The primary goals of this series are to help students to become mindful of their thinking and to support teachers as they nurture the development of the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™. The previous posting in this blog series presented a brief overview about the trait create. This post features the critical thinking trait examine.

I use a variety of methods to explore and to analyze.

When students acquire the examine trait, they use analytical skills to make inferences, interpret data, integrate or organize ideas, and make connections. Students with a deep understanding of this trait probe deeply to determine root causes or to find value. You will see students ask thoughtful questions and employ a variety of methods to explore the unknown. The question sequence of Why/What If/How help students dig deeper into investigating problems or solutions.

Students who have sufficient understanding of the examine trait are conscientious of using credible sources for gathering information or data. You might observe students using their senses to seek, collect, organize, analyze, and interpret information. Students who display the examine trait should always provide evidence to support or justify their responses and choices.

In the classroom, students make the examine trait visible when they check their work for quality (rather than quantity), searching for evidence as proof. They may use rubrics, checklists, or exemplars to show standards of quality within their work. Students also examine or look closely at details, data, and results of a science investigation before drawing a conclusion. To find solutions to math problems, students examine the relevant information in the problem and disregard the irrelevant as they use new learning and prior knowledge to search for an accurate solution. When a disagreement occurs, students must examine the entire situation without bias to be able to appropriately resolve the conflict.

While the examine trait is visible across the curriculum, it is a behavior that students will discover to be invaluable throughout their lives outside of the school setting. For example, prior to any decision made the examine trait can and should be applied (e.g., making a purchase, locating the best skateboard, selecting a meal from a menu, deciding if you can afford to go to a movie, picking a sport to play or an event to attend, choosing quality friends).  Developing an understanding of and utilization of the trait examine is essential to success in school, in the workplace, at home, and beyond.

The following questions can be asked ofstudents to facilitate focus and application of the trait examine. Feel free to adjust the vocabulary to promote understanding among students.

  • How do you assess the importance or relevance of information?
  • Do you ask questions to fill in gaps between what you know and what you do not know?
  • Do you ask ‘what if’ questions to generate multiple explanations and possibilities?
  • How does the trait examine enable you to discover patterns, trends, and connections?
  • How do you use evidence when you demonstrate the examine trait?
  • What are examples that show how the trait examine might be used in school, at home, in the workplace, or elsewhere in life?

In the next blog post, we’ll explore a sixth trait inquire.