Intuition and critical thinking

I got an e-mail from a friend that said: “I can’t find your book on Google!” Well, it takes a few days. But as I checked for myself, I came across an article: Making Critical Thinking Intuitive.  It’s by the Foundation for Critical Thinking about which I know nothing. It makes many points that echo what I try to do in Teaching to Intuition, and speaks of “teaching for intuitive understanding.” It makes no reference to mathematics but expands the general approach to knowledge and education in general and to critical thinking in particular.  Let me give a few quotations from the article that can be found at criticalthinking.org (Articles Tab, K-12 instruction strategies.)

  • Some people erroneously believe that critical thinking and intuitive thinking are incompatible opposites. If one means by intuitive thinking a form of inexplicable, non-rational thought, the claim is correct. But if one means by intuition the process by which one translates the abstract into the concrete…then, not only are critical thinking and intuitive thinking not incompatible, they are necessarily conjoined. Solid critical thinking always requires fundamental insights, fundamental intuitions, to guide it.
  • Whatever we are teaching, we should therefore continually ask ourselves, “What are the intuitions and insights essential to this mode of knowledge and thought?” and “How can I most effectively foster them with these students?”
  • Helping students to develop critical thinking intuitions is, then, helping them gain the practical insights necessary for a quick and ready application of concepts to cases in a vast array of circumstances. We want critical thinking principles to be “intuitive” to our students in the sense that we want those principles ready and available in their minds for immediate translation into their everyday thoughts and experience.
  • A powerful way to make the abstract more intuitive, is, therefore, to use stories and dramatized characters for that purpose.
  • This, then, is probably the fundamental reason why so much school learning is not effectively transferred to real life. It lacks the intuitive basis, the insights, for the translation.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I am grateful for the extra dimension it gives to my own thinking.