Critical Thinking

Definition of Critical Thinking and Adaptability

A great amount of research has been put into better understanding both Critical Thinking and Adaptability, Adaptive Thinking or Adaptive Stance.  These skills benefit, military, the workforce and students alike.  The below section provides a collection of literature that defines, in various ways, the two terms.  It is not within the scope of the challenge to determine any one definition as “correct”, however, these are provided as sources in the case that additional information is desired.  

Critical thinking involves the examination of both your methods of information analysis and the adjustment and employment of those methods.  It is not merely acquiring information, but the methods used to acquire it, and the way the information is processed and treated.  

Adaptive thinking can be defined as consisting of competencies such as negotiation and consensus building skills, the ability to communicate effectively, analyze ambiguous situations, be self-aware, think innovatively and critically, and exercise creative problem solving skills.

- as defined by the Report of the Defense Science Board  2010 study on Enhancing Adaptability of U.S. Military Forces (http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/EnhancingAdaptabilityOfUSMilitaryForcesB.pdf) 

Further definitions and a literature review follow.


Critical Thinking


“Invariably, the first thing [we do when we wake up every day is] make a decision—whether or not to get out of bed when the alarm went off.  More decisions follow—what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, whether to come to class. While some decisions are instinctive, some require real thought. In all cases, its important to be mindful before we make a choice or decision—not to act impulsively, but to approach it logically.





Peter Elbow, "Methodological Doubting and Believing: Contraries in Inquiry," in Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching, N.Y., Oxford University Press, 1986.)”



Measuring Critical Thinking


"Critical thinking can be very difficult to measure.  In part, this is because critical thinking is an ongoing process rather than a recognizable outcome.  The state of critical thinking means that an individual is continually questioning assumptions, considering context, creating and exploring alternatives and engaging in reflective skepticism (Brookfield, 1987)."



Gen Ed Critical Thinking Rubric

The rubric allows teachers to rate students on a 4-pt scale on 10 criteria relevant to critical thinking; Identifying the issues and stakeholders, considering methodology, evaluating assumptions, etc.  http://www.neiu.edu/~neassess/pdf/CriThinkRoger-long.pdf


 “The Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) measures are designed to test for critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving, and written communication skills.”



Critical Thinking in Education

From the Virtual World to the Classroom: Exploring the Synthesis-Thinking Skills in Young Learners in a Blended Learning Environment http://udistrital.academia.edu/MauricioMartinez/Papers/415776/From_the_Virtual_World_to_the_Classroom_Exploring_the_Synthesis-Thinking_Skills_in_Young_Learners_in_a_Blended_Learning_Environment

Critical Thinking Gateway



Video Games and Critical Thinking

Video Games may help critical thinking




Virtual Worlds and Critical Thinking


Virtual  Worlds Educators: http://www.virtualworldsedu.info/blog/


Critical Thinking at the Army Management Staff College


Changing Army Culture Creating Adaptive and Critical Thinking Officer Corps


Critical Thinking for the Military Professional



Literature Review

How We Think:  Thinking Critically and Creatively and How Military Professionals Can Do it Better http://smallwarsjournal.com/sites/default/files/858-mcconnell1.pdf

Patience, critical thinking important for solving crimes for Reserve special agents


Army Critical Thinking Tackles the “Vortex of Violence”


Critical Thinking:  Challenges, Possibilities, and Purpose

Sharon Riedel, ARI, Ft Leavenworth, KS, March 2002



THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT CRITICAL THINKING: A FUNDAMENTAL GUIDE FOR STRATEGIC LEADERS  Colonel (Retired) Stephen J. Gerras, Ph.D., Professor of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Command, Leadership, & Management

U.S. Army War College, August 2008, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army-usawc/crit_thkg_gerras.pdf


Critical Thinking and Judgment:  The Key to Effective Leadership



Developing Creative and Critical Thinkers



Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Developing Adaptive Proficiency in Special Forces Officers.” Research Report 1831, February 2005. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army/ari_feb05_adapt.pdf

Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Training Adaptable Leaders: Lessons from Research and Practice.” Research Report 1844, October 2005. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/army/rr1844.pdf 

