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Critical thinking versus problem solving.

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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, observing, communicating, or experience to answer the following questions:

Problem-solving uses many of the same skills, such as observing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting, 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.

So, how can you develop these skills to be a better critical thinker and a better problem solver? You cannot train yourself to be a critical thinker or a problem solver overnight; you should start slow. Work on one sub-skill at a time. Let’s look at each of these sub-skills:

Regardless of position, you can develop analytical skills by analyzing issues, programs, experiences, etc. to break them down into easier to digest chunks to gain a better or deeper understanding. To do this:

Learning to be reflective is something you can do with nearly every aspect of your professional and personal life. Start a journal and continually ask yourself questions and explore the answers honestly. This experience will open your mind to reflection, which is the process by which you look at your role in a given situation or experience. The best part of journaling – you can go back and re-read and see your progress over time. To begin the process:

We evaluate things all the time without realizing it – products, services, etc. Begin by being aware of this act. Similar to deepening your analysis skills, you can evaluate any issue, topic, program, procedure, policy, etc. through the means listed below to enhance your evaluation skills.


The act of interpreting something is using a combination of analytical and evaluation skills, but it is a little more difficult to learn on your own. It is best to partner with someone to hone these skills – a trusted colleague or even a mentor, with whom you can put the following into practice.

One of the best ways to begin to develop strategic thinking skills is to do some long-range planning. You can start with your own professional goals, think about short-term goals and how those will help you get from point A to point B, and more importantly, how they lay the groundwork for longer-range goals. Keep practicing by employing these tactics.

We utilize many of these skills each day, even multiple times a day; however, often we do it without realizing it. The first step to enhancing your critical thinking and problem solving skills is to think about them, become aware of them, then you can actively practice to improve them. Critical thinking and problem-solving are two important “soft” or essential skills hiring managers are looking for. According to a Linkedin survey, 57% of business leaders say soft skills are now more important than hard skills. Abby Guthrie, a communications team leader at argues, “Every soft skill that you develop will be something you will eventually draw on in your career.” These skills are anything but soft, they are essential to your career.

Anne Converse Willkomm Assistant Clinical Professor Department Head of Graduate Studies Goodwin College Drexel University Sources:

Skills You Need

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.

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.

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:

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:

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:

Your takeaways:

Is Critical Thinking Overrated?  Disadvantages Of Critical Thinking

Further Reading...

critical thinking is overrated

5 Creative and Critical Thinking Examples In Workplace  

what is the role of communication in critical thinking

What Is The Role Of Communication In Critical Thinking?  

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Classroom Q&A

With larry ferlazzo.

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected] Read more from this blog.

Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

(This is the first post in a three-part series.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

What is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom?

This three-part series will explore what critical thinking is, if it can be specifically taught and, if so, how can teachers do so in their classrooms.

Today’s guests are Dara Laws Savage, Patrick Brown, Meg Riordan, Ph.D., and Dr. PJ Caposey. Dara, Patrick, and Meg were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom .

Current Events

Dara Laws Savage is an English teacher at the Early College High School at Delaware State University, where she serves as a teacher and instructional coach and lead mentor. Dara has been teaching for 25 years (career preparation, English, photography, yearbook, newspaper, and graphic design) and has presented nationally on project-based learning and technology integration:

There is so much going on right now and there is an overload of information for us to process. Did you ever stop to think how our students are processing current events? They see news feeds, hear news reports, and scan photos and posts, but are they truly thinking about what they are hearing and seeing?

I tell my students that my job is not to give them answers but to teach them how to think about what they read and hear. So what is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom? There are just as many definitions of critical thinking as there are people trying to define it. However, the Critical Think Consortium focuses on the tools to create a thinking-based classroom rather than a definition: “Shape the climate to support thinking, create opportunities for thinking, build capacity to think, provide guidance to inform thinking.” Using these four criteria and pairing them with current events, teachers easily create learning spaces that thrive on thinking and keep students engaged.

One successful technique I use is the FIRE Write. Students are given a quote, a paragraph, an excerpt, or a photo from the headlines. Students are asked to F ocus and respond to the selection for three minutes. Next, students are asked to I dentify a phrase or section of the photo and write for two minutes. Third, students are asked to R eframe their response around a specific word, phrase, or section within their previous selection. Finally, students E xchange their thoughts with a classmate. Within the exchange, students also talk about how the selection connects to what we are covering in class.

There was a controversial Pepsi ad in 2017 involving Kylie Jenner and a protest with a police presence. The imagery in the photo was strikingly similar to a photo that went viral with a young lady standing opposite a police line. Using that image from a current event engaged my students and gave them the opportunity to critically think about events of the time.

Here are the two photos and a student response:

F - Focus on both photos and respond for three minutes

In the first picture, you see a strong and courageous black female, bravely standing in front of two officers in protest. She is risking her life to do so. Iesha Evans is simply proving to the world she does NOT mean less because she is black … and yet officers are there to stop her. She did not step down. In the picture below, you see Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi. Maybe this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this was Pepsi’s weak, pathetic, and outrageous excuse of a commercial that belittles the whole movement of people fighting for their lives.

I - Identify a word or phrase, underline it, then write about it for two minutes

A white, privileged female in place of a fighting black woman was asking for trouble. A struggle we are continuously fighting every day, and they make a mockery of it. “I know what will work! Here Mr. Police Officer! Drink some Pepsi!” As if. Pepsi made a fool of themselves, and now their already dwindling fan base continues to ever shrink smaller.

R - Reframe your thoughts by choosing a different word, then write about that for one minute

You don’t know privilege until it’s gone. You don’t know privilege while it’s there—but you can and will be made accountable and aware. Don’t use it for evil. You are not stupid. Use it to do something. Kendall could’ve NOT done the commercial. Kendall could’ve released another commercial standing behind a black woman. Anything!

Exchange - Remember to discuss how this connects to our school song project and our previous discussions?

This connects two ways - 1) We want to convey a strong message. Be powerful. Show who we are. And Pepsi definitely tried. … Which leads to the second connection. 2) Not mess up and offend anyone, as had the one alma mater had been linked to black minstrels. We want to be amazing, but we have to be smart and careful and make sure we include everyone who goes to our school and everyone who may go to our school.

As a final step, students read and annotate the full article and compare it to their initial response.

Using current events and critical-thinking strategies like FIRE writing helps create a learning space where thinking is the goal rather than a score on a multiple-choice assessment. Critical-thinking skills can cross over to any of students’ other courses and into life outside the classroom. After all, we as teachers want to help the whole student be successful, and critical thinking is an important part of navigating life after they leave our classrooms.



Patrick Brown is the executive director of STEM and CTE for the Fort Zumwalt school district in Missouri and an experienced educator and author :

Planning for critical thinking focuses on teaching the most crucial science concepts, practices, and logical-thinking skills as well as the best use of instructional time. One way to ensure that lessons maintain a focus on critical thinking is to focus on the instructional sequence used to teach.

Explore-before-explain teaching is all about promoting critical thinking for learners to better prepare students for the reality of their world. What having an explore-before-explain mindset means is that in our planning, we prioritize giving students firsthand experiences with data, allow students to construct evidence-based claims that focus on conceptual understanding, and challenge students to discuss and think about the why behind phenomena.

