4    Critical thinking (2)


Speaking only for myself ...


This follows up the earlier occasional piece on critical thinking.  In that piece I suggested that many of us find it easier to be critical about others' ideas than to be critical about our own.

I can observe this in my own behaviour.  Once I have begun to form a view or opinion, I seem to notice supporting evidence without difficulty.  I have to make a special effort to pay attention to disconfirming evidence.

Observation suggests to me that this is true for others too.

For example, when I was at the University of Queensland, Cindy Gallois and I conducted a postgraduate course in group facilitation.  Much of the course was experiential.  Each week the class members recorded in a journal their observations, and their interpretation of them.  From these journals, they chose a small number of critical incidents for deeper analysis.

One of the criteria we used to give feedback to them was their openness to evidence which disconfirmed their emerging interpretations.  Most of them had a lot of trouble with this.  I might mention that quite a few of them were already skilled facilitators.  This didn't seem to help them all that much.

I've observed related difficulties in other settings.  For instance, many experienced consultants recognise that, at any choice point in an intervention, many choices are available.  Having made a choice, however, they find it difficult to identify and acknowledge the disadvantages of it.

I think the implications for action research are important.  Many of the advantages of action research can be undermined unless we develop ways of countering our own biases and checking our own perceptions.

There are certain tools which help me be more open to challenge about my own interpretations.  I'll talk about these in subsequent occasional pieces.




Copyright Bob Dick 1997-2000.  May be copied if it is not included
in any material sold at a profit, and if this notice is shown

This may be cited as:   Bob Dick (1997) Critical thinking (2)
Occasional pieces in action research methodology, # 4.  Available
online at http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/ar/arm/op004.html

Version 1.2;  Last modified 20000101


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