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Critical Thinking Skills

critCritical Thinking Skills: Developing effective analysis and argument.
Written by Stella Cottrell, part of the Palgrave study skills series, published by Palgrave MacMillan.
So why are critical thinking skills important to the OCA student? Critical thinking is an integral part of academic study because

  • It is important at degree level and beyond to be able to challenge the views of others and your own received knowledge. This helps to develop the field of study you are part of.
  • It leads to clearer thinking and an informed understanding of your own work and the work of others.
  • It assists in interpreting meaning and values within the work of others that then informs your own creative output.
  • It encourages you to be more observant of what you see, hear and read both in your studies and your everyday life.
  • It develops your own personal understanding of your field and the wider creative culture.
  • It underpins effective reflective thinking that is an essential part of developing your own creative style that in turn leads to individual and engaging work.

Further to this, employers in all sectors are increasingly aware of the importance of these types of thinking skills. They contribute to innovation, added value and higher productivity.
Critical thinking is a skill like the many others you will be developing during your studies. As with drawing, embroidery, painting, photography, etc. you will need information, guidance and support. There are several publications out there that can offer this, but I think this one is particularly good because it furnishes the reader with clear guidance from a basic to an advanced understanding of critical thinking skills. This is in part done using description and example but it also has a number of exercises that develop your thinking. For me this is one of the advantages of this book, it encourages the reader to engage in activities that develop skill rather than simply telling you about them. As a visual person this helps me remain focused and improves the effectiveness of the more descriptive writing.
The step-by-step approach to critical thinking finishes with a section on critical reflection. The ability to learn from your reflective thinking is an essential part of academic study, particularly in the creative arts. Critical reflection is a structured, focused and conscious form of thinking that’s purpose is to develop understanding. Transforming the way we see the world (or an aspect of it) and influencing the way we think and act. When building a body of work reflective thinking assists you in identifying key insights into the way you work. Deepening your understanding and ability to effect the changes required to create exceptional and relevant work.
Because critical thinking is a vital part of studying towards a degree it is my suggestion that students at all levels would benefit from the guidance a book like this offers. It is never too early or too late in your studies to consider improving your critical thinking skills. It leads to a more useful learning log style, better-developed critical reviews and stronger creative work.

Posted by author: Rebecca Fairley
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