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Author Topic: Not confident with abstract concepts - possible to learn critical thinking?  (Read 471 times)

PerditaPickle

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What's your opinion, is it possible to learn to deal with abstract concepts and to develop critical thinking skills if one's not naturally adept in this area?

Have you had to work on your critical thinking skills ever, and if so how did you go about it?  Or have you ever supported someone else who's in this position, and if so how did you help them?  What degree of success was there?
"If I get on, Susan thought, it'll all start again.  I'll be out of the light and into the world beyond this one.  I'll fall off the tightrope.
But a voice inside her said, You want to, though...don't you...?
Ten seconds later, there was only the snow."
(Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)

ehbowen

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What's your opinion, is it possible to learn to deal with abstract concepts and to develop critical thinking skills if one's not naturally adept in this area?

Have you had to work on your critical thinking skills ever, and if so how did you go about it?  Or have you ever supported someone else who's in this position, and if so how did you help them?  What degree of success was there?

In my opinion, the key prerequisite to developing critical thinking skills is being more interested in finding THE truth than in reinforcing YOUR truth. Use the lamppost for illumination, not support.
--------Eric H. Bowen
Where's the KABOOM? There was supposed to have been an Earth-shattering KABOOM!

Jenett

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What's your opinion, is it possible to learn to deal with abstract concepts and to develop critical thinking skills if one's not naturally adept in this area?

Absolutely. There are whole hordes of people who would love to help other people learn about this - this is a big part of what academic librarians try to provide to undergraduate students, in particular.

(The term of art is "information literacy" if you want to try doing searches on it. Or if there are specific pieces of skills you're interested in, I am glad to rummage and find some good links.  Lots of university libraries will have a guide on their website with some different tools and approaches, and large universities that require an information literacy component or class for students, often have some really good ones.)

Quote
Or have you ever supported someone else who's in this position, and if so how did you help them?  What degree of success was there?

I've done quite a lot of it professionally, both as a librarian working in a high school, and in a university setting (the latter had a lot of first generation college students, in particular.)

When I've worked with people, I've pointed out that a lot of it learning how to find more information, and how to ask questions about the information you already have.

The other big part of it is developing the skill to file information in a slot in your brain that says "I heard/read/saw this thing, but I have no idea if it's accurate or meaningful yet". This is definitely a skill no one's really born with, and it's definitely one you can practice. My usual approach is to treat a lot of information this way, and then ask specific questions to help me figure out what's going on.

I have a blog post on my research blog that talks about how I evaluate, that has examples and links to a couple of useful resources.

A lot of it is just repeated practice - I am really really good at searching and evaluating information because I do it a lot. I do it a lot because it's my job (it's a big part of being a librarian), but I also do it because I want to keep my skills high. 

I will do random searches on things I'm vaguely curious about, I read widely in a variety of sources, and so on, because I want to have information to help me evaluate what I come across next week or next month or next decade. Even if the details change, having vocabulary for a subject, or having a sense of how things fit together helps me do much more rapid searches and evaluation.

This is definitely a commitment: this part of my life takes about an hour a day of time I could do other things with, though it's rarely in a solid chunk (it's more about choices about what goes into my RSS feeds, what tabs I open in my browser, who I follow in Twitter, and so on). But over time, that consistent practice really adds up.
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PerditaPickle

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Absolutely.

Thanks for your response, Jenett (another slightly older thread I'm just now getting round to revisiting).

I worry sometimes, when there are discussions going on around me that I just don't seem to be following, I worry that I maybe don't naturally have the right kind of intellect.

I'm going to start with your blog post on your research blog that you linked, and see if I feel like there's any hope for me at all!
"If I get on, Susan thought, it'll all start again.  I'll be out of the light and into the world beyond this one.  I'll fall off the tightrope.
But a voice inside her said, You want to, though...don't you...?
Ten seconds later, there was only the snow."
(Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)

Jenett

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I worry sometimes, when there are discussions going on around me that I just don't seem to be following, I worry that I maybe don't naturally have the right kind of intellect.

Don't beat yourself up!

There are a huge range of topics in the world, and most of us are not good at many of them. One of the things to think about is that people are more likely (outside of a formal educational system) to be talking in depth about the ones that interest them, or that they have experience in.

If you get me talking about physics, or chemistry, or poetry, for that matter, I have to start a lot further back on fairly simple parts of those topics than I do on many areas of history, or modern Pagan practice,

(And in the Pagan community, that applies too: people who are great on the stuff they practice themselves often know nothing about other areas or practices unless they've put in the time to learn, read, and explore. One of the things I love about this forum is the number of things I've learned about because someone brought them up.)

Personally, I think asking questions about stuff you don't understand is great, if you're up for it. It often improves the conversation for everyone, and helps other people learn things they may not have thought to ask about.
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PerditaPickle

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Don't beat yourself up!

Thank you!

Personally, I think asking questions about stuff you don't understand is great, if you're up for it. It often improves the conversation for everyone, and helps other people learn things they may not have thought to ask about.

Good advice, I shall do my best.

I'm also managing a bit more reading recently, though I can't swear that my retention is necessarily any better.
"If I get on, Susan thought, it'll all start again.  I'll be out of the light and into the world beyond this one.  I'll fall off the tightrope.
But a voice inside her said, You want to, though...don't you...?
Ten seconds later, there was only the snow."
(Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)

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