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Lesson Author: Dr. Jim Schneider

Mode: Seminar Group Discussion


  1. Introduction.
  2. In many ways, critical thinking is the culmination of applied theory. Critical thinking provides the military professional with tools of the mind needed to think through anything and everything that requires thought. This is especially true in the realm of problem solving, planning and decision making. The development of critical thinking skills is predicated on the same principles as any other human learning experience: practiceà feedbackà practice. As the authors, Richard Paul and Linda Elder, remind us, critical thinking is about a complete outlook toward living, extending beyond critical thinking skills and abilities to considerations of fair-mindedness, intellectual leadership, humility, perseverance and integrity.


  3. Learning Objectives
  1. To explore and develop critical thinking skills and abilities and virtues;
  2. To examine the relationship among theory, decisionmaking and critical thinking;
  3. To develop a framework for critical self-examination of thinking.
  1. Student Requirements
  2. Required Reading

    Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Critical Thinking; New York: Prentice-Hall, 2001; pp. 1-131.


  3. Lesson Agenda
  1. What are the characteristics of a disciplined mind? How and why would these traits be valuable for a commander and staff planner?
  2. Why is intellectual humility an important trait for a staff officer (recall von Moltke’s admonition to "be more than you seem")?
  3. The opposite of intellectual integrity is intellectual hypocrisy. Cite examples from your own career of both. How did these traits affect unit performance and morale?
  4. What are some barriers to critical self-understanding? How can they best be overcome?
  5. What is the relationship between thinking and reasoning? How does this relate to the universal structures of thought?
  6. What, if any, intellectual standards are implied in the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP)? What is the source of these standards? Are they common throughout the Army and other services?
  7. What are "dead questions"? How do they reflect "inert" thinking?
  8. There are three types of questions. What are they? How can they be used properly to become a Socratic questioner and critic?
  9. What can be done to ensure that critical thinking occurs throughout all phases of the MDMP?
  10. What is the relationship among information, inferences and assumptions? How can faulty assumptions lead to bad inferences? In our world of mass media, why is critical thinking more important than ever?