Just think of the critical thinking that has to occur for students to construct a scientific claim. 1) They need the opportunity to collect data, analyze it, and determine how to make sense of what the data may mean. 2) With data in hand, students can begin thinking about the validity and reliability of their experience and information collected. 3) They can consider what differences, if any, they might have if they completed the investigation again. 4) They can scrutinize outlying data points for they may be an artifact of a true difference that merits further exploration of a misstep in the procedure, measuring device, or measurement. All of these intellectual activities help them form more robust understanding and are evidence of their critical thinking.

In explore-before-explain teaching, all of these hard critical-thinking tasks come before teacher explanations of content. Whether we use discovery experiences, problem-based learning, and or inquiry-based activities, strategies that are geared toward helping students construct understanding promote critical thinking because students learn content by doing the practices valued in the field to generate knowledge.


An Issue of Equity

Meg Riordan, Ph.D., is the chief learning officer at The Possible Project, an out-of-school program that collaborates with youth to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and provides pathways to careers and long-term economic prosperity. She has been in the field of education for over 25 years as a middle and high school teacher, school coach, college professor, regional director of N.Y.C. Outward Bound Schools, and director of external research with EL Education:

Although critical thinking often defies straightforward definition, most in the education field agree it consists of several components: reasoning, problem-solving, and decisionmaking, plus analysis and evaluation of information, such that multiple sides of an issue can be explored. It also includes dispositions and “the willingness to apply critical-thinking principles, rather than fall back on existing unexamined beliefs, or simply believe what you’re told by authority figures.”

Despite variation in definitions, critical thinking is nonetheless promoted as an essential outcome of students’ learning—we want to see students and adults demonstrate it across all fields, professions, and in their personal lives. Yet there is simultaneously a rationing of opportunities in schools for students of color, students from under-resourced communities, and other historically marginalized groups to deeply learn and practice critical thinking.

For example, many of our most underserved students often spend class time filling out worksheets, promoting high compliance but low engagement, inquiry, critical thinking, or creation of new ideas. At a time in our world when college and careers are critical for participation in society and the global, knowledge-based economy, far too many students struggle within classrooms and schools that reinforce low-expectations and inequity.

If educators aim to prepare all students for an ever-evolving marketplace and develop skills that will be valued no matter what tomorrow’s jobs are, then we must move critical thinking to the forefront of classroom experiences. And educators must design learning to cultivate it.

So, what does that really look like?

Unpack and define critical thinking

To understand critical thinking, educators need to first unpack and define its components. What exactly are we looking for when we speak about reasoning or exploring multiple perspectives on an issue? How does problem-solving show up in English, math, science, art, or other disciplines—and how is it assessed? At Two Rivers, an EL Education school, the faculty identified five constructs of critical thinking, defined each, and created rubrics to generate a shared picture of quality for teachers and students. The rubrics were then adapted across grade levels to indicate students’ learning progressions.

At Avenues World School, critical thinking is one of the Avenues World Elements and is an enduring outcome embedded in students’ early experiences through 12th grade. For instance, a kindergarten student may be expected to “identify cause and effect in familiar contexts,” while an 8th grader should demonstrate the ability to “seek out sufficient evidence before accepting a claim as true,” “identify bias in claims and evidence,” and “reconsider strongly held points of view in light of new evidence.”

When faculty and students embrace a common vision of what critical thinking looks and sounds like and how it is assessed, educators can then explicitly design learning experiences that call for students to employ critical-thinking skills. This kind of work must occur across all schools and programs, especially those serving large numbers of students of color. As Linda Darling-Hammond asserts , “Schools that serve large numbers of students of color are least likely to offer the kind of curriculum needed to ... help students attain the [critical-thinking] skills needed in a knowledge work economy. ”

So, what can it look like to create those kinds of learning experiences?

Designing experiences for critical thinking

After defining a shared understanding of “what” critical thinking is and “how” it shows up across multiple disciplines and grade levels, it is essential to create learning experiences that impel students to cultivate, practice, and apply these skills. There are several levers that offer pathways for teachers to promote critical thinking in lessons:

1.Choose Compelling Topics: Keep it relevant

A key Common Core State Standard asks for students to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” That might not sound exciting or culturally relevant. But a learning experience designed for a 12th grade humanities class engaged learners in a compelling topic— policing in America —to analyze and evaluate multiple texts (including primary sources) and share the reasoning for their perspectives through discussion and writing. Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care about and connect with can ignite powerful learning experiences.

2. Make Local Connections: Keep it real

At The Possible Project , an out-of-school-time program designed to promote entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, students in a recent summer online program (modified from in-person due to COVID-19) explored the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and local BIPOC-owned businesses. They learned interviewing skills through a partnership with Everyday Boston , conducted virtual interviews with entrepreneurs, evaluated information from their interviews and local data, and examined their previously held beliefs. They created blog posts and videos to reflect on their learning and consider how their mindsets had changed as a result of the experience. In this way, we can design powerful community-based learning and invite students into productive struggle with multiple perspectives.

3. Create Authentic Projects: Keep it rigorous

At Big Picture Learning schools, students engage in internship-based learning experiences as a central part of their schooling. Their school-based adviser and internship-based mentor support them in developing real-world projects that promote deeper learning and critical-thinking skills. Such authentic experiences teach “young people to be thinkers, to be curious, to get from curiosity to creation … and it helps students design a learning experience that answers their questions, [providing an] opportunity to communicate it to a larger audience—a major indicator of postsecondary success.” Even in a remote environment, we can design projects that ask more of students than rote memorization and that spark critical thinking.

Our call to action is this: As educators, we need to make opportunities for critical thinking available not only to the affluent or those fortunate enough to be placed in advanced courses. The tools are available, let’s use them. Let’s interrogate our current curriculum and design learning experiences that engage all students in real, relevant, and rigorous experiences that require critical thinking and prepare them for promising postsecondary pathways.


Critical Thinking & Student Engagement

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, keynote speaker, consultant, and author of seven books who currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the award-winning Meridian CUSD 223 in northwest Illinois. You can find PJ on most social-media platforms as MCUSDSupe:

When I start my keynote on student engagement, I invite two people up on stage and give them each five paper balls to shoot at a garbage can also conveniently placed on stage. Contestant One shoots their shot, and the audience gives approval. Four out of 5 is a heckuva score. Then just before Contestant Two shoots, I blindfold them and start moving the garbage can back and forth. I usually try to ensure that they can at least make one of their shots. Nobody is successful in this unfair environment.

I thank them and send them back to their seats and then explain that this little activity was akin to student engagement. While we all know we want student engagement, we are shooting at different targets. More importantly, for teachers, it is near impossible for them to hit a target that is moving and that they cannot see.

Within the world of education and particularly as educational leaders, we have failed to simplify what student engagement looks like, and it is impossible to define or articulate what student engagement looks like if we cannot clearly articulate what critical thinking is and looks like in a classroom. Because, simply, without critical thought, there is no engagement.

