Assumption In Critical Thinking At Workplace - Essay for you

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Assumption In Critical Thinking At Workplace

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Assumption in critical thinking at workplace

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Critical thinking is regarded as a key competency for all staff, with particular relevance to graduates and managers. In fact, the Department of Labor identified critical thinking as the raw material that underlies fundamental workplace competencies, such as problem solving, decision making, planning, and risk management.

With globalization and the increased speed of business, employees at every level are facing a flow of information ever increasing in its intensity.

Critical thinking is an organized and disciplined way of thinking. It is:

Critical Thinking is an intellectual skill. It’s about you

Work settings are changing rapidly, and employees are moving into new roles, often with limited direction. Employees can no longer rely on others to make key decisions. They often must make them on their own, and quickly. The decisions have to be good ones.

Good decisions require focusing on the most relevant information, asking the right questions, and separating reliable facts from false assumptions – all elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking is here to stay

Study after study has confirmed that the skills gap is real for both the current leadership pipeline within organizations and for the talent pool accessed by recruiters.

Specifically, when it comes to skills like critical thinking, it is consistently rated by employers as being a skill of increasing importance. and yet a recent study showed 49% of employers rate their employees’ critical thinking skills as only average or below average.

Additionally, even though in higher education there has been a concerted effort to focus on critical thinking as a measurable outcome, employers are not seeing the results. Employers claim that the critical thinking skills gap is a significant problem with new hires, specifically in recent graduates. In fact, only 28% of employers rated 4-year graduates as having “Excellent” critical thinking skills. So, the burden and expense of training/developing those skills rests on the employers.

Ask any executive about the importance of critical thinking, and you will hear nothing but support and admiration for this essential skill. Most (69%) will even tell you about how they assess critical thinking skills in the selection process.

Measuring Critical Thinking

The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is known as the global gold-standard measure of an individual’s ability to think critically. The Watson-Glaser™ II Critical Thinking Appraisal is the leading critical thinking test used to assess and develop decision making skills and judgment.

  • Recognize Assumptions: Separate fact from opinion
  • Evaluate Arguments: Impartially evaluate arguments and suspend judgment
  • Draw Conclusions: Decide your course of action.
Watson- at-a-Glance
  • Assesses critical thinking ability and decision making
  • Predicts judgment, problem solving, creativity, openness to experience & more
  • Long history of use in business, government, and education
  • Correlates with other leading ability and personality tests
  • Online administration at - Register now and start assessing
  • Quick 40-item, multiple choice test with many reporting options

Research conducted in recent years by Pearson. as well as by a variety of independent academics, has shown that people who score well on critical thinking assessment are also rated by their supervisors as having:

  • Good analysis and problem-solving skills
  • Good judgment and decision making
  • Good overall job performance
  • The ability to evaluate the quality of information presented
  • Creativity
  • Job knowledge
  • The potential to move up within the organization

Critical thinking, perhaps more than any other business skill set, can make the difference between success and failure. Fortunately, these skills are not out of reach – they are readily available to employees at all levels. Once gained, critical thinking skills last a lifetime, and become a powerful asset for organizations seeking a competitive edge.

Learn about the benefits of using Watson-Glaser when assessing candidates and developing leaders.

Learn more about critical thinking by downloading the Think About It! eBook.

Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.

If critical thinking was easy, everyone would do it!

Every day, I speak with customers regarding the importance of assessing and developing critical thinking skills in their employees. I share ways in which they can create a culture of critical thinking. I blog about the topic, speak to HR associations about the topic, and even coach critical thinking in the Critical Thinking University discussion forums.

So, you can imagine my embarrassment when I fell prey to a common cognitive bias recently.

It all began when I saw a dreaded note on my toddler’s preschool class door. “There are 4 confirmed cases of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. Be on the lookout for a fever and a rash around the child’s hands, feet, and mouth.” My fears multiplied when I learned that my daughter’s best friend was patient zero. Hand Foot and Mouth disease is a highly contagious virus that spreads easily and quickly among children. The child first develops a fever, then a few days later a rash and/or small blisters appear which cause considerable discomfort. There is no treatment for the virus, and it takes several days for the symptoms to disappear. All you can do is treat the discomfort with Tylenol and encourage the child to drink liquids and eat popsicles to stay hydrated. Once I saw the note, I immediately launched into Worst Case Scenario mode.

