical thinking?

We’ve looked up definitions for critical thinking and problem solving, but these definitions don’t tell us anything about the skills that are involved in each. For instance, what exactly do my kids need to be able to do in order to think critically? Critical thinking skills are habits of mind that help us be more thoughtful, rational, creative, and curious. Critical thinking can involve collecting information, organizing what we collect, analyzing and evaluating the information we have, making connections between different ideas, understanding what’s relevant and what isn’t, and so much more. All of this gives us a basis on which an informed decision can be made.

But when do we make decisions? When we’re confronted with a task, challenge, or problem . Indeed, we apply critical thinking when we are faced with a problem that demands we apply some of those skills. Critical thinking skills are general plans of attack, applicable to a wide array of problems!

Cthinkingvspsolving pinterest

Looking deeper: what skills are involved in problem solving?

So now we’ve discovered something interesting: critical thinking skills are problem solving skills! And if you think about it, any critical thinking skill could conceivably be applied to finding the solution to some kind of problem. (In fact, it's hard to define critical thinking skills and not make them about problem solving in some way!) So, every critical thinking skill is a problem-solving skill.

Does that mean that every problem-solving skill is also a critical thinking skill? Actually, no. For starters, there are lots of skills that help us solve problems, but are not thinking skills! For example, brute strength is a body skill that is also a problem-solving skill. (But probably much of the time, you need to figure out how to use that strength, say, so you don't unnecessarily break your best friend’s TV when helping her move to a new home; critical thinking skills to the rescue!)

There are also problem-solving skills that are thinking skills, but just not critical thinking skills. For example, people with “emotional intelligence” can soothe tempers, read other people, and help move ideas forward in contexts that have nothing to do with problem solving. Skills of persuasion and oration are thinking skills, but they don't necessarily have to be critical thinking skills.

There are even problem-solving skills that are the complete opposite of critical thinking, like following directions, and mechanical and rote thinking. For example, learning the steps for solving a linear equation allows you to solve linear equations like a machine, no critical thinking required. However, rote thinking without critical thinking can be dangerous; you don't necessarily want to follow rules without checking that those rules make sense!

Critical thinking and problem solving: sometimes different, sometimes the same

We know that critical thinking skills are fundamental to problem-solving. And we know that there are other skills that help us solve problems, skills that aren’t critical thinking skills. Problem solving involves a wide array of techniques and attacks, some of which fall under critical thinking, and some which don’t. Aspects of critical thinking and problem solving can be different, or the same, but both sets of skills are incredibly important for all kids to have. There isn’t a skill we’ve talked about here where I think “Well, my kiddo could probably live without being able to do that….” Critical thinking is the foundation that allows us to tackle challenges of all kinds, supplemented by other problem-solving skills as needed. We want our kids to have all of these skills at their fingertips, so they can solve problems effectively, using strong evidence, logical thinking, and clear reasoning. All are vital ingredients to a successful and happy grown-up life!

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. These skills are especially helpful at school and in the workplace, where employers prioritize the ability to think critically. Find out why and see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter and during your interview.

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in a Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand skills in mind as you refine your critical thinking practice —whether for work or school.

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of classmates or colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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The Peak Performance Center

The pursuit of performance excellence, critical thinking.

Critical Thinking header

Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at something to understand what it really means.

Critical Thinkers

Critical thinkers do not simply accept all ideas, theories, and conclusions as facts. They have a mindset of questioning ideas and conclusions. They make reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out by assessing the evidence that supports a specific theory or conclusion.

When presented with a new piece of new information, critical thinkers may ask questions such as;

“What information supports that?”

“How was this information obtained?”

“Who obtained the information?”

“How do we know the information is valid?”

“Why is it that way?”

“What makes it do that?”

“How do we know that?”

“Are there other possibilities?”

Critical Thinking

Combination of Analytical and Creative Thinking

Many people perceive critical thinking just as analytical thinking. However, critical thinking incorporates both analytical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking does involve breaking down information into parts and analyzing the parts in a logical, step-by-step manner. However, it also involves challenging consensus to formulate new creative ideas and generate innovative solutions. It is critical thinking that helps to evaluate and improve your creative ideas.

