What is critical thinking?

I first mentioned Alec Fisher’s fantastic introduction to critical thinking back in April 2011, in the second ever post on this blog. At the time I was just beginning my Open University journey, and was undertaking some extra-curricular reading by working my way through Fisher’s book.

Everyone with a curious mind should read this book. Instead of just accepting things the way they are, it teaches you to question everything, and never accept something at face value. In fact, critical thinking is so important I’d go as far as to say everyone with a curious mind should read this book several times throughout their life.

Reflective thinking

John Dewey (1909) cited in Fisher (2010) called it ‘reflective thinking’, and Fisher (2010) expands upon this idea, describing it as:

  • An active process
  • Thinking things through for yourself
  • Raising questions yourself
  • Finding relevant information yourself

What matters are the reasons we have for believing something and the implications of our beliefs. Critical thinking attaches huge importance to reasoning, to giving reasons and to evaluating reasoning as well as possible. Skilful reasoning is a key element of critical thinking.

An attitude or disposition

Edward Glaser (1941) cited in Fisher (2010) builds upon this, speaking about critical thinking being:

  • An attitude or disposition to be thoughtful about prpblems
  • Application of methods of logical enquiry and reasoning

Fisher points out how having certain thinking skills is important, but more important is being disposed to use them!

Thinking about thinking

According to Fisher, Richard Paul cited in Fisher (2010) draws attention to the fact that the only realistic way to develop one’s critical thinking ability is through ‘thinking about one’s thinking’ – often called ‘metacognition’ – and consciously aiming to improve it by reference to some model of good thinking in that domain.

A skilled activity

Michael Scriven cited in Fisher (2010) defines critical thinking as an academic competency akin to reading and writing. He points out that thinking does not count as critical merely because it is intended to be. Critical thinking is a skilled activity that has to meet certain standards of clarity, relevance, reasonableness, etc.

Ethical frameworks – the ‘CAT scan’

An interesting tool to use for analysing a situation from the perspective of a variety of different ethical frameworks is the Case Analysis Template – or ‘CAT scan’ for short.

CAT scan

Interest-based outlook

Identify interests. Are there conflicting interests with respect to this issue?

Rights-based outlook

Identify rights. Are there rights in conflict with interests or other rights?

Duty-based outlook

Identify duties. Are there tensions with rights or interests?

Virtue-based outlook

Identify virtues. Is character an issue?

Market research

From a social marketing perspective, market research:

  • Aids with strategic planning
  • Acts as a navigational aid
  • Enables client understanding

Essential to consider why, who, what, how, and also how many (if also carrying out quantitative market research).

Why? – the Social Marketing problem – understanding behaviour
Who? – the stakeholders to focus on
What? – qualitative: interviews, focus groups, questionnaires *
How? – use existing secondary data or gather new primary data specifically for this research problem
How many? – use surveys, audits, randomised controlled trials

* There is a need to be aware of Social Desirability Response bias when conducting qualitative market research. This can be countered to a degree by using ‘projective techniques’ – unstructured and indirect questioning.

See also Chapter 5 of Hastings & Domegan, 2014 for more.

Social marketing planning

The social marketing planning process is a central component of the B324 Marketing and society module.

There is a diagram on page 26 of the B324 Block 1 course book.

Situation Analysis

  • Internal & external appraisal using PEST

Stakeholder Analysis

  • Who? – Expectations, objectives, interests
  • Power/Interest matrix

Competitive Analysis

  • See Chapter 7 of Hastings & Domegan, 2014.

Harm Chain Analysis

  • See Figure 4.3 in Hastings & Domegan, 2014.

Segmentation & Targeting

  • Demographics, geographics, lifestyle, etc.


  • In terms of behavioural change
  • SMART – may be long-term

Marketing Mix

  • Social marketing ‘Product’ (i.e. core benefit, see Section 2.4 of Block 1)
  • Price, Place, Promotion


Monitoring & Evaluation

  • Impact evaluation (intended/unintended)
  • Summative evaluation (lessons learnt)
  • On-going process evaluation using market research

B324 – Marketing with a twist!

It’s been almost a year since I last updated. I’m really sorry to say this is becoming a familiar chant now on this blog. Once again, I do have reasons, the main one being that I have been trying to start a brand new business to make the most of what I have learnt on my OU studies so far. That’s been taking up a lot of my spare time.

Simultaneously, I’ve been doing the next course – B324, hence the title of this post – as well as running my existing small consulting business. To say things are a bit hectic is an understatement.

So … B324. When I signed up for the course I didn’t really have much of an idea what was going to be involved. I knew it was a Level 3 course, so I suspected it wouldn’t be easy. However, I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be for me to get my head round!

The full title for B324 is B324 Marketing and society. I’m now into my final weeks of the course, and am looking to start revising for the exam in a few days, but looking back I am pleased to see how much has been covered:

  • Block 1: Social marketing
  • Block 2: Ethics and marketing
  • Block 3: Responsible business marketing

The social marketing and ethics and marketing blocks were quite difficult to get my head round as I’ve never encountered them before. I enjoyed the course material, but my brain really did have to think differently at times. Social marketing is somewhat different to the commercial marketing I’m used to.

The responsible business marketing block looked at sustainability, green marketing, and Fair Trade. I really enjoyed this block, and would actually consider working in the field.

I’m planning on using this blog to store my exam revision notes for B324. That should make a nice little sum-up of the course content for anyone else who’s interested in taking it – as well as providing a little exam guidance too.