Implementation Brief

Implementation Brief

Implementing Competency 4: Critical Thinking

Image showing unlit lightbulbs and only one litSelf-assessment is considered to be a major component of learning in public health.1 It provides an opportunity for health professionals to reflect on competency-based strengths and weaknesses in order to identify learning needs and reinforce new skills or behaviors in order to improve performance. The MCH Navigator has been collecting data from our online Self-Assessment for five years and during that time have identified a number of data trends. 

With nearly 3,000 completed assessments in the database, learners have consistently reported high levels of knowledge but low levels of skills across a number of competencies. This translates into MCH professionals having high levels of understanding of a competency but not as much self-efficacy in translating this knowledge into practice. In response to this need, the MCH Navigator has developed a series of implementation briefs that provide specific learning opportunities that focus on how to implement and execute skills associated with the MCH Leadership Competencies. This implementation brief is focused on Competency 4: Critical Thinking.

Trainings from the MCH Navigator

Image indicating that you can click on the image to watch a video explaining the implementation briefThinking is a natural process, but left to itself, it is often biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, and potentially prejudiced; excellence in thought must be cultivated.2

Complex challenges faced by MCH populations and the systems that serve them necessitate critical thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to identify an issue or problem, frame it as a specific question, consider it from multiple perspectives, evaluate relevant information, and develop a reasoned resolution.3 Critical thinkers raise vital questions and problems, formulate them clearly, gather and assess relevant information, use abstract ideas, think open-mindedly, and communicate effectively with others.

The theory of critical thinking began primarily with the works of Benjamin Bloom some 50 years ago who identified six levels within the cognitive domain.  Each domain related to a different level of cognitive ability: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.   The model used in this training brief believes critical thinking takes place in the upper three steps in Blooms taxonomy and created a 3-step framework toward helping health professional implement critical thinking skills.2

Step 1: Analysis - defined as critical thinking focused on parts and their functionality in the whole. Step 2: Synthesis - defined as critical thinking focused on putting parts together to form a new and original whole. Step 3: Evaluation - defined as critical thinking focused upon valuing and making judgments based upon information.

View each of the three steps below and corresponding learning opportunities for: 1) Analysis, 2) Synthesis, and 3) Evaluation.

Analysis: demonstrate an ability to see patterns and classify information, concepts and theories into component parts.

Synthesis: demonstrates an ability to relate knowledge from several areas to create new or original work.

Evaluation: demonstrates an ability to judge evidence based on reasoned argument.


  1. Sujata, B., Oliveras, E., and Edson, W.N. (2001). How Can Self-Assessment Improve the Quality of Healthcare?  Operations Research Issue Paper 2(4). Published for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by the Quality Assurance (QA) Project.
  2. Bloom, B. (1956). A taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.
  3. MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup (2018), "MCH Leadership Competencies Version 4.0".
  4. Scriven, M., & Paul, R. (2004). The Critical Thinking Community. Retrieved November 28, 2005, from gCT.shtml

Critical Thinking: Implementation Brief
June 2019
Authors: Keisha Watson, Ph.D., MCH Navigator
Reviewers: Faculty and staff of the National Center for Cultrual Competence

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $180,000/year. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.