So, the next morning, when my toddler felt a bit warm, I grabbed our infrared thermometer and let out a sigh as it flashed a bright red screen and read 102º. I actually scanned my daughter with the thermometer several times to ensure the reading was correct. Being thorough in my analysis, I scanned my own forehead with the thermometer which read 98.8º. With that confirmation, I resigned myself that we were in for the long haul with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

We also have an infant at home, so we did our best over the next few days to quarantine the toddler, use hand sanitizer frequently, and Lysol everything in sight. We kept checking the toddler’s temp and it consistently registered between 101-102º day after day. Knowing it was only a matter of time before the rash/blister stage took hold, I checked the toddler’s hands and feet looking for red sports, but nothing appeared. I assumed the virus was just slow to show additional symptoms. After a few days, the toddler would occasionally show me her hands and say they hurt, but I couldn’t see any spots. My own hands began to feel like they were burning, so I wondered if the virus was just presenting differently for the two of us. Day after day went by…Thursday…Friday…Saturday…Sunday…Monday… Still no rash or blisters (or any other symptoms at all, really), but the fever remained consistent.

By Tuesday morning when her fever registered at 102º again, I’d had enough. We immediately headed to the pediatrician’s office for advice. The nurse scanned my daughter’s head with the thermometer, and I saw her make a funny face. She scanned again and wrote something down on her notepad. As I was answering the other nurse’s questions about my daughter’s symptoms, I glanced down at the notepad…98.7º. Wait, what? I was in disbelief. How can a child go from 102º to 98.7º in a half hour? We discussed our options (blood work, chest scans, etc) but since the fever was apparently gone, we decided to go home and monitor the situation to see if the fever returned before taking any action.

I left the doctor’s office still baffled. How could her fever disappear so quickly? Did the fever just happen to break on the way to the doctor’s office? As soon as we returned home, I used my own infrared thermometer to scan her. Unbelievably, it read 102º. It took 6 full days for my critical thinking skills to kick in. I grabbed our back-up digital thermometer and placed it under her arm. A few seconds later, I just shook my head as I read the screen- 98.6º.

In just a few seconds of reflection, I realized I had succumb to a common cognitive bias. From the second I read the notice on the Preschool door, I had mentally prepared for my daughter to catch the virus. From the first scan on, I interpreted any evidence as confirmation of my belief. I barely attempted to double check the evidence. Now that I can reflect logically on the only symptoms we experienced, I realize our hands weren’t burning from an invisible rash, it was from excessive hand sanitizer usage. That thought never occurred to me thanks to confirmation bias .

Recognize Assumptions - Because my daughter’s best friend had a confirmed case of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, I assumed it was only a matter of time before my daughter began presenting symptoms.

Evaluate Information - I never questioned the validity of my thermometer. I never sought out any data to the contrary because my assumptions were so strong. And when new data (burning hands) appeared, I never considered that the cause could be anything other than the virus. I also never questioned the lack of other tell-tale symptoms. I failed to objectively evaluate the evidence, or lack thereof.

Draw Conclusions - Because I had incorrectly interpreted the evidence, I drew the wrong conclusion and lost 4 days of work (and 4 days of preschool tuition) caring for a sick child that wasn’t actually sick.

Confirmation Bias is a very dangerous logical error. Imagine the scenario above, but replace the parent expecting a children’s virus with an individual expecting profit from a financial investment. The same way I waited and waited for symptoms to appear because I was expecting to see them any day, an investor may only seek out information that confirms their bias toward a certain investment and then wait too long to cut their losses because they anticipate returns any day.

