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Critical thinking: strategies i will adopt to improve my academic performance

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Improving my academic performance through critical thinking “ Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” – Malcolm S. Forbes. Critical thinking is the ability to examine a problem or a subject with open mindedness. An improvement in my academic performance would require the development of this ability, to achieve the true goal of education. In learning about a subject, the pre-preparation would include looking at the topic from the perspective of what is to be learnt, thinking about what is already known and supplementing it with other information available on the topic.(www. studygs. net). It is essential to keep an open mind and ask questions about the material collected, in order to organize this information into patterns, so that comprehension is improved.
Elder and Paul (1997) have defined critical thinking as “ the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. This requires that they develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and assessing their own thinking and routinely use those criteria and standards to improve its quality.” I believe that I can improve my own academic performance considerably by applying critical thinking in the study methods I use.
One of the first areas to be improved through critical thinking skills is reading. Before reading is commenced, it would be useful to learn about the study texts and the historical period and context within which they were written. This would help enhance my understanding. Secondly, I could underline important passages and jot down notes, comments and questions on interesting or thought provoking aspects in the text. Thirdly, critical thinking requires questioning on difficult aspects of the text and thus aids in improvement of comprehension and resultant academic performance. Reflection further aids this process, by examining how the ideas in the textual material compare with my own ideas.
In addition to these methods, outlining and summarizing the main ideas contained in the textual material would help me grasp an overall picture of its content. Engagement with the text is also vital, not only about its emotional impact but also about how credible are the issues presented and whether or not they fit the parameters of a logical argument. One of the important aspects of critical thinking is being able to distinguish between facts, opinions and inferences drawn from facts and historical records, which requires the application of the scientific method.(Schafersman, 1991).
The scientific method does not blindly accept pronouncements; rather every theory and statement is tested in a rational manner. As a student, improvement in academic performance will require an improvement in my ability to think for myself, collect and organize information well and formulate my own conclusions, without necessarily relying on someone else to analyze the information or develop conclusions for me (Schafersman, 1991). In thinking critically about the study materials and the attempted learning goals, my efforts will be directed towards developing a greater degree of self-reliance in collecting and analyzing information, as well as forming conclusions. In my reading, active engagement with the text will be needed and in writing, the development of my own ideas rather than copying or relying upon the ideas of others.
All these methods are likely to help me in achieving my goal in education, i. e, improving my academic performance. But most important of all, critical thinking would help improve my academic performance by developing an open mind in approaching problem and evaluating available information.
References:
* Elder, L and Paul, R, 1997. “ Critical thinking: why we must transform our teaching”, Journal of Developmental Education, Fall 1994.
* Schafersman, Steven, 1991. “ An introduction to critical thinking”, Retrieved July 3, 2008 from: http://www. freeinquiry. com/critical-thinking. html
* Thinking critically. Retrieved July 3, 2008 from: http://www. studygs. net/crtthk. htm

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