Why Critical Thinking and Teamwork Matter the Most

or: Skills that you need and employers want!

Everybody needs to be able to think. This fact won’t come as a shock to anyone. To excel in school, to make contributions to our communities, to perform well at any job from salesperson to surgeon -- all facets of life require our best critical thinking skills.

Often, though, we think of critical thinking as something to be developed in school and then left to its own devices. It’s woven carefully into many school curricula, but rarely brought up around the water cooler. Why this disparity? After all, everything from voting in an election to managing your daily schedule requires you to critically assess situations, evaluate explanations, and make informed decisions.

A 2014 survey conducted by Shapiro at the Penn State Office of Career Services shed some light on the true importance of critical thinking for lifelong success. The office asked 16,000 corporate employers about the skills and attributes they find most important in an employee.

When the results were tabulated, many students were surprised to hear that having a high GPA was ranked the least important factor by quite a margin. The most important factor? Critical thinking skills, followed closely by the ability to work as a team.

It’s really not surprising that critical thinking and teamwork are sought-after skills, as they go hand in hand. A classic study published by Gokhale in 1995 found that collaborative learning -- working together to learn about a topic, rather than studying it individually -- led to a greater critical understanding of the topic, as measured by a critical thinking evaluation on the topic.

This concept of collaborative working clearly begins in the classroom, but must be extrapolated into adulthood and especially the workplace (McPeck, 1980). Teamwork and critical thinking are the skills that employers want, and they’re the skills we all need to live meaningful, productive lives.

Have you found any really great ways to develop teamwork and critical thinking abilities in the workplace? If so, please share them in the comments!


Gokhale, A. A. (1995, July 26). Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from Journal of Technology Education, http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/v7n1/gokhale.jte-v7n1.html?ref=Sawos.OrgMcPeck, J. E. (1981).

Critical Thinking and Education. New York: St. Martin's Press.Shapiro, Keith. (2014, April 11). Critical thinking and teamwork rate highest with employers. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://gened.psu.edu/2014/04/11/critical-thinking-and-teamwork-rate-highest-with-employers/