To defend against Confirmation Bias, it’s important to:

  • Remain purposefully neutral when evaluating information
  • When you do form a hypothesis, seek out evidence to the contrary
  • Check your assumptions and evidence interpretation with a subject matter expert
  • Engage a trusted person to take on the role of Devil’s Advocate

Learn more about critical thinking by downloading the Think About It! eBook.

Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.

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Introduction to Critical Thinking

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Introduction to Critical Thinking

Zaid Ali Alsagoff

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Get Sharp: Smarter Decision Making and Critical Thinking for Administrative Professionals Onsite Training training

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Training Course Syllabus:

Get Sharp: Smarter Decision Making and Critical Thinking for Administrative Professionals - Available for Onsite Training ONLY

Tackle today�s business challenges with high-powered decision-making skills for administrative professionals!

This interactive seminar is designed to help you build and expand your decision-making skills, critical-thinking abilities and creative problem-solving skills. You will cover methods of assessing and resolving problems and understanding the role of inferences and assumption. In addition, these decision-making skills for administrative professionals will help you gain confidence in asking the �right questions� and overcoming the stress of making complex decisions.

How You Will Benefit

  • Enhance your ability to be more proactive and to act independently
  • Become more confident in making sound decisions
  • Decrease stress related to making critical decisions and solving workplace problems
  • Strengthen your ability to influence and persuade others using decision-making skills for administrative professionals
  • Learn how to ask questions that get the answers you need
  • Learn how to apply creative problem-solving techniques
  • Build greater professional recognition through enhanced skills

What You Will Cover

  • Defining terms: critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, creativity and strategic thinking�small group activity
  • Understanding accelerated learning and Gardeners 8 Intelligences: identifying how you learn best
  • Creating new ways to ask questions: open questions, closed questions, leading questions, assumption challenges
  • Critical thinking: enhance your credibility with management
  • Applying different problem-solving techniques at work
  • Flexing your methods of problem solving
  • Enhancing self- and interpersonal awareness

Extended Seminar Outline

Acquire Enhanced Problem-Solving Skills

Explore Core Competencies in Critical Thinking

Identify and Use Core Strengths and Challenges in Solving Problems

Practice Methods of Identifying the Assumptions Underlying Requests

Recognize and Ask the Right Questions to Facilitate Problem Solving

Identify and Apply Critical Success Factors to Overcome Stress in Making Decisions in the Workplace

Formulate and Use Creative Problem-Solving Techniques When Working with and through Others

Apply Insights to Deliver Clear, Credible Messages

Exhibit Confidence in Dealing with Complex Problem Solving

Demonstrate and Build Credibility with Upper Management

Develop Strategic Approaches to Problem Solving and Decision Making

What Are Our Mind Traps?

Identify Terms and Concepts Used in Problem Solving and Decision Making

Explore the Concept of Mind Traps and Identify Your Own

Practice and Apply Two Problem-Solving Skills

Examining Your Problem-Solving Style

Assess Individual Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills

Identify Barriers to Developing New Problem-Solving Skills

Apply Different Types of Intelligences

Assumption Traps and Escapes

Identify Assumptions in the Workplace and How They Affect Our Ability to Make Decisions and Solve Problems

Focus on Listening for Underlying Assumptions

Practice and Apply New Ways of Asking Questions

Practice and Apply Two Problem-Solving Skills

Core Concepts of Critical Thinking

Identify the Core Concepts of Critical Thinking

Explain Key Points about Critical Thinking and Decision Making

Observe and Practice Get Sharp Strategies

Apply New Approaches in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Applying and Flexing Our Sharp Skills

Apply Sharp Thinking Skills

Practice Flexing Methods of Problem Solving

Use Brainstorming and the Creative Whack Pack, Two Thinking and Problem-Solving Methods

Creating an Individualized Learning Path

Review Links to Learning from Each Course Module

Create an Individualized Learning Path

Who Should Attend

Administrative professionals including secretaries, executive secretaries, administrative assistants, office managers, executive assistants and other office support staff who will benefit from better decision-making skills for administrative professionals.

