Lesson 4: Envision


As we discussed in the previous lessons, the critical thinking levels range from less complex to more complex cognitive development. This final level in critical thinking is the most complex - Envisioning. When you reach this level of critical thinking, you will be able to acknowledge, explain, and monitor limitations of the endorsed solution, and integrate skills into an ongoing process for generating and using information to guide strategic innovation.

In this lesson, we will cover the most complex skill of critical thinking – Envisioning. We will discuss the ongoing process of critical thinking and integrating critical thinking into all aspects of your decision making process.

critical skill chart step four

At the end of this module, students will be able to:

  • Recognize the level of cognitive complexity for becoming an expert critical thinker
  • Describe the benefits of thinking critically

What is Envisioning?

gazing into the horizon

Envisioning is - to picture in the mind; imagine; to picture mentally, esp. some future event or events; to envision a bright future.

The skills for the Envisioning level include:

  • recognizing that no “perfect” course of action exists
  • anticipating and planning for future issues that might arise

Level of Cognitive Complexity

An individual with strong critical thinking skills plans for change and reinterpretation as the planned course of action is implemented and would be prepared to modify the plan as circumstances change. Strong critical thinking skills also involve reflecting on the situation over time, potentially leading to a reassessment of values and even more appropriate responses to future situations.1

In this level of critical thinking, individuals can see far and wide. They process information in new ways. They devise innovative strategies to generate information over time, helping them to be more confident in their decisions. They refine their approaches to a problem as new information becomes available and deliberately apply what they learn to new situations. Although creativity and intuition can come into play at any point in the problem solving process, it is much more likely to be productive with stage 4 skills because the new ideas can be tested through ongoing inquiry. Individuals who are researchers require stage 4 skills, and this is what moves a discipline or profession forward.

Those who have mastered this level (experts) of critical thinking can identify problems, relevant information, and uncertainties in much more complex ways than novices. Because they have seen similar patterns of information and have developed strategies for identifying situations that do not fit expectations. Experts explore the problem and establish priorities much more efficiently than novices.

When assessing your solution, you may ask yourself:

  • What are the limitations, weaknesses, or unknown aspects related to your proposed solution?
  • What are the implications of those limitations?
  • What new information or changes in conditions might lead you to re-address the problem?
  • What strategies could be implemented to monitor the results of your conclusions and help you revise your approach as needed?

Benefits of Critical Thinking

An expert critical thinker knows how to separate facts from opinions, how to examine an issue from all sides, how to make rational decisions, and how to withhold personal judgment or biases.


Critical thinking allows us to recognize that there is no single solution. It helps us to better understand ourselves and others by evaluating our thoughts and ideas without bias. It helps us to deal with complex, real-world problems by thinking things through and not limiting our thoughts. It can improve performance in the workplace, at home, and as a member of society.

When reaching stage 4, you will recognize the limitations, be prepared for changes to occur, and plan for the future.

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