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What is an Effective Thinker?


An effective thinker is one who has the inclination to think as well as the ability to think.


“Effective thinking moves beyond self-centered views of the universe to a broader, more abstract realm. This means expanding thinking beyond the egocentric values and limited life experiences”   (Meyer, 1986).


Effective thinking is not Creative Thinking or Lateral Thinking. It is being aware of and improving ones own thinking. An effective thinker consciously works at making his/her thinking more rational, clear, accurate, and consistent. An effective thinker is one who utilises a combination of critical and creative thinking within the reasoning process.


A simplified view of effective thinking is gained by identifying the major activities we carry out as we critically work through an issue.


  • Observations. From a series of observations, we can come to establish:

  • Facts. From a series of facts, or from an absence of fact, we make:

  • Inferences. Testing the validity of our inferences, we can make:

  • Assumptions. From our assumptions, we form our:

  • Opinions. Taking our opinions, we use the principles of logic to develop:

  • Arguments. And when we want to challenge the arguments of others, we employ

  • Critical Analysis (through which we challenge the observations, facts, inferences, and so on, in the arguments that we are analyzing).


A different but complementary view is offered in 'A Guide to Sociological Thinking'  ( pp. 19-34, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1996) where Vincent Ruggiero lists the eight characteristics of an effective thinker as:

  • A Scientific Attitude;

  • Awareness of the Limits of Opinion;

  • Curiosity;

  • The Desire and Effort to Improve;

  • Willingness to Acknowledge Mistakes;

  • A Positive Regard for Convictions;

  • Fair-mindedness;

  • Openness to disagreement and Criticism;

  • Accpet the Burden of Proof;

  • Control Your Defense Mechanisms;

  • Avoid Explaining away Evidence and Attacking Others Personally.

A further perspective comes from http://www.aare.edu.au/97pap/luggm375.htm and outlines traits of effective and non-effective thinkers.


Traits of an Effective Thinker

Traits of an Ineffective Thinker

Welcomes problematic situations

Uses active inquiry

Is tolerant of ambiguity

Is self-critical

Searches for alternatives

Searches for and weighs conflicting evidence

Is reflective

Values rationality

Perceives thinking as helpful and contributory

Searches for certainty

Is cognitively passive, accepting

Is intolerant of ambiguity

Is not self-critical

Tends to be satisfied with first attempts; overconfident with initial ideas

Ignores evidence that conflicts

Is impulsive

Values impulsivity

Perceives thinking as confusing, cumbersome.


As I work with schools as a 'critical friend' helping them to establish how they they are going to empower their students as 'Effective Thinkers' we aim to establish our own definition and the following is a sample.


"An effective thinker is numerate, literate, reasons at strategic and reflective levels, is able to ask relevant questions, and is information skilled with strong habits of mind leading to effective learning."