Tackle today�s business challenges with high-powered decision-making skills for administrative professionals! (see full course description)

Intellectual Virtues in Critical Thinking

Intellectual Virtues in Critical Thinking

Intellectual virtues are character traits necessary for right action and correct thinking. Without these characteristics, intellectual development is circumscribed and distorted. It takes work to develop critical-thinking skills, but critical thinking itself is no more difficult than uncritical thinking.

The first step is to examine the way you think now understand where their thinking succeeds and where it fails. Excellent thinkers do not merely have outstanding skills but also genuine intellectual virtues which are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. To develop critical thinking we need to develop the intellectual virtues and they need practice to develop.

Following discussion helps you understand the intellectual virtues that are necessary for developing critical thinking:

Humility. People who are intellectually humble are aware of the limitations of their knowledge. They are free from arrogance of prejudice. Having a consciousness of the limits of one's knowledge, prejudice and limitations of one's viewpoint is intellectual humility. It solely depends on recognizing your limits and that one should not claim more than one actually knows.

Courage. The intellectually courageous are open to the ideas of others and have need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs or viewpoints towards which they might have strong negative emotions or to whim they have not given a serious hearing. This courage is connected with the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified and that conclusions and beliefs inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading. You need to be open enough to change your mind when other ideas are superior to your own. Intellectual courage brings fair-mindedness.

Empathy. Greenson said “To empathize means to share, to experience the feelings of another person” and Alvin Goldman said on the meaning of empathy that it is the ability to put oneself into the mental shoes of another person to understand her emotions and feelings. Intellectual Empathy allows you to put yourself in the position of those who oppose you and enables you to see things from their perspective. Having consciousness of empathy helps one put oneself in the place of others and genuinely understand them. This correlates with the ability to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than one’s own.

Integrity. Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions. Intellectual Integrity means consistency between your words and actions, walking the talk and practicing what you preach. Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. Recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking; to be consistent in the intellectual standards one applies; to hold one's self to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one's antagonists; to practice what one advocates for others; and to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action.

Perseverance. Perseverance is defined as continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition Failure to persevere is fatal to sound thinking. Critical thinking requires working through layers of complexity to find the truth. Intellectual perseverance is the ability to use intellectual insights and truths in spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations.

Ability to reason. Many people lack confidence that reason can provide answers and solutions in a complex world. Instead of using reasoning, they allow themselves to be guided by blind faith, tradition or emotional impulses. Confidence that, in the long run, one's own higher interests and those of society at large will be served by reason, by encouraging people to come to their own conclusions by developing their own rational faculties.

Autonomy. – Autonomy means independence or freedom. Intellectual autonomy means relying on yourself and your own thinking. Thinking critically and being open to other’s points of view and seeing others’ perspectives need autonomous thought process. Autonomy needs to be supported by fair mindedness. Fair-minded thinkers equally respect all points of view whether or not they agree with them. One need to treat all viewpoints alike, without reference to one's own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one's friends, community or nation.

All the above intellectual virtues should be constantly worked upon by technology professionals who want to improve their critical thinking abilities. Critical thinking leads to strategic thinking and strategic thinking is must for anyone looking for a career as IT leader.

Mediation in the Classroom: How Critical Thinking Can Facilitate Conflict Resolution

Introduction: Critical Thinking Skills Can Help Students Resolve Conflict

“Critical Thinking” means the capacity to distance oneself from an argument or a point of view and to assess its strengths and weakness. Critical thinking requires a deep understanding of argumentative methods and strategies and their shortcomings. In this context “critical” does not mean being negative or complaining, but rather being “critically reflective” about the arguments you are hearing. In this piece I want to argue that education and mediation meet through critical thinking. In short I believe that there is huge scope for developing dispute resolution strategies in students through encouraging them to develop critical thinking skills. By doing this, the student will naturally become better at addressing conflict in their life.

