Unreflective thinkers lack the ability to explicitly assess their thinking and improve it thereby.Knowledge of Thinking: Unreflective thinkers lack the knowledge that high quality thinking requires regular practice in taking thinking apart, accurately assessing it, and actively improving it.
Prejudices and misconceptions often undermine the quality of thought of the unreflective thinker.
Some Implications for Instruction: We must recognize that in the present mode of instruction it is perfectly possible for students to graduate from high school, or even college, and still be largely unreflective thinkers.
Though all students think, most students are largely unaware of how their thinking is structured or how to assess or improve it.
Thus when they experience problems in thinking, they lack the skills to identify and “fix” these problems.
We do so because the quality of one’s life is dependent upon high quality reasoning in all domains of one’s life, not simply in one dimension.
Defining Feature: Unreflective thinkers are largely unaware of the determining role that thinking is playing in their lives and of the many ways that problems in thinking are causing problems in their lives.We shall be brief, concise, and to the point in our explanation with minimal theoretical elaboration.Furthermore, we believe that the “practicality” of the theory we explain here is best tested in the classroom and in everyday life.Skill in Thinking: Most challenged thinkers have very limited skills in thinking.However like unreflective thinkers, they may have developed a variety of skills in thinking without being aware of them, and these skills may (ironically) serve as barriers to development.We believe that significant gains in the intellectual quality of student work will not be achieved except to the degree that teachers recognize that skilled critical thinking develops, only when properly cultivated, and only through predictable stages.In this paper we shall set out a stage theory based on the nearly twenty years of research of the Center for Critical Thinking and explain some of the theory’s implications for instruction.At this stage thinkers with some implicit critical thinking abilities may more easily deceive themselves into believing that their thinking is better than it actually is, making it more difficult to recognize the problems inherent in poor thinking.To accept the challenge at this level requires that thinkers gain insight into the fact that whatever intellectual skills they have are inconsistently applied across the domains of their lives.Though most teachers aspire to make critical thinking a primary objective of their instruction, most also do not realize that, to develop as thinkers, students must pass through stages of development in critical thinking.That is, most teachers are unaware of the levels of intellectual development that people go through as they improve as thinkers.