Critical Thinking Skills

Elements of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves:

  • Gathering relevant information
  • Evaluating information
  • Asking questions
  • Assessing bias or unsubstantiated assumptions
  • Making inferences from the information and filling in gaps
  • Using abstract ideas to interpret information
  • Formulating ideas
  • Weighing opinions
  • Reaching well-reasoned conclusions
  • Considering alternative possibilities
  • Testing conclusions
  • Verifying if evidence/argument support the conclusions

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is considered a higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, deduction, inference, reason, and evaluation. In order to demonstrate critical thinking, you would need to develop skills in;

Interpreting : understanding the significance or meaning of information

Analyzing : breaking information down into its parts

Connecting : making connections between related items or pieces of information.

Integrating : connecting and combining information to better understand the relationship between the information.

Evaluating : judging the value, credibility, or strength of something

Reasoning : creating an argument through logical steps

Deducing : forming a logical opinion about something based on the information or evidence that is available

Inferring : figuring something out through reasoning based on assumptions and ideas

Generating : producing new information, ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.

Blooms Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised

Mind Mapping

Chunking Information

Brainstorming

differentiate between critical thinking and problem solving

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, what is critical thinking, critical thinking and decision-making what is critical thinking.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: What is Critical Thinking?

Lesson 1: what is critical thinking, what is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a term that gets thrown around a lot. You've probably heard it used often throughout the years whether it was in school, at work, or in everyday conversation. But when you stop to think about it, what exactly is critical thinking and how do you do it ?

Watch the video below to learn more about critical thinking.

Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions . It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better.

illustration of the terms logic, reasoning, and creativity

This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a broad skill that can be applied to so many different situations. You can use it to prepare for a job interview, manage your time better, make decisions about purchasing things, and so much more.

The process

illustration of "thoughts" inside a human brain, with several being connected and "analyzed"

As humans, we are constantly thinking . It's something we can't turn off. But not all of it is critical thinking. No one thinks critically 100% of the time... that would be pretty exhausting! Instead, it's an intentional process , something that we consciously use when we're presented with difficult problems or important decisions.

Improving your critical thinking

illustration of the questions "What do I currently know?" and "How do I know this?"

In order to become a better critical thinker, it's important to ask questions when you're presented with a problem or decision, before jumping to any conclusions. You can start with simple ones like What do I currently know? and How do I know this? These can help to give you a better idea of what you're working with and, in some cases, simplify more complex issues.  

Real-world applications

illustration of a hand holding a smartphone displaying an article that reads, "Study: Cats are better than dogs"

Let's take a look at how we can use critical thinking to evaluate online information . Say a friend of yours posts a news article on social media and you're drawn to its headline. If you were to use your everyday automatic thinking, you might accept it as fact and move on. But if you were thinking critically, you would first analyze the available information and ask some questions :

  • What's the source of this article?
  • Is the headline potentially misleading?
  • What are my friend's general beliefs?
  • Do their beliefs inform why they might have shared this?

illustration of "Super Cat Blog" and "According to survery of cat owners" being highlighted from an article on a smartphone

After analyzing all of this information, you can draw a conclusion about whether or not you think the article is trustworthy.

Critical thinking has a wide range of real-world applications . It can help you to make better decisions, become more hireable, and generally better understand the world around you.

illustration of a lightbulb, a briefcase, and the world

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Creative Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

What's the difference.

Creative thinking and critical thinking are two distinct but equally important cognitive processes. Creative thinking involves generating new ideas, concepts, and solutions by exploring various possibilities and thinking outside the box. It encourages imagination, originality, and innovation. On the other hand, critical thinking involves analyzing, evaluating, and questioning ideas, arguments, and information to make informed decisions and judgments. It emphasizes logical reasoning, evidence-based thinking, and the ability to identify biases and fallacies. While creative thinking focuses on generating ideas, critical thinking focuses on evaluating and refining those ideas. Both thinking processes are essential for problem-solving, decision-making, and personal growth.