. and There are Other Benefits Too

In addition, from the perspective of how we deal with conflict in our culture, there is a broader educational and cultural imperative to students gaining and practicing critical thinking skills. It reassures them that opinions are not always simply a matter of personal preference or taste. If they learn critical thinking skills they can defend themselves with reason and argument, all of which builds confidence. By the same token, students will appreciate that this is true of others’ stances too. An education system that has internalised this insight can contribute to healthier public discourse because participants know that views cannot simply be dismissed with the lazy “that’s just your opinion”. Instead, they understand that differences can be discussed, examined and understood, even if they are not ultimately resolved.

Section One: How Can Learning Critical Thinking Facilitate Students in Conflict Resolution?

“Critical Thinking” is, if you like, thinking about our thinking. That is, critical thinking requires the capacity to examine points of view and their supporting arguments. We are then in a better position to analyse these with a view to identifying problems and possibilities. There is a clear link here between being a good critical thinker and being skilled at conflict resolution. Just think how much mediation involves assessing arguments and examining the reasons given to support them. However, before we go on, it will be helpful however to spell out the exact connections between critical thinking and conflict resolution.

When a person gives a reason to support their point of view, there are often assumptions at play. For example, if a person argues that they wish to pay lower taxes in order to stop government waste, the assumption is that governments don’t spend money wisely or effectively. Assumptions are everywhere in arguments and a training in critical thinking is a training in recognising assumptions and being able to skilfully question their validity.

In conflict, parties often arrive at embedded opinions and conclusions on the grounds of unchallenged assumptions. I recently heard a party complain that there was no point in speaking with the other party because every time they did, the other party got angry. The assumption here is that one can’t be angry and receptive at the same time. Not necessarily so. Critical thinking helps the person in conflict to identify and navigate assumptions in the service of a positive and creative resolution.

Critical thinking studies the supporting reasons people offer to defend their point of view. For example, If I say that I do not think it is a good idea for you to go to the baseball tonight, the supporting reason I might offer is that the forecast is for rain and its unlikely the game will be played. Of course, some supporting reasons are better than others. If I say you shouldn’t go to the baseball because the voices in my head have told me aliens are coming, I would hope you’d go to the game anyway! Critical thinking helps us to identify weak supporting reasons and to challenge them in a way that makes sense to the person offering them.

In conflict resolution, we regularly look not only at people’s positions but the reasons why they hold these positions. Here we are getting into the world of “interests” and what matters to a person. Being able to locate, identify and explore these interests, these reasons “why” someone holds a position, is at the heart of good mediation and is very much a critical thinking skill.

Awareness of Spin, Manipulation, Avoidance

The training that it takes to be a good critical thinker involves learning how to know when someone is trying to manipulate, spin the truth, or avoid key difficulties. These tactics can be attempted by the use of duress, emotional blackmail or any other means designed to cloud the issue. Being able to recognise when this is happening helps students to focus on the argument and not on the distractions.

The link to conflict resolution is clear. When in a conflict or when mediating one, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to try to make the issue about something else (avoidance), to use passive language or terms that avoid responsibility (“a mistake was made”, “hurt was caused”) or to try to win someone over through manipulation (playing the victim, playing the friend and so on). A clear training in critical thinking in this area is, at the same time, a training to see and to address these tactics.

Using Beliefs, Values and Traditions

Critical thinking examines how people’s beliefs influence their points of view and, crucially, how they get to the conclusions they hold via the arguments that they think are cogent. This requires anyone training in critical thinking to look at the meaning of “belief” and “value” or “tradition” when someone uses them as a justification for their point of view. (“I am very strong on his point, it’s part of my beliefs”, “I could never go for that solution, it offends my religious values” and so on). A good training in critical thinking facilitates the student in understanding that invoking a belief, value or tradition for holding a point of view is not the end of a conversation, but only the start of it. It is valid, legitimate and appropriate to ask why these beliefs are held and whether any other interpretation of these beliefs would be just as faithful but would help avoid or resolve a conflict.

Again the connection to conflict resolution and mediation is clear. It is important not to be bullied when someone invokes a value, belief or tradition to explain themselves as if to do so is a sign of intolerance (see the discussion of this in section two below). A good mediator or someone skilled at dealing with conflict will not stop there but, in the name of a resolution (and of refusing to be browbeaten) will explore other ways of interpreting these beliefs. These skills are learned through a good training in critical thinking.