The good news here is that critical thought has been defined and placed into taxonomies for decades already. This is not something new and not something that needs to be redefined. I am a Bloom’s person, but there is nothing wrong with DOK or some of the other taxonomies, either. To be precise, I am a huge fan of Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework. I have used that as a core element of my practice for years, and it has shaped who I am as an instructional leader.

So, in order to explain critical thought, a teacher or a leader must familiarize themselves with these tried and true taxonomies. Easy, right? Yes, sort of. The issue is not understanding what critical thought is; it is the ability to integrate it into the classrooms. In order to do so, there are a four key steps every educator must take.




Thanks to Dara, Patrick, Meg, and PJ for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide


Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Photo by  Marcelo Chagas  from  Pexels

6. the basis of science & democracy.

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

Photo by  Oladimeji Ajegbile  from  Pexels

What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

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Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, and Analytical Reasoning Skills Sought by Employers

In this section:

Problem Solving

Analytical Reasoning

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Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and problem-solving skills are required to perform well on tasks expected by employers. 1 Having good problem-solving and critical thinking skills can make a major difference in a person’s career. 2

Every day, from an entry-level employee to the Chairman of the Board, problems need to be resolved. Whether solving a problem for a client (internal or external), supporting those who are solving problems, or discovering new problems to solve, the challenges faced may be simple/complex or easy/difficult.

A fundamental component of every manager's role is solving problems. So, helping students become a confident problem solver is critical to their success; and confidence comes from possessing an efficient and practiced problem-solving process.

Employers want employees with well-founded skills in these areas, so they ask four questions when assessing a job candidate 3 :

When an employer says they want employees who are good at solving complex problems, they are saying they want employees possessing the following skills:

Two of the major components of problem-solving skills are critical thinking and analytical reasoning.  These two skills are at the top of skills required of applicants by employers.

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Critical Thinking 4

“Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009, according to an analysis by career-search site” 5 Making logical and reasoned judgments that are well thought out is at the core of critical thinking. Using critical thinking an individual will not automatically accept information or conclusions drawn from to be factual, valid, true, applicable or correct. “When students are taught how to use critical thinking to tap into their creativity to solve problems, they are more successful than other students when they enter management-training programs in large corporations.” 6

A strong applicant should question and want to make evidence-based decisions. Employers want employees who say things such as: “Is that a fact or just an opinion? Is this conclusion based on data or gut feel?” and “If you had additional data could there be alternative possibilities?” Employers seek employees who possess the skills and abilities to conceptualize, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information to reach an answer or conclusion.

Employers require critical thinking in employees because it increases the probability of a positive business outcome. Employers want employees whose thinking is intentional, purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed.

Recruiters say they want applicants with problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They “encourage applicants to prepare stories to illustrate their critical-thinking prowess, detailing, for example, the steps a club president took to improve attendance at weekly meetings.” 7

Employers want students to possess analytical reasoning/thinking skills — meaning they want to hire someone who is good at breaking down problems into smaller parts to find solutions. “The adjective, analytical, and the related verb analyze can both be traced back to the Greek verb, analyein — ‘to break up, to loosen.’ If a student is analytical, you are good at taking a problem or task and breaking it down into smaller elements in order to solve the problem or complete the task.” 9

Analytical reasoning connotes a person's general aptitude to arrive at a logical conclusion or solution to given problems. Just as with critical thinking, analytical thinking critically examines the different parts or details of something to fully understand or explain it. Analytical thinking often requires the person to use “cause and effect, similarities and differences, trends, associations between things, inter-relationships between the parts, the sequence of events, ways to solve complex problems, steps within a process, diagraming what is happening.” 10

Analytical reasoning is the ability to look at information and discern patterns within it. “The pattern could be the structure the author of the information uses to structure an argument, or trends in a large data set. By learning methods of recognizing these patterns, individuals can pull more information out of a text or data set than someone who is not using analytical reasoning to identify deeper patterns.” 11

Employers want employees to have the aptitude to apply analytical reasoning to problems faced by the business. For instance, “a quantitative analyst can break down data into patterns to discern information, such as if a decrease in sales is part of a seasonal pattern of ups and downs or part of a greater downward trend that a business should be worried about. By learning to recognize these patterns in both numbers and written arguments, an individual gains insights into the information that someone who simply takes the information at face value will miss.” 12

Managers with excellent analytical reasoning abilities are considered good at, “evaluating problems, analyzing them from more than one angle and finding a solution that works best in the given circumstances”. 13 Businesses want managers who can apply analytical reasoning skills to meet challenges and keep a business functioning smoothly

A person with good analytical reasoning and pattern recognition skills can see trends in a problem much easier than anyone else.

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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Critical thinking and problem solving

Using different techniques will identify what information to collect during the problem solving process. Credibility criteria can be used in determining how believable the sources are.

Understanding critical thinking and problem solving

Being able to think critically and problem solve is very important. These are transferable skills which mean they are useful in many different situations such as at school, in the workplace or in day-to-day life experiences.

Critical thinking

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 arguments made by others.

Problem solving

Problem solving is about using logic and imagination to make sense of a situation and to come up with an intelligent solution.

Problem solving can be thought of as a process.

quote The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year. John Foster Dulles, Former US Secretary of State

WBQ Subjects WBQ Subjects up down

Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

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.

Examples of Critical Thinking

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

Promote Your Skills in Your 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.

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

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.


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of 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.

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.


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.

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.

More Critical Thinking Skills

Key Takeaways

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 ."

Watch Now: 6 Skills That Set You Apart In Any Industry

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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Now Go Create

Creative thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving: what’s the difference?

Creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving: what’s the difference.

All the terms above – critical thinking, problem-solving and creative thinking – are often used interchangeably. This can be confusing when you’re trying to figure out what skills you need to develop, or to apply to get the job done.

In reality, all three of these cognitive processes play an important role in how we make decisions and solve problems in our everyday lives and in business, but each operates differently.

If you want to learn more about critical thinking vs. problem-solving vs. creative thinking, read on!

The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report

In the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, all of the above terms feature in the top 10, as key skills expected to be vital in the world of work by 2025.

“Core skills such as critical thinking, analysis and problem solving are consistently top of the reskilling and upskilling priorities for educators and businesses,” the report says.

The WEF report suggests that those with strong creative skills will be able to solve problems that are too complex for more traditional approaches. They’ll also be better equipped to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity in a constantly changing environment. This kind of thinking is not likely to be replaced by AI in the near future, unlike some other roles.

This is because creativity and innovation require us to think differently about our usual approach to solving problems, which sometimes means going against the status quo or trying something new.

The process of developing creative ideas to solve problems is called problem solving. Problem solving often requires more than just creativity; it also requires critical thinking. Critical thinkers evaluate solutions to problems, in order to make decisions that are most likely to succeed.

Creative thinkers generate new ideas for solving problems and have no preconceived notions about what will work or not work. They focus on generating as many different types of possible solutions as possible, while critical thinkers will consider all available information before deciding which option might be best.


What is problem-solving?

Problem solving can be defined as: “ the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.”

Example problem: The world’s coral reefs are under threat from global warming, pollution and over-fishing.

Possible solutions to solve the problem:

Of course, these solutions vary in complexity and difficulty and would need a combination of ways of thinking to decide what to do.