Australian Defense Department (2007).  EXECUTIVE SERIES, LEADERSHIP IN THE AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE, (22 March 2007).http://www.defence.gov.au/adc/docs/Publications/ADDP%2000.6-Leadership.pdf 

Bartone, Paul T., Charles L Barry, and Robert E. Armstrong (2009).. “To Build Resilience: Leader Influence on Mental Hardiness.” Defense Horizons, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University, Washington, DC, November 2009. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/ndu/defhoriz_69.pdf 

Burns, William R. Jr. and Waldo D. Freeman (2008). Developing an Adaptability Training Strategy and Policy for the DoD, Interim Report. IDA Paper P-4358. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses , October 2008. http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA492056

Burns, William R. Jr. and Waldo D. Freeman (2010). Developing More Adaptable Individuals and Institutions, IDA Paper P-4535, Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses, February 2010. http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA516523

Clark, Richard E. (2009), “Training for adaptable performance: A workshop report,” ADL Newsletter for Educators and Educational Researchers, September 2009. Accessible at: http://www.ymlp165.com/pubarchive_show_message.php?adlnews+48

Clark, Richard and David Feldon (2008).. “GEL, Adaptable Expertise and Transfer of Training.” Report produced under contract sponsored by the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Center for Cognitive Technology, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, September 9, 2008. http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/publications/gel_and_adaptability.pdf

Cohen, Marvin S, Salas, Eduardo and Riedel, Sharon L. (2002).  Critical Thinking:  Challenges, Possibilities, and Purpose (March 2002)


Lacey, Jim and LTC Kevin Woods (2007). “Adapt or Die.” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, (August 2007):16-20.  http://www.criticalfumble.net/forum/archive/index.php/t-6152.html 

Lussier, James W. and Scott B. Shadrick (2003). “Adaptive Thinking Training For Tactical Leaders.” Paper presented at the RTO HFM Symposium on “Advanced Technologies for Military Training,” Genoa, Italy, October 13-15, 2003. http://ftp.rta.nato.int/public/PubFullText/RTO/MP/RTO-MP-HFM-101/MP-HFM-101-19.pdf 

Office of Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), Readiness and Training Policy and Programs (2010).  Strategic Plan for the Next Generation of Training for the Department of Defense, Appendix B Taking the Adaptive Stance and the Adaptation Framework, Sept 23, 2010. accessible at:  http://prhome.defense.gov/RFM/READINESS/docs/FINAL_NextGenStrategicPlan_23Sep.pdf 

Pulakos, E.D., S. Arad, M. A. Donovan, & K. E. Plamondon (2000). “Adaptability in the Workplace: Development of a Taxonomy of Adaptive Performance.” Journal of Applied Psychology 85, no. 4 (August 2000).  http://nreilly.asp.radford.edu/pulakos%20arad%20donovan%20plamondon.pdf 

Pulakos, E. D., Schmidt, N., Dorsey, D. W., Hedge, J. W., & Borman, W. C. (2002). Predicting adaptive performance: Further tests of adaptability. Human Performance, 15(4), 299-323. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15327043HUP1504_01 

Raybourn, Elaine M (2007). “Training System Approaches for Honing Adaptive Thinking, Cultural Awareness and Metacognitive Agility.” Brief presented at Adaptability Symposium 2007, Alexandria, VA, December 2007.  http://ntsa.metapress.com/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,130,145;journal,5,22;linkingpublicationresults,1:113340,1 

U.S. Army (2008). “The U.S. Army Concept for the Human Dimension in Full Spectrum Operations—2015-2024, TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-7,” June 11, 2008.


U.S. Army (2008). “Training for Full Spectrum Operations—FM 7-0.” December 12, 2008. http://www.tradoc.army.mil/tpubs/pams/p525-3-7.pdf 

White, S. S., Mueller-Hanson, R. A., Dorsey, D. W., Pulakos, E. D., Wisecarver, M. M. et al. (2005). Developing adaptive proficiency in Special Forces officers (Research Report 1831). Arlington, VA: U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences.