Step 5: Critically analyze information and conflicts
In the case of congested parking on campus, many students believe they are engaging in critical thought by pinpointing the various reasons why parking is difficult. This is indeed one level of critical thinking; however, an adept interdisciplinarian will go a step further and explore why so many people are trying to park on campus in the first place.
In other words, most people will employ critical thought to examine why the 'normal' is not working well, but a truly innovative critical thinker will ask: "Why is the 'normal' normal in the first place?" In regards to parking on campus, this level of critical thought leads to a host of further questions that will likely compel novel and innovative ideas.
For example, in asking why so many people want to park on campus in the first place, one might be led to ask the following questions:
- Why do most people tend to drive to campus?
- Why not more car pools?
- Why not park away from campus and walk/bike/board around campus?
- Why not take more online courses?
- What's wrong with public transit?
- How can people's hearts and minds be influenced to try new ways of getting to campus?
- There undoubtedly many more possible questions.
Step 6: Integrate insights for innovative ideas and solutions
This step is undoubtedly the most difficult to define, and often difficult to accomplish. What is important to remember here, however, is that integration may lead to a whole host of possible solutions which may require trial and error testing to determine their actual viability. The point is to be open to whatever insights or solutions appear. A skilled interdisciplinarian will be open-minded to what at first may seem like unconventional or counter-intuitive solutions. Remember that truly critical thinking typically challenges the status quo, and so insights and solutions will likely challenge the status quo also.
After much deliberation, students came up with the following list of possible ways to address the parking problem on campus:
- Connect the issue of parking to health and wellness. Include Fitbits with parking passes to encourage drivers to park in less congested parking areas and walk around campus.
- Offer tuition credits to students who commit to car-pooling or using public transit throughout the semester.
- Create a campus-specific Uber-type app to facilitate car-pooling.
- Raise the profile of public transit by conducting a public relations campaign in which high-profile persons (such as athletes or celebrities) are documented using public transit for a week. This would reduce stigma associated with public transit and the spotlight may encourage greater investment in public transit infrastructure such as adding more stops and more convenient routes.
- These are just a few suggestions. There were many more.
Step 6: Reflection
This step requires reflection on how the process has broadened the view of the problem/issue/topic. At this point, proposed solutions can be reviewed and any step of the process can be re-visited and/or repeated. One might also use this step to consider the next steps in terms of implementing and testing proposed solutions.