AttributeCreative ThinkingCritical Thinking
DefinitionGenerating new and original ideas, solutions, or perspectives.Analyzing, evaluating, and making reasoned judgments based on evidence and logical reasoning.
ApproachExploratory, imaginative, and open-minded.Systematic, logical, and objective.
FocusEmphasizes novelty, uniqueness, and innovation.Emphasizes accuracy, validity, and reliability.
ProcessBrainstorming, free association, lateral thinking.Analysis, evaluation, inference, deduction.
GoalGenerating creative ideas, solutions, or possibilities.Developing informed and well-reasoned judgments or decisions.
ApplicationArt, design, innovation, problem-solving.Science, research, decision-making, problem-solving.

Further Detail

Introduction.

Creative thinking and critical thinking are two distinct cognitive processes that play crucial roles in problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of creative thinking and critical thinking, highlighting their differences and showcasing how they complement each other in various contexts.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is a cognitive process that involves generating new ideas, concepts, or solutions by exploring possibilities, making connections, and thinking outside the box. It is characterized by originality, flexibility, and fluency of thought. Creative thinkers often challenge conventional wisdom, embrace ambiguity, and are open to taking risks. They are adept at finding alternative perspectives and exploring multiple solutions to problems.

One of the key attributes of creative thinking is the ability to think divergently. This means being able to generate a wide range of ideas or possibilities, often through brainstorming or free association. Creative thinkers are not limited by constraints and are willing to explore unconventional or unorthodox approaches to problem-solving.

Another important aspect of creative thinking is the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts or ideas. This skill, known as associative thinking, allows creative thinkers to draw upon a diverse range of knowledge and experiences to generate innovative solutions. They can see patterns, analogies, and relationships that others may overlook.

Furthermore, creative thinking involves the willingness to take risks and embrace failure as a learning opportunity. Creative thinkers understand that not all ideas will be successful, but they are not deterred by setbacks. They view failures as stepping stones towards finding the right solution and are persistent in their pursuit of innovative ideas.

In summary, creative thinking is characterized by divergent thinking, associative thinking, risk-taking, and persistence. It encourages the exploration of new ideas and unconventional approaches to problem-solving.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking, on the other hand, is a cognitive process that involves analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting information to form reasoned judgments or decisions. It is characterized by logical, systematic, and objective thinking. Critical thinkers are skilled at identifying biases, assumptions, and fallacies in arguments, and they strive to make well-informed and rational decisions based on evidence.

One of the key attributes of critical thinking is the ability to think analytically. Critical thinkers break down complex problems or situations into smaller components, examine the relationships between them, and evaluate the evidence or information available. They are adept at identifying logical inconsistencies or flaws in reasoning, which helps them make sound judgments.

Another important aspect of critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information objectively. Critical thinkers are skeptical and question the validity and reliability of sources. They seek evidence, consider alternative viewpoints, and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments before forming their own opinions. This attribute is particularly valuable in today's information-rich society, where misinformation and biased narratives are prevalent.

Furthermore, critical thinking involves the ability to think systematically. Critical thinkers follow a logical and structured approach to problem-solving, ensuring that all relevant factors are considered. They are skilled at identifying assumptions, clarifying concepts, and drawing logical conclusions based on the available evidence. This systematic approach helps minimize errors and biases in decision-making.

In summary, critical thinking is characterized by analytical thinking, objective evaluation, skepticism, and systematic reasoning. It emphasizes the importance of evidence-based decision-making and helps individuals navigate complex and information-rich environments.

Complementary Attributes

While creative thinking and critical thinking have distinct attributes, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they often complement each other and can be seen as two sides of the same coin.

Creative thinking can benefit from critical thinking by providing a framework for evaluating and refining ideas. Critical thinking helps creative thinkers assess the feasibility, viability, and desirability of their innovative ideas. It allows them to identify potential flaws, consider alternative perspectives, and make informed decisions about which ideas to pursue further.

On the other hand, critical thinking can benefit from creative thinking by expanding the range of possibilities and solutions. Creative thinking encourages critical thinkers to explore unconventional approaches, challenge assumptions, and consider alternative viewpoints. It helps them break free from rigid thinking patterns and discover innovative solutions to complex problems.

Moreover, both creative thinking and critical thinking require open-mindedness and a willingness to embrace ambiguity. They both involve a certain level of discomfort and uncertainty, as individuals venture into uncharted territories of thought. By combining creative and critical thinking, individuals can develop a well-rounded cognitive toolkit that enables them to tackle a wide range of challenges.

Creative thinking and critical thinking are two distinct cognitive processes that bring unique attributes to problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation. Creative thinking emphasizes divergent thinking, associative thinking, risk-taking, and persistence, while critical thinking emphasizes analytical thinking, objective evaluation, skepticism, and systematic reasoning.

While they have their differences, creative thinking and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other and can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Creative thinking benefits from critical thinking by providing a framework for evaluation and refinement, while critical thinking benefits from creative thinking by expanding the range of possibilities and solutions.

By cultivating both creative and critical thinking skills, individuals can enhance their ability to navigate complex problems, make well-informed decisions, and drive innovation in various domains. These cognitive processes are not only valuable in academic and professional settings but also in everyday life, where the ability to think creatively and critically can lead to personal growth and success.

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Critical thinking and problem solving with technology.

Brief Summary: Critical thinking and problem solving is a crucial skill in a technical world that can immediately be applied to academics and careers. A highly skilled individual in this competency can choose the appropriate tool to accomplish a task, easily switch between tools, has a basic understanding of different file types, and can troubleshoot technology when it’s not working properly. They can also differentiate between true information and falsified information online and has basic proficiency in data gathering, processing and interpretation. 

Learners with proficient skills in critical thinking and problem solving should be able to: 

  • Troubleshoot computers and mobile devices when issues arise, like restarting the device and checking if it requires a software or operating system update 
  • Move across tools to complete a task (for example, adding PowerPoint slides into a note taking app for annotation) 
  • Differentiate between legitimate and falsified information online 
  • Understand basic file types and know when to use them (for example, the difference between .doc and .pdf files) 

Market/Employer Trends: Employers indicate value in employee ability to problem solve using technology, particularly related to drawing information from data to identify and solve challenges. Further, knowing how to leverage technology tools to see a problem, break it down into manageable pieces, and work toward solving is of important value. Employers expect new employees to be able to navigate across common toolsets, making decisions to use the right tool for the right task.  

Self-Evaluation: 

Key questions for reflection: 

  • How comfortable are you when technology doesn’t work the way you expect?  
  • Do you know basic troubleshooting skills to solve tech issues?  
  • Do you know the key indicators of whether information you read online is reliable? 

Strong digital skills in this area could appear as: 

  • Updating your computer after encountering a problem and resolving the issue 
  • Discerning legitimate news sources from illegitimate ones to successfully meet goals 
  • Converting a PowerPoint presentation into a PDF for easy access for peers who can’t use PowerPoint 
  • Taking notes on a phone and seamlessly completing them on a computer

Ways to Upskill: 

Ready to grow your strength in this competency? Try: 

  • Reviewing University Libraries’ resources on research and information literacy  
  • Read about troubleshooting in college in the Learner Technology Handbook 
  • Registering for ESEPSY 1359: Critical Thinking and Collaboration in Online Learning  

Educator Tips to Support Digital Skills: 

  • Create an assignment in Carmen prompting students to find legitimate peer-reviewed research  
  • Provide links to information literacy resources on research-related assignments or projects for student review 
  • Develop assignments that require using more than one tech tool to accomplish a single task 

Thinking Vs. Critical Thinking: What’s the Difference?

Thinking and critical thinking do not sound that different in nature. After all, they both include the verb thinking, and therefore, imply that some form of thinking is taking place. If you find yourself wondering, what is the difference between thinking vs critical thinking, you have had an excellent thought.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, thinking is what we do when we are considering things with our minds. Critical thinking takes things a bit further. Critical thinking is when we push our feelings and our emotions out of the way so that we can carefully focus on a specific topic.

Going back to your question. When you thought, what is the difference between thinking and critical thinking and you began to weigh the difference, you were performing the action of critical thinking! Let’s take some time to dig further into the differences in thinking and critical thinking.