Recognising that Arguments Have Consequences

Training in critical thinking is training to recognise the outcomes of reasoning processes. These can be hugely significant in a person’s life but they might not be aware of them. For example, a person may be influenced by traumatic childhood experiences to reason that the only possible form of personal intimacy is one marred by violence and abuse. They will therefore likely conclude that a long-term relationship is not a healthy life path or, worse, only expect poor treatment in their personal relationships. This reasoning process has enormous consequences for the person, but they may not be aware of it. Understanding how reasoning does not happen in a vacuum but is coloured by our experiences and so on, helps us to look again at our conclusions and ask ourselves whether they are inevitable or whether another one is at least possible.

Of course the same goes for conflict resolution. Our thinking and our opinions do not take place in a vacuum. They are influenced by our history and they impact our lives directly. We can learn to understand the significant role of our points of view in our life. When we do, we become receptive to the idea that a better way of life may be available to us if we change how we think about, interpret and make sense of the world around us. Critical thinking facilitates this and so its use in conflict resolution and in dealing with conflict more generally is clear.

Section Two: The Challenges to Modelling Critical Thinking for Conflict Resolution

Notwithstanding the above advantages of learning critical thinking for conflict resolution, educators are regularly confronted by serious challenges when they try to instil conflict resolution skills in students by teaching critical thinking.

The Focus on Results

There is often an institutional pressure to teach from an increasingly content-driven curriculum that does not encourage critical thinking but that only rewards students who practice a certain kind of thinking (recall), analysis (cause and effect) or reflection (how can I strategise to get a better grade?) This is reflected in the world of mediation where a solution-driven focus predominates in a way that doesn’t reward reflection on thinking habits or primary assumptions. But questioning these very cognitive processes could open up possibilities for a more abiding and resourceful resolution. To do so however, we run the risk of being accused of intolerance:

Fear of Being Labelled “Intolerant”

Critical thinking presents itself as an especially helpful resource when encountering stark cultural differences or fundamentalism in any of its forms. However, as mentioned in section one above, there is not much hope for critical thinking when we practice a model of mediation in which basic values cannot be questioned because that is seen as too “directive”, or when we try to teach in a way that is scared to address these stances. To flourish, critical thinking requires a commitment to address these problems and so, educational institutions must empower their staff to do so without fearing accusations of intolerance (the kiss of death in any people-centred profession).

Seeing Thinking as “less than” Feeling

There is a tendency to see “thinking” as a dry, arid activity that only goes on in the mind. “Thinking” is often seen as the opposite of feelings which are seen as altogether more “human” and “relational”. This is a very unhelpful way of looking at our thinking. As mentioned in Section One, “thinking” happens in the shadow of our beliefs, values, assumptions, agendas, hopes and so on. All of these are saturated with emotion and so anyone who suggests that thinking requires that we are cut off from these does not fully understand what thinking entails. Mediators already understand this because they have usually experienced clients whose “thinking” is dominated by their values, emotions and so on in a way that prevents them from seeing solutions. An institution or a practice that has a limited understanding of thinking is unlikely to support critical thinking as a tool for conflict resolution.

Section Three: How to Integrate Critical Thinking into Practice. and to Use it for Mediation

For teachers, the question is how to integrate critical thinking into their existing classroom practice in a way that facilitates it being used for conflict resolution. Despite steps taken at secondary level in the UK and at university level in North America, “critical thinking” is not a core curriculum subject. To demonstrate it to students then, teachers need to incorporate it into their pedagogy. How can this be done? The following offers just a set of examples and is designed to encourage teachers to think about how they teach because, once adopted, critical thinking habits will have tremendous benefits for how the students engage in conflict.

In Science: Deduction and Induction

Teachers of natural science are ideally placed to highlight the differences between inductive and deductive forms of argument, when each is appropriate and the pitfalls of following each slavishly. In brief, “deductive” is a “top / down” approach to thinking. The problem here is that sometimes the argument can flow beautifully but is not based in reality (the philosopher David Hume is said to have “proven” that women are naturally inferior to men for example). Similarly, an “inductive” approach, where the conclusion is understood to derive from observed evidence, can be seen to be problematic if the evidence is incomplete or not representative. Teachers in this area are therefore alive to the meaning of the word “evidence” and when it is misused to offer weight to an argument that it has no business offering.

The connection between this and conflict resolution skills is direct. Those who insist on “principle” no matter how unhelpful the outcome are committing the same error in conflict as the scientist who blindly leads with deduction. Similarly, the person in a conflict who always and only draws on their “experience” without any kind of guiding rationale or theory is committing the same error as the scientist committed to the inductive method without regard to any guiding theory. Teachers of science are wonderfully placed to make this connection for students and to spell out how the shortcomings of a type of thinking in one area (science) can help us to understand its shortcomings in another (conflict).

In the Humanities: Duress and Fashions in Interpretation

Teachers in the humanities (history, geography, economics, social studies and so on) can point to the constant clash of ideas and values in the public realm and the healthy and dysfunctional methods that have been devised to address them. For example, a history teacher who demonstrates to students how force and duress are not successful at changing hearts or minds has only a short step to make to relate this to interpersonal conflict. A geography teacher who examines urban change and demographic shifts with students is in an excellent position to show how one model of addressing demographic change (for example, cultural assimilation) gives way to another over time (for example multicultural integration). Relating this to conflict, even the most fashionable method may have give way in coming years. There is no authorised fail-safe method, we are always learning.

In Languages: The Variety of Forms of Expression

Language teachers have a unique opportunity to identify the influence of culture on what arguments and argumentative methods are deemed valid and how these can be distorted. There are cultures where expression and articulation is more physical than others and cultures where overt anger is not seen as objectionable in a way that it is in North America. What all this speaks to is the spectrum of devices people may deploy to convince others of their perspective. A student who is aware of the diversity of forms of human expression is more likely to recognise that someone is at least making an effort to communicate with them whereas, without this understanding, they may have interpreted their actions as hostile or threatening. By emphasising the rich variety of cultural forms of expression, the teacher enables the student to relate to a similarly rich variety of methods of engaging in conflict.

In Literature: The Power of Language

Teachers of literature (poetry, theatre, traditional prose writing and so on) can emphasise the power of language in conflicts. Here the traditional discipline of “rhetoric” can comes to mind. What I really mean, however, is that teachers of literature can help the students to recognise when language is being used to manipulate or persuade using emotive or shaming methods. Naturally this leaves the student very well equipped to engage in conflict in a manner that leaves them more protected on this front. However, there is also a positive function for language here. Language is basically the only show in town when it comes to human communication. Learning to use it skilfully, thoughtfully and mindfully gives great power and teachers in this subject have a great opportunity to communicate the relationship between the ability to use language in a nuanced and sophisticated way, and the exercise of power. (Put another way, a minimal or purely functional relationship to language is disempowering – students have a vested interest in deepening their relationship to language, no matter how much they may like to tweet!)

Conclusion: The Prize – A Student Body, Institution and Broader Culture With a Healthier Relationship to Conflict

All teachers, education leaders and managers have the chance to demonstrate to students that there is nothing wrong with conflict, that it is a natural and healthy aspect of the human condition and to help prepare them for it. The epidemic of passive-aggression that predominates in North American public culture is a sign that we have failed ourselves and the generation that comes after us. Passive-aggression is based on manipulation and an inability to speak up for what you want for reasons of shame, inarticulacy or fear. In other words it is the behavioural expression of disempowerment. I propose that we have the chance to model a healthy and constructive alternative. We can demonstrate to students that being in conflict is not a negative sign but what distinguishes us as human beings is the way we engage in it. We can do this by giving them the key equipment needed to engage in conflict in an empowering way. An indispensible part of this equipment is skill in critical thinking.


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