Volume 31, Issue 1, Spring 2016
Richard Paul’s Approach to Critical Thinking
Comprehensiveness, Systematicity, and Practicality
Richard Paul changed the face and the practice of critical thinking for hundreds of thousands of educators, professionals, and reflective persons across the world. In this paper I describe Paul’s goals and, briefly, some of his achievements in articulating his robust approach to critical thinking. I focus primarily on its direct orientation to practicality; its comprehensiveness, its applicability in any domain; and its systematicity, its coherent, interlocking way of laying out all the significant dimensions of critical thinking consistent with use in practice. I also describe some implications of Paul’s work: its relation to other models or approaches that are more limited in their comprehensiveness, systematicity, and/or practicality; the contrast between Paul’s maximally flexible account and accounts or teaching practices based on specific directives; and the capacity Paul’s articulation carries with it of being able to enhance any approach to thinking things through.