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Critical Thinking in Social Service

Updated on April 17, 2016

The Best Thinkers

“The best thinkers use their ability to think well in every dimension of their lives” (Paul & Elder, 2006 Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, 2e) Critical thinking as defined by Paul and Elder, “Critical thinking is that mode of thinking—about any subject, content, or problem—in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.” Critical thought should be used in all decision-making areas, not just the important decisions. When an individual is dealing with decisions that affect another’s life or livelihood we as people tend to really consider the process that includes decision alternatives and possible outcomes to each alternative identified.

Civil Servants Make Difficult Decisions

Homeless assistance decisions are an area in which client’s lives and their children could be greatly influenced either positively or negatively. Funds were limited, and not everyone could be included in this program. All aspects of an application were analyzed and acceptance or rejection would be the outcome for everyone that applied. Critical thought on the following categories was applied to family size, income verses income limits, the duration of the homeless circumstance, prior homeless assistance, and the need of the family. As a homeless assistance worker, the pending decision outcome and the possible effects of a negative decision weighed heavily on those who worked homeless cases. It is sometimes difficult to make challenging choices, especially when children are involved.

Poverty Level Assistance Programs

If homeless assistance workers made decisions without using critical thinking and determined acceptance or refusal of the assistance program based on gut-instinct, couple like-ability or dislike; it would be biased, prejudicial, and un-fair. “Social workers are often faced with situations that require excellent critical thinking; being able to objectively and intellectually evaluate a client's needs is imperative, and well as being able to quickly and efficiently decipher how best to meet those needs, which also requires the use of critical thinking. Use of these skills is a daily requirement, and the qualities of a good critical thinker are actually related to the qualities and skills that are found in most social workers and human services workers” (Mason, 2009

Critical Thinking is Important, Personally and Professionally

The absence of critical thought in one’s personal and professional lives can lead to bad decisions that can ultimately make someone loose a job, a spouse, a home, and can greatly hinder and affect one’s children. Parents are a child’s first teacher. If a parent fails to make good choices in their personal and professional worlds the after-math will have great influence on the people in that person’s household. Beyond being involved in the collateral damage of bad decisions, a child will be un-likely to learn how to make good decisions based on critical thinking if his parental teacher has not allowed or demonstrated such skills.

Critical Thinking can Empower

“The main goal of teaching your children critical thinking is to help them become empowered to take the accurate sense of information, adapt to new and emerging situations and develop necessary skills to identify, and solve any type of problems” (Loh, 2011 Brainy Child). Critical thinking serves everyone involved in the process. If an employee uses critical thinking in all decisions he not only becomes a more effective thinker in the process but also has a better chance at making the best possible choice when a decision is needed. That employee is identifying the issue and appropriate objections and problem effects. He is determining the root of the problem, perceiving possible choice options, considering decision out-comes, concluding his choice, executing his decision, and finally evaluating his decision for correctness and accuracy. This is an intentional process that uses knowledge, evaluates what is known, and disconnects reason from sentiment.

The World is all Kinds of Gray

“Non-critical thinkers see things in black and white, as either-or, rather than recognizing a variety of possible understanding, and they fail to see common links and complexities” (Kurland, 2000 within decision making. The lack of critical thinking is somewhat connected to common sense. Usually the best choice that can be made may be obvious to an outside third-party, but may be foreign for the decision-maker. When an emotion like anger becomes part of the decision-making equation it can greatly skew the options a person may have, and likely result in a poor decision. Employees have an obligation to their employers to make the soundest judgments possible. When an employee fails, it affects those around the employee: co-workers, employer, and customers/client’s; and may ultimately lead to poor job performance, satisfaction and quality of life.


Mason, R (2009). Importance of Critical Thinking Active Reading and Effective Writing for Social Workers. retrieved April 9, 2011

Paul, R. & Elder, L. (2006) Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, 2e. Prentice Hall, Inc. A Pearson Education Company. Chapter 1, page 1.


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      Janine 2 years ago

      That's a shrewd answer to a tricky qustoien