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CLASSROOM TO CLIENT education Critical Thinking Skills Why You Need 'Em, How to Build 'Em By Cindy Williams In the world of education, the term critical thinking has taken the limelight as a necessary skill for reaching deeper levels of understanding of any concept or situation. There is significant value in comprehending what critical thinking is and how the skill of thinking critically is developed, especially given the nature of the work we do in massage therapy. Not only is critical thinking essential to our approach, it is an exceptional life skill in general. The intent of this article is to define critical thinking, outline its components, and offer guidance on how to develop critical thinking skills and apply them in your massage practice. WHAT IS CRITICAL THINKING? The Foundation for Critical Thinking ( offers the following definition on its website: "Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action." 1 Critical thinking differs from regular thinking in that it goes beyond simply acquiring knowledge and comprehending concepts. When a person chooses to think critically, they take knowledge received from regular thinking to the next level. They ask questions and make visual observations to gain as much information as possible. Then, they break that information down and analyze it in order to illuminate connections between concepts and scenarios, and use those connections to get to the root cause of problems. Without an understanding of the root cause of a problem, it is difficult to solve it. COMPONENTS OF CRITICAL THINKING Critical thinking includes the following actions: Evaluation/Observation This action involves defining the problem by gathering facts through the senses and past experience. What do you see, feel, and hear? What are the symptoms of the problem? What do you already know about how the area or situation would function if it was working properly? Analysis This action involves asking specific questions to obtain more detailed and useful information. Simply asking who, what, when, where, why, and how can get you to the details you need. Avoid yes/no questions, as these don't invite details. Synthesis This action involves identifying how these pieces of information relate to each other. Synthesis is finding links between concepts, objects, and processes. How does one thing influence another? What assumptions are revealed by the information you have gathered? What else is affected by having this assumption? What are the benefits and drawbacks of believing a particular assumption? How can an assumption be verified or disproven? How does a belief influence other thoughts, behaviors, or actions? Application This action involves deciding on, and implementing, a possible solution to the problem. Can you encourage a new habit, change a behavior, develop a new program, or facilitate a process of change? It's helpful to focus on what you want 38 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 1 8

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