What is the definition of creative thinking?

Creative thinking is when you have an idea that is new or original. It can be solving a problem or coming up with a new way to do something.

We like Sir Ken Robinson’s definition of creativity as:

“the process of having original ideas that have value”.

  Creativity is closely aligned with careers like PR, marketing and advertising as there is often not a ‘problem’ to be solved, but there is a need to do something in a new way – like encourage footfall and sales at Christmas if you’re a retailer, or if you want to sell more cat food.

Problem: The world’s coral reefs are under threat from global warming, pollution and over-fishing.

A proposed creative solution that tries to solve the problem and is a creative way of selling more cat food:

“Cats love fish and it’s important to provide our cherished friends with the high-quality food they crave, but that should never come at the expense of the planet. By regenerating our reefs today, we can help to ensure a more plentiful, sustainable fish population for generations to come. Of course, it’ll keep cats happy, but it’s also vital for the nearly 500 million people globally who rely on reefs for food, income and coastal protection. Because more coral today means more fish tomorrow.”

The Sheba Hope Grows campaign .

What’s the difference between creative thinking and problem solving?

Creative thinking is when you think of new ways to do something or solve a particular problem. Problem solving is when you are trying to find a solution for a certain specific problem.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a process of examining both your own and other’s thoughts and identifying which ones are based on logic and reason. Critical thinkers are able to analyse arguments objectively by looking at different aspects of an issue or topic. They can also understand the limits of their knowledge and expertise, as well as consider ideas from other perspectives.

Critical thinking is when you use your knowledge in a systematic way to solve problems or make decisions.

This kind of thinking involves questioning, analysis, interpretation, evaluation and judgement about what you read, hear, say, or write.

It comes from the Greek word kritikos meaning “able to judge or discern”.

Applying critical thinking to the reef problem above:

Critical thinking and analysis would have been needed to consider the options in order to decide what idea to pursue that helped to solve the reef problem, and sell more catfood for Sheba.

Factors under consideration from the media agency’s website:

“Working with Mars Petcare and our agency colleagues, including those at AMV BBDO, Google & Freuds, we spread a message of hope. We would show the world that coral reefs can be restored and that it’s possible to reverse the trend of environmental degradation with passion and endeavour.

On an atoll destroyed by bombing off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia we built Hope Reef. When viewed from the air it spelled out the word HOPE at such scale it was captured by satellites and incorporated into Google Earth, Maps and StreetView.

Sheba set out to have a positive impact on the future of fish, to increase brand salience, and grow sales.

The reef is thriving, with 70% coral coverage, +300% fish abundance, +175% average fish size and +10% more species. Over 1 million people have explored Hope Reef on Google Maps and Sheba’s “Reef Star” System has been adopted by 5 more countries, with 40,000 sqm of reef regrown so far. With 20 million views, our YouTube ‘Channel That Grows Coral’ has raised enough funds for a new crowdfunded reef.

Our high-impact paid media campaign across 11 markets to date has helped to grow brand awareness by +17% and purchase intent by +14%.”


Of course, in business and elsewhere, we need ideas that are both novel and useful so we need to be able to flex between these different ways of thinking.

Scientists have found that creativity blends spontaneous and controlled thinking. This is the ability to

“ both spontaneously brainstorm ideas and deliberately evaluate them to determine whether they’ll actually work,” says American neuroscientist Roger Beaty.

Our strategy and creative thinking training courses here at Now Go Create help individuals and businesses with their creative thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving – please contact [email protected] if you’d like to find out more.

You might like these blogs too:

More on our critical thinking and devising creative strategy courses

More on  problem-solving and how the CIA solves problems

More on what we’ve learned from about creative thinking and generating ideas 

How to craft a business strategy with a story

Creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving: what’s the difference? All the terms above – critical thinking, problem-solving and creative thinking – are often used interchangeably. This can be confusing when you’re trying to figure out what skills you need to develop, or to apply to get the job done. In reality, all three of these […]



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About Onsite Training What is onsite training?

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The Full List See all onsite courses.

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Locations Find out where we can deliver training.

Thinking, planning, and problem solving training courses and workshops, instructor-led programs . delivered onsite, the benefits of learning creative and critical thinking skills.

People and organizations thrive on innovative ideas, fresh perspectives, and new answers to old problems. 

Critical thinking courses can help ensure teams are defining problems correctly and avoiding faulty thinking. Innovation and creativity workshops can teach people to see problems differently and craft viable solutions to workplace challenges.

If your organization could benefit from learning some new tools, one of our instructor-led training offerings may be the answer.

About Our Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Problem-Solving Programs

Our courses explore a range of planning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. These workshops are designed to help teams develop their ability to see information through a range of lenses and methodically approach data.

The programs outline various creativity and ideation techniques, provide an overview of the process of critical thinking and its value, offer practice with problem-solving methodologies, explore innovation and decision making, and provide a forum and process for crafting a strategic plan.

Our Workshop Facilitators

The members of our team who facilitate this suite of workshops are practiced at leading groups through the tools each program offers. These workshop leaders are flexible and able to adjust the agenda as needed depending on the level of mastery the group achieves using each tool.

Our Interactive Approach to Training

We firmly believe in learning by doing, and we know the best way to master new techniques and tools is to practice them. For that reason, our workshops are activities based and hands on. During our sessions, participants can expect to solve a range of workplace problems as they practice new methods of generating ideas, defining problems, evaluating options, and making decisions.

Course Overviews

To explore our existing onsite training options, review the short descriptions found on this page. For more detailed information, click on the course titles to read the full workshop outlines.

We can conduct our workshops as described in the course overviews, tailor them to address specific issues, or fully customize content to meet your business needs.

Please  get in touch , and we can schedule some time to learn more about your organization, what’s important to you, and your goals and objectives for training. We look forward to hearing from you.

Note:  When evaluating the available programs, you’ll notice we offer some courses in multiple lengths. The primary difference between the shorter and longer options is the depth to which we explore the concepts and the number of exercises and activities we choose for your program.

Critical and Creative Thinking Course

Ah Ha! Learning to Think Critically and Creatively: Techniques for Sparking Ideas, Solving Problems, and Rethinking the Status Quo

Format: Full-Day Training Course , Multi-Day Training Course

Creativity Training

Get Juiced!: Creative Thinking from the Inside Out

Critical Thinking Course

Critical Thinking

Critical considerations: three hours to better thinking.

Format: Half-Day Training Course

Design Thinking Course

Design Thinking

Design thinking 101: an introduction to user-centric problem solving.

Format: Full-Day Training Course

Collaboration Skills Training

Collaboration Skills

Collaborative thinking skills: driving teams toward better results.

Innovation Training Course

Innovative Thinking: Team Creativity and Problem Solving

Decision Making Course


This, that, what is it: defining problems and making decisions.

Strategic Planning Course

Strategic Planning

The better business workshop: strategic planning for organizational success.

Critical Thinking Training for Customer Service

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving in Customer Service

Smarter service: leveraging critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving for a better customer experience.

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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 :

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.

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Metacognition & Critical Thinking: Differences and Similarities

Critical thinking, metacognition, differences, similarities: metacognition and critical-thinking, on an ending note.

Two forms of ‘thinking about thinking’: metacognition and critical thinking

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Tips on how to use critical thinking in reading and writing, critical thinking tools, mastering your thought process using critical thinking frameworks, examples of critical thinking in everyday.


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

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

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.).


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:

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.

References and Resources

Other Reading

On the Internet

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Critical thinking is a higher-order thinking skill. Higher-order thinking skills go beyond basic observation of facts and memorization. They are what we are talking about when we want our students to be evaluative, creative and innovative.

When most people think of critical thinking, they think that their words (or the words of others) are supposed to get “criticized” and torn apart in argument, when in fact all it means is that they are criteria-based. These criteria require that we distinguish fact from fiction; synthesize and evaluate information; and clearly communicate, solve problems and discover truths.

Why is Critical Thinking important in teaching?

According to Paul and Elder (2007), “Much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced.  Yet the quality of our life and that of which we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought.”  Critical thinking is therefore the foundation of a strong education.

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy of thinking skills, the goal is to move students from lower- to higher-order thinking:

This provides students with the skills and motivation to become innovative producers of goods, services, and ideas.  This does not have to be a linear process but can move back and forth, and skip steps.

How do I incorporate critical thinking into my course?

The place to begin, and most obvious space to embed critical thinking in a syllabus, is with student-learning objectives/outcomes.  A well-designed course aligns everything else—all the activities, assignments, and assessments—with those core learning outcomes.

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

Learning outcomes contain an action (verb) and an object (noun), and often start with, “Student’s will....” Bloom’s taxonomy can help you to choose appropriate verbs to clearly state what you want students to exit the course doing, and at what level.

Both of the above examples are about the water cycle and both require the foundational knowledge that form the “facts” of what makes up the water cycle, but the second objective goes beyond facts to an actual understanding, application and evaluation of the water cycle.

Using a tool such as Bloom’s Taxonomy to set learning outcomes helps to prevent vague, non-evaluative expectations. It forces us to think about what we mean when we say, “Students will learn…”  What is learning; how do we know they are learning?

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

The Best Resources For Helping Teachers Use Bloom’s Taxonomy In The Classroom by Larry Ferlazzo

Consider designing class activities, assignments, and assessments—as well as student-learning outcomes—using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide.

The Socratic style of questioning encourages critical thinking.  Socratic questioning  “is systematic method of disciplined questioning that can be used to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to follow out logical implications of thought” (Paul and Elder 2007).

Socratic questioning is most frequently employed in the form of scheduled discussions about assigned material, but it can be used on a daily basis by incorporating the questioning process into your daily interactions with students.

In teaching, Paul and Elder (2007) give at least two fundamental purposes to Socratic questioning:

How do I assess the development of critical thinking in my students?

If the course is carefully designed around student-learning outcomes, and some of those outcomes have a strong critical-thinking component, then final assessment of your students’ success at achieving the outcomes will be evidence of their ability to think critically.  Thus, a multiple-choice exam might suffice to assess lower-order levels of “knowing,” while a project or demonstration might be required to evaluate synthesis of knowledge or creation of new understanding.

Critical thinking is not an “add on,” but an integral part of a course.

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Q&A: What is critical thinking and when would you use critical thinking in the clinical setting?

(Write 2-3 paragraphs)

In literature ‘critical thinking’ is often used, and perhaps confused, with problem-solving and clinical decision-making skills and clinical reasoning. In practice, problem-solving tends to focus on the identification and resolution of a problem, whilst critical thinking goes beyond this to incorporate asking skilled questions and critiquing solutions.

Critical thinking has been defined in many ways, but is essentially the process of deliberate, systematic and logical thinking, while considering bias or assumptions that may affect your thinking or assessment of a situation. In healthcare, the clinical setting whether acute care sector or aged care critical thinking has generally been defined as reasoned, reflective thinking which can evaluate the given evidence and its significance to the patient’s situation. Critical thinking occasionally involves suspension of one’s immediate judgment to adequately evaluate and appraise a situation, including questioning whether the current practice is evidence-based. Skills such as interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation are required to interpret thinking and the situation. A lack of critical thinking may manifest as a failure to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Paul-Elder framework has three components:

Critical thinking can be defined as, “the art of analysing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it”. The eight Parts or Elements of Thinking involved in critical thinking:

Q&A: To become a nurse requires that you learn to think like a nurse. What makes the thinking of a nurse different from a doctor, a dentist or an engineer?

It is how we view the health care consumer or aged care consumer, and the type of problems nurses deal with in clinical practice when we engage in health care patient centred care. To think like a nurse requires that we learn the content of nursing; the ideas, concepts, ethics and theories of nursing and develop our intellectual capacities and skills so that we become disciplined, self-directed, critical thinkers.

As a nurse you are required to think about the entire patient/s and what you have learnt as a nurse including; ideas, theories, and concepts in nursing. It is important that we develop our skills so that we become highly proficient critical thinkers in nursing.

In nursing, critical thinkers need to be:

Nurses need to use language that will clearly communicate a lot of information that is key to good nursing care, for handover and escalation of care for improving patient safety and reducing adverse outcomes, some organisations use the iSoBAR (identify–situation–observations–background–agreed plan–read back) format. Firstly, the “i”, for “identify yourself and the patient”, placed the patient’s identity, rather than the diagnosis, in primary position and provided a method of introduction. (This is particularly important when teams are widely spread geographically.) The prompt, “S” (“situation”) “o” for “observations”, was included to provide an adequate baseline of factual information on which to devise a plan of care. and “B” (“background”), “A” “agreed plan” and “R” “read back” to reinforce the transfer of information and accountability.

In clinical practice experienced nurses engage in multiple clinical reasoning episodes for each patient in their care. An experienced nurse may enter a patient’s room and immediately observe significant data, draw conclusions about the patient and initiate appropriate care. Because of their knowledge, skill and experience the expert nurse may appear to perform these processes in a way that seems automatic or instinctive. However, clinical reasoning is a learnt skill.

Key critical thinking skills – the clinical reasoning cycle / critical thinking process

To support nursing students in the clinical setting, breakdown the critical thinking process into phases;

This is a dynamic process and nurses often combine one or more of the phases, move back and forth between them before reaching a decision, reaching outcomes and then evaluating outcomes.

For nursing students to learn to manage complex clinical scenarios effectively, it is essential to understand the process and steps of clinical reasoning. Nursing students need to learn rules that determine how cues shape clinical decisions and the connections between cues and outcomes.

Start with the Patient – what is the issue? Holistic approach – describe or list the facts, people.

Collect information – Handover report, medical and nursing, allied health notes. Results, patient history and medications.

Process Information – Interpret- data, signs and symptoms, normal and abnormal.

Identify Problems – Analyse the facts and interferences to make a definitive diagnosis of the patients’ problem.

Establish Goals – Describe what you want to happen, desired outcomes and timeframe.

Take action – Select a course of action between alternatives available.

Evaluate Outcomes – The effectiveness of the actions and outcomes. Has the situation changed or improved?

Reflect on process and new learning – What have you learnt and what would you do differently next time.

Scenario: Apply the clinical reasoning cycle, see below, to a scenario that occurred with a patient in your clinical practice setting. This could be the doctor’s orders, the patient’s vital signs or a change in the patient’s condition.

(Write 3-5 paragraphs)

Clinical reasoning cycle - Critical Thinking - Thought Leadership

Important skills for critical thinking

Some skills are more important than others when it comes to critical thinking. The skills that are most important are:

This skill is also needed to determine if outcomes have been fully reached.

Based upon those three skills, you can use clinical reasoning to determine what the problem is.

These decisions have to be based upon sound reasoning:

Critical thinking pitfalls

Errors that occur in critical thinking in nursing can cause incorrect conclusions. This is particularly dangerous in nursing because an incorrect conclusion can lead to incorrect clinical actions.

Illogical Processes

A common illogical thought process is known as “appeal to tradition”. This is what people are doing when they say it’s always been done like this. Creative, new approaches are not tried because of tradition.

All people have biases. Critical thinkers are able to look at their biases and not let them compromise their thinking processes.

Biases can complicate decision making, communication and ultimately effect patient care.

Closed Minded

Being closed-minded in nursing is dangerous because it ignores other team members points of view. Essential input from other experts, as well as patients and their families are also ignored which ultimately impacts on patient care. This means that fewer clinical options are explored, and fewer innovative ideas are used for critical thinking to guide decision making.

So, no matter if you are an intensive care nurse, community health nurse or a nurse practitioner, you should always keep in mind the importance of critical thinking in the nursing clinical setting.

It is essential for nurses to develop this skill: not only to have knowledge but to be able to apply knowledge in anticipation of patients’ needs using evidence-based care guidelines.

American Management Association (2012). ‘AMA 2012 Critical Skills Survey: Executive Summary’. (2012). American Management Association.   Accessed 5 May 2020.

Korn, M. (2014). ‘Bosses Seek ‘Critical Thinking,’ but What Is That?,’ The Wall Street Journal . Accessed 5 May 2020.

School of Nursing and Midwifery Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle. (2009). Clinical reasoning. Instructors resources.  Accessed 11 May 2020

The Value of Critical Thinking in Nursing + Examples. Nurse Journal social community for nurses worldwide. 2020. Accessed 8 May 2020.

Paul And Elder (2009) Have Defined Critical Thinking As: The Art of Analysing And Evaluating … Accessed 8 May 2020 .

Cody, W.K. (2002). Critical thinking and nursing science: judgment, or vision? Nursing Science Quarterly, 15(3), 184-189.

Facione, P. (2011). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. Insight Assessment , ISBN 13: 978-1-891557-07-1.

McGrath, J. (2005). Critical thinking and evidence- based practice. Journal of Professional Nursing, 21(6), 364-371.

Porteous, J., Stewart-Wynne, G., Connolly, M. and Crommelin, P. (2009). iSoBAR — a concept and handover checklist: the National Clinical Handover Initiative. Med J Aust 2009; 190 (11): S152.

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Computational thinking, algorithmic thinking, & design thinking defined.

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There are a lot of ways to think about problem solving. This article will take on three of these that we are hearing more about recently: computational thinking, algorithmic thinking, and design thinking.

While there are differences between each, they all blend critical thinking and creativity, follow iterative processes to formulate effective solutions, and help students embrace ambiguous and open-ended questions . So, without further ado…

Computational Thinking Definition

Computational thinking is a set of skills and processes that enable students to navigate complex problems. As we wrote in another article: “ Computational thinking is a map from curiosity to understanding. ”

The computational thinking process starts with data as the input and a quest to derive meaning and answers from it. The output is not only an answer but a process for arriving at it. To be a map toward understanding, computational thinking plots the journey to ensure that the process can be replicated and others can learn from it and use it. At this juncture, computational thinking often feeds into algorithmic thinking.

The computational thinking process includes four key concepts: 

Decomposition : Break the problem down into smaller, more manageable parts.

Pattern Recognition : Analyze data and identify similarities and connections among its different parts.

Abstraction : Identify the most relevant information needed to solve the problem and eliminate the extraneous details.

Algorithmic Thinking : Develop a step-by-step process to solve the problem so that the work is replicable by humans or computers.

Computational Thinking Examples Computational thinking is a multi-disciplinary tool that can be broadly applied in both plugged and unplugged ways. These are some examples of computational thinking in a variety of contexts.

1. Computational Thinking for Collaborative Classroom Projects To navigate the different concepts of computational thinking – decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithmic thinking – guided practice is essential for students.

In these classroom-ready lesson plans, students cultivate understanding of computational thinking with hands-on, collaborative activities that guide them through the problem and deliver a clearly articulated and replicable process – an algorithm 😉 – that groups present to the class.

2. Computational Thinking for Data-Driven Instruction In this example , the New Mexico School for the Arts sought a more defined process for using data to better inform decision-making across the school. To do so, they developed interim assessments that generate actionable data, but the process of mining the data for relevant information was incredibly cumbersome.

Expediting and improving the data analysis process, they designed a coherent process for analyzing the data quickly to find the most important information. This process can now be applied time and time again and has enabled them to tailor instructional planning to the needs of students.

3. Computational Thinking for Journalism To measure gender stereotypes in films, Julia Silge, data scientist and author of Text Mining with R , coalesced data from 2000 movie scripts. Decomposing the problem, she specified that she would specifically look at the verb association with male and female pronouns in screen direction.

By identifying patterns in sentence structure, Silge was able to measure and abstract data from these on a mass scale, which made the research possible. Her analysis then resulted in this article,  She Giggles, He Gallops .

Algorithmic Thinking Definition

Algorithmic thinking is a derivative of computer science and coding . This approach automates the problem-solving process by creating a series of systematic logical steps that process a defined set of inputs and produce a defined set of outputs based on these.

Algorithmic thinking is not solving for a specific answer; instead, it solves how to build a replicable process – an algorithm, which is a formula for calculating answers, processing data, or automating tasks.

Algorithmic Thinking Examples If you are like me, examples can help conceptualize how algorithms operate and what they are capable of doing. Here are three examples that cover algorithms in basic arithmetic, standardized testing, and our good ol’ friend, Google.

1. Algorithmic Thinking in Long Division Without having to dive into technology, there are algorithms we teach students, whether or not we realize it. For example, long division follows the standard division algorithm for dividing multi-digit integers to calculate the quotient.

The division algorithm enables both people and computers to solve division problems with a systematic set of logical steps, which this video shows . Rather than having to analyze and parse through these problems, we are able automate solving for quotients because of the algorithm.

2. Algorithmic Thinking in Standardized Testing A somewhat recent development in standardized testing is the advent of computer adaptive assessments that pick questions based on student ability as determined by correct and incorrect answers given.

If students select the correct answer to a question, then the next question would be moderately more difficult. But if they answer wrong, then the assessment offers a moderately easier question. This occurs through an iterative algorithm that starts with a pool of questions. After an answer, the pool is adjusted accordingly. This repeats continuously.

The purpose of this algorithmic approach to assessment is to measure student performance in a more targeted way. This iterative algorithm isn’t just limited to standardized tests; personalized and adaptive learning programs use this same algorithm, too.