What is Thinking?

Thinking is an action. The action that is required to produce thoughts. Whether we are thinking about what we want to eat for lunch, the color green, or how cute a baby pig in rainboots looks, all of these thoughts are produced in our minds through the process and action of thinking.

Have you ever laid in bed trying to go to sleep, but you kept thinking about the pile of papers you left on your desk or the long to-do list you have waiting for you tomorrow? You may be thinking too much because you are stressed or simply because it is difficult for you to turn off your brain, so to speak, at night when it is time to sleep.

What is Critical Thinking?

Since critical thinking goes beyond the basic formation of thought that we do hundreds if not thousands of times a day, it is considered a skill that must be practiced. This is why students study things in school like problem-solving, critical analysis, and how to compare and contrast different things.

Why do We Use Critical Thinking?

There are many reasons we use critical thinking. One of the biggest reasons you will often hear from employers is problem-solving. Critical thinking is crucial in being able to problem solve, and many companies are seeking people who are capable and comfortable with working through and solving problems.

There are just a few of the major uses for critical thinking in our daily lives, and each use requires a different set of critical thinking skills.

5 Everyday Critical Thinking Skills

Comparing and contrasting.

When you look at two or more things and decide what is similar and what is different between them, you are using the critical thinking skills of comparing and contrasting. We do this when we look at universities or job options. We look at the majors that are offered or the benefits that come with the job to see how they are similar and different.

Forecasting

We also practice forecasting when we make our 5-year plans or even just think about what we might do over a long weekend. Forecasting can be as simple as that, or it can be much more in-depth, like predicting the weather or changes in the stock market.

Have you ever decided that you wanted to buy something online like a computer or a new pair of shoes? Most of the time, when we shop online, we will look at different websites to check customer reviews. Even if you just glance at a product’s star rating or look at the available features for a specific product, you are evaluating the overall product before you decide to purchase.

Similarities and Differences

If you want to challenge yourself to go beyond just thinking and reach a level of critical thinking, keep pondering questions like what is the difference between thinking and critical thinking? Questions like these will naturally push you to use your critical thinking skills. As you further develop your ability to think critically, you will find that other skills like problem solving and brainstorming come more easily to you.

Difference Between Thinking and Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking

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COMMENTS

  1. Critical Thinking vs. Problem-Solving: What's the Difference?

    Critical thinking vs. problem-solving Critical thinking and problem-solving can both help you resolve challenges, but the two practices have distinct purposes and strategies. Here are some differences between the two skills: Critical thinking This is a mode of thinking, compared to problem-solving, which is a set of solution-oriented strategies.

  2. Critical Thinking versus Problem Solving

    Critical Thinking versus Problem Solving. Many people lump critical thinking and problem-solving together into one basket, and while there are similarities, there are also distinct differences. Critical thinking utilizes analysis, reflection, evaluation, interpretation, and inference to synthesize information that is obtained through reading ...

  3. Critical Thinking vs Problem Solving: What's the Difference?

    Although many educators and business leaders lump critical thinking and problem solving together, there are differences: Problem solving uses many of the same skills required for critical thinking; e.g., observation, analysis, evaluation, interpretation, and reflection. Critical thinking is an important ingredient of problem solving.

  4. Are Problem Solving and Critical Thinking the Same? Debunking the

    Differences between Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. While there are similarities, critical thinking and problem-solving differ in key aspects. Critical thinking is a broader, intentional mode of thinking that involves reflection, evaluation, interpretation, and inference. It examines assumptions, biases, and potential alternative ...

  5. Critical Thinking vs. Problem-Solving: What's the Difference?

    Critical thinking entails asking insightful questions and evaluating solutions, whereas problem-solving typically focuses on the identification and solution of a problem. critical thinking vs problem solving Problem-solving uses many of the same skills, such as observing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting, but it takes the process a step.

  6. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

    Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity. Dealing with ambiguity is also seen by Strohm & Baukus (1995) as an essential part of critical thinking ...

  7. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

    Critical Thinking. Problem Solving. Definition. It is the process of breaking information down to analyze and evaluate it to make informed decisions. It is the process of finding the cause of a problem and determining the best way to resolve it. Focus. Analyzing and evaluating information, arguments, or situations.

  8. What's the Difference Between Critical Thinking Skills and…

    Critical thinking skills are habits of mind that help us be more thoughtful, rational, creative, and curious. Critical thinking can involve collecting information, organizing what we collect, analyzing and evaluating the information we have, making connections between different ideas, understanding what's relevant and what isn't, and so ...

  9. Understanding Critical-Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

    Critical thinking and problem solving are complementary skills. Critical thinking is a cognitive activity that involves evaluating and analyzing ideas to discover the connection between them. You can also regard it as deep and reflective thinking about the significant aspects of interactions with individuals and concepts.

  10. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

  11. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, assessing, synthesizing, evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to solve problems or make decisions. Basically, critical thinking is taking a hard look at ...

  12. What is the difference between critical thinking and problem solving

    The distinction between critical thinking and problem-solving also has profound implications for the modern workplace. In an age dominated by rapid technological advancements and information ...

  13. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making

    Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions. It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better. This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a ...

  14. PDF Critical Thinking Vs Problem Solving Guide

    This rubric distills the common elements of most problem‐solving contexts and is designed to function across all disciplines. It is broad‐based enough to allow for individual differences among learners, yet is concise and descriptive in its scope to determine how well students have maximized their respective abilities to practice thinking ...

  15. Critical thinking and problem solving Critical thinking and ...

    Critical thinking involves questioning rather than simply accepting information that you hear or read. It enables you to identify different points of view, put together arguments, and evaluate the ...

  16. Creative Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

    It emphasizes logical reasoning, evidence-based thinking, and the ability to identify biases and fallacies. While creative thinking focuses on generating ideas, critical thinking focuses on evaluating and refining those ideas. Both thinking processes are essential for problem-solving, decision-making, and personal growth.

  17. PDF Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

    These skills include critical thinking and problem solving, according to a 2010 Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association and others. Problem solving and critical thinking refers to the ability to use knowledge, facts, and data to effectively solve problems. This doesn't mean you need to have an immediate answer, it means ...

  18. Critical Thinking versus Problem Solving

    Critical thinking (CT) is the art of raising what is subconscious in one's reasoning to the level of conscious recognition. This paper reviews the concepts of CT, and discusses various variables ...

  19. Relationship between Problem Solving and Critical Thinking (adapted

    According to Rahmat (2020), writing improves problem solving and critical thinking skills. This is because learners are forced to use their thought processes to writeeven more so for creative ...

  20. Analytical Thinking vs Problem Solving: A Comprehensive Comparison

    Analytical thinking and problem solving are crucial skills in various aspects of life, including personal and professional situations. While they may seem interchangeable, there are distinct differences between the two. Analytical thinking focuses on breaking down complex information into smaller, manageable components to understand a situation and evaluate alternatives effectively.

  21. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving with Technology

    Brief Summary: Critical thinking and problem solving is a crucial skill in a technical world that can immediately be applied to academics and careers.A highly skilled individual in this competency can choose the appropriate tool to accomplish a task, easily switch between tools, has a basic understanding of different file types, and can troubleshoot technology when it's not working properly.

  22. Thinking Vs. Critical Thinking: What's the Difference?

    One of the biggest reasons you will often hear from employers is problem-solving. Critical thinking is crucial in being able to problem solve, and many companies are seeking people who are capable and comfortable with working through and solving problems. ... The easiest way to explain the similarities and differences between thinking and ...

  23. Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in

    Confidence, agility & collaboration: Critical thinking and problem-solving skills boost self-belief and confidence as students examine, re-examine, and sometimes fail or succeed while attempting ...

  24. The Difference Between a Software Developer and a Software Engineer

    Software engineers and developers both possess advanced technical skills relating to programming languages, dev environments, frameworks, and libraries. Both career paths also draw heavily on strong logic, sequential thinking, and problem-solving skills. However, software engineers generally deal with broader questions of product and system design.

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