What are the thinking skills?

What exactly are the Thinking Skills?

Many years ago Thelma Epley (1982) synthesised the following useful clusters of Thinking Skills from the work of thinking gurus Robert Ennis, Albert Lipton, J.P. Guilford, Edward de Bono, E.P. Torrance, and others. Her findings are still relevant today. Note that metacognition is common to all of the clusters; metacognition is in essence, thinking about your own thinking. As Art Costa (1989, Page 64) says, metacognition is “…our ability to plan a strategy for producing needed information, to be conscious of our own steps and strategies during the act of problem-solving, and to reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of our own thinking”.

✔ Tip:
Don’t go for a “grab-bag of activities”. For a defensible thinking skills programme, you MUST have a specific aim in mind, an outcome you can see or measure (which is why quite a few of the resources in this book have evaluation records for you). The skills or tools must be transferable! Slow and steady is a sensible rule.



Creative Thinking:


• analyses open-ended situations/ problems, and restates, re-organises or breaks down the problem

• lists attributes of objects and situations

• generates ideas

• generates multiple ideas to support multiple viewpoints on the same issue

• identifies and examines alternatives

• ranks alternatives and chooses the best

• uses insight

• uses intuition

• seeks relationships between situations which may appear unconnected


• makes unusual connections

• tolerates ambiguity, holds conclusions off to search for innovative ideas

• elaborates details

• synthesises from various sources to form a new whole

• extrapolates from limited facts

• inverts

• uses imagery

• uses metacognition

Critical thinking (Thinking in Judgement and Decision-Making):


• identifies fact, opinion, and reasoned arguments

• recognises evidence and checks it

• recognises value systems and ideologies

• distinguishes between valid and questionable assumptions

• spots inconsistencies and gaps in information

• recognises bias, prejudice and propaganda

• gathers and organises data


• decides whether statements contradict each other

• avoids appealing to the sentiments

• recognises that it is false to consider only two alternatives (right and wrong)

• arrives at a reasonable judgement

• evaluates judgements

• uses metacognition

Thinking in Problem-Solving (critical and creative thinking):

• identifies the general problem

• lists attributes of the problem

• clarifies the problem

• formulates questions about the problem

• formulates hypotheses for testing

• evaluates hypotheses

• figures out experiments to test hypotheses

• determines what information is needed

• thinks of solutions

• examines and ranks solutions

• chooses the best solution

• monitors acceptance of solutions

• uses metacognition

Share techniques and models with your students
so that you – and they –
can systematically incorporate thinking skills
into your programme

From How to Teach Thinking Skills – Revised. By Jean Edwards ©ThinkShop 2005

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