3. Algorithmic Thinking in Google Have you ever wondered why the chosen results appear for a query as opposed to those on the second, third, fourth, or tenth pages of a google search?

You guessed it! Google’s search results are determined (in part) by the PageRank algorithm, which assigns a webpage’s importance based on the number of sites linking to it. In other words, the algorithm looks at hyperlinks to a webpage as an upvote.

So, if we google ‘what is an algorithm,’ we can bet that the chosen pages have the most links to them for the topic ‘what is an algorithm.’ It’s still more complicated than this, of course. PageRank also looks at the score for the site that is linking to the webpage to rank the authority of the link. And there is still much more; if you are interested, this article goes into the intricacies of the PageRank algorithm.

What can we take away from this? There are over 1.5 billion websites with billions more pages to count, but thanks to algorithmic thinking we can type just about anything into Google and expect to be delivered a curated list of resources in under a second. This right here is the power of algorithmic thinking .

Design Thinking Definition

Design thinking is a user-centered approach to problem solving . Applying this technique enables us to take on vague and open-ended problems that don’t have a defined output.

Design thinking starts with asking: ‘ why is this a problem?’ The process ends with a deliverable of sorts, whether technological or constructed with tape and paper. Rather than being a replicable approach like computational thinking or algorithmic thinking, design thinking is conceptual , and its outputs are unique .

The design thinking process contains the following steps: empathize , define , ideate , prototype , ideate , and test (plus improve ).

Empathize: Research the needs of the user to understand why they have the problem and identify their pain points.

(re)Define: Specify and articulate the problem based on feedback from the empathize phase.

Ideate: Strategize different ways to solve the problem that fit the user’s needs.

Prototype: Build models of sample solutions.

Test: Try the prototypes, experiment with them, and seek feedback.

Improve: Consider what worked and what did not from the testing prototypes, return to the ideate phase to develop enhanced prototypes, and test again.

This is a non-linear process meaning that we return to steps and restart in certain areas. Design thinking is deliverable focused, making sure what we create best serves and represents the end user’s needs .

Design Thinking Examples Design Thinking is widely applied. Here are a few examples of innovative and disruptive ways teachers, schools, and organizations are using design thinking.

1. Design Thinking Student Projects In this article , Kristen Magyar, fifth-grade teacher and STREAM enthusiast, shares how she was inspired to create a toy invention unit based on the popular show, Toy Box. What makes this project so excellent is that Magyar tailored it to the students’ interests, knowing that learning is far more likely resonate when instruction is relevant to their personal experiences and interests.

The Toy Box unit was project-based and centered on the design thinking process. Students invented entirely new toys and pitched them to a panel of judges. Learn more about this collaborative project here !

2. Design Thinking for School Improvement This interview features Sam Seidel , Director of K12 Strategy + Research at the  Stanford D.School . He is passionate about using design thinking to reimagine education. He focuses in a part on school initiatives like project-based learning and state programs like standardized testing.

Seidel’s message is that as schools seek to innovate their processes and programs, they need to bring teachers into the conversations. Initiatives will not be as effective without the buy-in from teachers. He encourages school and district leaders, to empathize with problems teachers may have, develop solutions that match their needs and their student needs, and embrace an iterative process for honing the efficacy of these.

3. Design Thinking for Business Growth Now we get to talk about my second favorite topics (education being the first), which is food. As one of many food delivery applications, UberEats uses design thinking to improve on a city-by-city basis. UberEats affirms that their work must be relevant to that of the users, and as a multi-national company, that means they must tailor their program to each city in which they operate.

To do so, UberEats immerses their employees in different cities by exploring and eating their way through the various cuisines ( Um… can I sign up for this? ), talking with restaurants, and meeting with platform users.

UberEats then translates the findings into prototyped solutions. They iterate quickly and are not afraid of making improvements on the fly to uphold their belief that a user-centered product will grow its market and outperform its competition.

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Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

As a leader, your team and organization rely on you to have good judgement and make the right decision with the information you have. Good decisions are the product of strong critical thinking skills and thoughtful problem solving. And like all skills, you can learn, practice, and get better at them. In this course, Dr. Eric Zackrison helps you do just that. He shows how to critically assess the source of information and how to determine the right approach to take. Eric also demonstrates strategies for approaching both simple and complex problems, and details taking your team through the entire life cycle of a challenging decision. He also imparts an understanding of common traps people fall into when solving problems, both individually and as a team. After this course, you’ll have the tools to approach your next problem more critically and solve it more effectively.

This course was created by Madecraft . We are pleased to host this training in our library.

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Critical Thinking Games

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

If you’re looking for an engaging way to develop critical thinking skills in the classroom, you’ll want to consider critical thinking games. Games are a great educational tool to help students develop their higher-order thinking skills. They allow students to experiment and practice decision-making in a series of playful tasks. From role-playing activities to puzzles, these fun and rewarding mental exercises will get your students thinking outside of the box while honing their problem-solving abilities.


Critical thinking games are important because they provide an engaging and fun way for students to develop their problem-solving skills. Games also allow students to practice creative thinking, brainstorming, and logical reasoning which can all be applied to real-world situations. By playing these games, students will better understand the complex theories related to critical thinking and become more proficient problem-solvers. They’ll also learn to make better decisions in the classroom and eventually their workplace.

Think Outside the Box Questions for Kids

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Puzzles as critical thinking games.

One of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills is through puzzles. Puzzles provide a mental challenge that can help students develop their cognitive skills. They also allow for trial and error so that students can learn from their mistakes or come up with new ideas to solve complex problems.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Players look at a picture and then put together different pieces to complete it. This type of game promotes problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, and critical thinking as the player must pay attention to small details to complete the puzzle successfully.

Logic Puzzles

Logic puzzles are great for older students and require more advanced problem-solving skills. These games are typically set up in a grid with clues that the player must use to determine which items go in each square. This type of puzzle stimulates critical thinking as players must look for patterns and logical deductions to solve it.


Role-playing games are another great way to practice critical thinking skills. These games involve characters that interact with each other and the environment, which allows for problem-solving and creative thinking. Through role-playing games, students can learn how to think on their feet as well as develop strategic planning skills that will be useful in the future. Here are some role-playing games:

Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons is an iconic role-playing game that requires players to work together to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. This type of game allows students to practice problem-solving skills as they develop their character’s story and strategies for success.

Magic: The Gathering

In Magic: The Gathering players are tasked with building their own deck of cards and playing against other opponents in a turn-based strategy game. This type of game requires players to think logically and strategically as they develop their deck and make decisions during the game.


Math critical thinking games can be a great way to help students learn and practice mathematical concepts. By playing math critical thinking games, students can become more comfortable with numbers while developing their problem-solving skills. Some examples of math critical thinking games are:

This requires players to fill in blank squares with the correct numbers in order to complete a 9×9 grid. This game encourages critical thinking because it involves finding patterns and using logic to solve the puzzle.

In Battleship, two players take turns guessing where their opponent’s ships are located on a grid. This game encourages critical thinking as players must think strategically and use logic to guess the correct location of their opponent’s ships.

Math Memory

Math Memory is a card game where players match numbers or equations with their corresponding answer. This game allows students to practice memorizing equations while also developing their problem-solving skills.


Creative critical thinking games are a great way to stimulate the mind and creative ideas. These games help students work through problems collaboratively, learn how to think outside of the box, and come up with innovative solutions. Working on crafts and art projects can also be a great way to practice critical thinking. Here are some creative crafts to try:

Pipe Cleaner Sculptures

Pipe cleaner sculptures are a great way to practice creative problem-solving. Players create sculptures with pipe cleaners that must fit certain criteria, such as being able to stand on its own or having three points of contact.

Marshmallow Challenge

The Marshmallow Challenge is a team-building activity that encourages creative problem-solving. Players are given a limited amount of time and materials to build the tallest free-standing structure possible using only marshmallows and spaghetti noodles.

Handwriting Prompts - 100 Questions of the Day

Handwriting Prompts – 100 Questions of the Day

Problem-solving critical thinking games.

Problem-solving activities are great critical thinking games that can be used to test abilities. These puzzles require the use of logic and creative thinking, which can help develop analytical skills. You can also consider asking students to answer some critical-thinking questions to expand their thought processes.

Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are puzzles or riddles that require players to think critically and solve problems. These types of games encourage problem-solving skills as players must work through the puzzle and come up with a solution.

Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are a great way to practice problem-solving skills in a fun environment. Players are placed in a room and must work together to find clues, solve puzzles, and escape the room within a certain amount of time. You can add a good mystery to an escape room to add to the intrigue. This type of game encourages critical thinking as players must use logic and problem-solving skills to progress through the game.


Sorting critical thinking games are a great way to help students develop their problem-solving abilities. These games can involve sorting objects or categorizing items based on logical principles. By playing these types of games, students can learn how to think analytically and break down complex problems into simpler pieces.

Card Sorting Game

Players must sort cards into piles based on certain criteria, such as type of animal or color. This game encourages critical thinking as players must logically categorize the items to solve the puzzle correctly.

Shape Sorting Game

The shape sorting game involves sorting various objects and shapes into the correct slots. This type of game requires players to think logically in order to correctly place each item.


Science critical thinking games are a great way to help students learn and practice scientific concepts. These games often involve finding patterns and analyzing data, which can help bolster problem-solving skills. Science critical thinking games are especially beneficial for younger students who are just beginning to explore the world of science.

Lego Challenge

The Lego challenge is a great way to practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Players are challenged to build something out of Legos that meets certain criteria, such as having three points of stability or being able to move on its own. This type of game can help students learn how to think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions.

Paper Airplane Challenge

The paper airplane challenge is a great way to encourage critical thinking skills among students. Players are challenged to create a paper airplane that can fly the furthest or stay in the air for the longest amount of time. This type of game requires players to think critically and come up with creative ways to make their plane fly better.

The egg drop is a classic critical thinking game that can be used to test problem-solving skills. In this activity, players are challenged to build a structure that will keep an egg safe when it is dropped from a certain height. This type of game encourages creative problem-solving and teamwork as players must collaborate in order to come up with a successful design.

It’s clear that critical thinking games are an effective, engaging tool for developing problem-solving skills in the classroom. Whether it’s puzzles, math problems, team-building activities, or creative exercises, these fun activities and rewarding mental challenges will help your students become more proficient problem-solvers and thinkers.

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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The pursuit of performance excellence, thinking skills.

Thinking skills are the mental activities you use to process information, make connections, make decisions, and create new ideas. You use your thinking skills when you try to make sense of experiences, solve problems, make decisions, ask questions, make plans, or organize information.

Everybody has thinking skills, but not everyone uses them effectively. Effective thinking skills are developed over a period of time. Good thinkers see possibilities where others see only obstacles or roadblocks. Good thinkers are able to make connection between various factors and be able to tie them together. They are also able to develop new and unique solutions to problems.

Thinking refers to the process of creating a logical series of connective facets between items of information. Often times, thinking just happens automatically. However, there are times when you consciously think. It may be about how to solve a problem or making a decision. Thinking enables you to connect and integrate new experiences into your existing understanding and perception of how things are.

The simplest thinking skills are learning facts and recall, while higher order skills include analysis, synthesis, problem solving, and evaluation .

Levels of Thinking

Core Thinking Skills

Thinking skills are cognitive operations or processes that are the building blocks of thinking. There are several core thinking skills including focusing, organizing, analyzing, evaluating and generating.

Focusing  – attending to selected pieces of information while ignoring other stimuli.

Remembering  – storing and then retrieving information.  

Gathering  – bringing to the conscious mind the relative information needed for cognitive processing.  

Organizing  – arranging information so it can be used more effectively.

Analyzing  – breaking down information by examining parts and relationships so that its organizational structure may be understood.  

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

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

Compiling – putting parts together to form a whole or building a structure or pattern from diverse elements.

Evaluating  – assessing the reasonableness and quality of ideas or materials on order to present and defend opinions.

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

Thinking Skills

Classifications and Types of Thinking

Convergent or Analytical Thinking: Bringing facts and data together from various sourc es and then applying logic and knowledge to solve problems or to make informed decisions.

Divergent thinking: Breaking a topic apart to explore its various components and then generating new ideas and solutions.

Critical Thinking: Analysis and evaluation of information, beliefs, or knowledge.

Creative Thinking: Generation of new ideas breaking from established thoughts, theories, rules, and procedures.


Thinking about thinking is called Metacognition. It is a higher order thinking that enables understanding, analysis, and control of your cognitive processes. It can involve planning, monitoring, assessing, and evaluating your use of your cognitive skills.

In the simplest form, convergent thinking or deductive reasoning looks inward to find a solution, while divergent or creative thinking looks outward for a solution.

Both thinking skills are essential for school and life.  Both require critical thinking skills to be effective.  Both are used for solving problems, doing projects and achieving objectives.  However, much of the thinking in formal education focuses on the convergent analytical thinking skills such as following or making a logical argument, eliminating the incorrect paths and then figuring out the single correct answer. 

Standardized tests such as IQ tests only measure convergent thinking.  Pattern recognition, logic thought flow, and the ability to solve problems with a single answer can all be tested and graded.  Although it is an extremely valuable skill, there are no accurate tests able to measure divergent or creative thinking skills.

Types of thinking

Types of thinking

Critical thinking

Blooms Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised

Mind Mapping

Chunking Information


Critical Thinking skills

Divergent and Convergent thinking skills are both “critical thinking” skills. 

Critical thinking refers to the process of actively analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating and reflecting on information gathered from observation, experience, or communication and is focused on deciding what to believe or do. Critical thinking is considered a higher order thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and problem solving, inference, and evaluation. 

The concept of higher order thinking skills became well known with the publication of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives.  Bloom’s Taxonomy was primarily created for academic education; however, it is relevant to all types of learning. 

Often times when people are problem solving or decision making, he or she flips back and forth between convergent and divergent thinking.  When first looking at a problem, people often analyze the facts and circumstances to determine the root cause.  After which, they explore new and innovative options through divergent thinking, then switch back to convergent thinking to limit those down to one practical option.

Author:  James Kelly, September 2011

difference of problem solving and critical thinking

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