Home > Creativity, Military, Teaching > Reflections on strategic thinking, critical thinking and critical reading

Reflections on strategic thinking, critical thinking and critical reading

I just reviewed an excellent paper by MAJ David S. Johnston, Ph.D. entitled “Reading, Writing and Strategic Thinking: Service Schools Fail to Develop Critical Reading Skills of Rising Leaders”.  (paper available upon request)


Just as there are many forms of writing that our officers will perform in their career, so too are there forms & methods of reading.  MAJ Johnston makes the case for critical reading skills in this excellent paper, and asserts we are missing a critical component in the curriculum of service schools


We have collectively been looking formally at our writing program at our college, but my sense is that this has been driven more from a writing improvement approach than from a holistic review of writing as a requirement for effective communication. In the same way we probably consider reading from a “fix the first, worst problem” too.  This may be a part of our nature and culture.


Off the top of my head I can think of the following styles/purposes/modes of writing that require a specific set of techniques to be effective. I think 1-size-fits-all doesn’t work for writing or for reading.


Consider at a minimum the following demonstrably different, but each useful, writing styles:

1. formal academic

2. an expert practitioner’s accessible, professional synthesis

3. op-ed pieces

4. culturally sensitive strat comm messages

5. opords & oplans, policies, regulations

6. book reviews for popular & professional magazines

7. argumentative essays & information papers

8. copywriting for sales

9. executive summary paragraphs

10. speeches

11. blogging & web commentary (This IS an art form with its own pace, rhythm and technique)


Consider the following different reading styles and the different purposes they serve (and the techniques & skills that apply)

1. websearching & blogscanning

2. speedreading

3. scanning, reviewing, reading

4. purposeful searching reading (scanning for answers to specific questions)

5. critical, analytical reading


It seems to me that we should be looking at our reading and writing programs holistically and ensure we are addressing all required skills over the course of the year that we are privileged to share a classroom with our officers.

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