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Critical Thinking Guidelines: Evaluate Almost Anything

Author: Soma Jurgensen

Critical Thinking Guidelines/Steps

Use the following steps when your instructor asks you to evaluate something critically:

Identify 3 main points/facts. Keep them objective; for example, saying the sky is gray is objective, saying the sky looks stormy is an opinion based on experience.

How do these main points make you feel? This is easier to answer when you're talking about art or music, however, it is possible to evoke feelings in the workplace and examine them. What feelings are produced when you think about diversity management or stereotypes? What about innovation and problem solving?

What do these points remind you of? This could be a childhood memory or an experience at work. Your work and personal lives are rich with experiences that help you evaluate and critically think through material.

What is the intent of the author/agent? Whether you are evaluating a piece of work or someone's actions it takes someone who can share other person's perspective to answer this question. What did the agent/author intend? Why is that important?

Now reflect on what you've found. Summarize and tie your evaluation together. What impact does your evaluation have on you, business, other people?

The more you practice, the better you'll get.



An Example in Action

Recently, I assigned readings around privilege in the workplace to my Managing a Diverse Workforce students. All but one is American born and they were rather upset that anyone would consider the trials and tribulations of their lives as privilege. After a frank discussion around our readings, I asked them to watch the video below. Then I asked them to critically evaluate the video using the steps above and have included one student's response organized by the steps.

Step One: Identify three main points

  • Only 1% of the world is college educated
  • If you have a place to live , a bed to sleep in, and clothes in your closet you are richer than 75% of the world
  • Privilege is not to be taken for granted

Step Two: How did it make you feel?

  • "I am truly humbled in the fact that I am allowed so much when a vast majority of the world has so little."

Step Three: What did it remind you of?

  • "I'm reminded of the immigrants I've worked with in the past. They were so thrilled to be working and advancing in life and it was just another job to me...again, I feel humbled and saddened."

Step Four: What was the producer's intent?

  • "The [producer] intended to open peoples' eyes and put the message into a perspective that everyone can understand. 100 is an easy number to understand."

Step Five: Summary

  • "I have come to realize that I take a great many things for granted. Being a white American has blinded me to a lot of the world outside my own. Without a basic understanding of differences that take place in the world it is impossible to fully appreciate the privileges that most of us enjoy everyday."

The whole class found value in this process over a more general instruction to analyze the work.

If a Village had 100 People

Students wrote a reflection using the critical thinking steps based on this video.

Another reflection

I have to share a few points from this reflection of the same video. This reflection is from a minority student who is first generation.

Main points:

  • 1 of 100 global citizens have a college education
  • Global society struggles with issues of health and poverty that we don't in the U.S.
  • America struggles with minority issues but in reality many minorities come to the U.S. to better their lives

Although the student mixes some opinion and analysis with the main points, their ability to make connections that leads to higher order thinking is clear.


  • I saw a different perspective as an American. Though the number of North Americans is relatively small, given all the privileges we have we should take advantage of  the opportunities we get.
  • The clip made me feel sad and disappointed because seeing other countries people living in poverty and seeing how people struggle with health issues should motivate Americans to do better as an American or resident of America.

Although this student's reflection was less complete, consider the depth the student reached by following this guideline that he/she may not have reached without it.