HOW CAN CRITICAL THINKING BE CENTRAL AND BENEFICIAL TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, and ADULTS ALIKE?

In my first post on Critical Thinking, my focus was on:

  • Defining it.
  • The benefit of foresight
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Critical thinking at home

In this second post, my focus is on:

  • Asking questions – Reasoning and Problem-solving
  • Developing Critical Thinking Skills
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking
  • Questioning To Develop Critical Thinking
  • 18 Ways To Develop Critical Thinking Among Students

Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you ― Richard Dawkins

Asking Questions To Model The Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is a self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically, consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably and empathically.

Teachers model critical thinking by the type of questions they ask. By framing questions that explore each of the critical thinking skills, one at a time and by referring to Bloom’s taxonomy to help them set the correct level of challenge through reasoning and problem solving that will make students thrive in this challenging world.

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking

Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives (1956) provides a useful way to think about when and how to use questions in teaching. As the following shows, Bloom identified six types of cognitive processes and ordered these according to the level of complexity involved. Ideally, teachers should combine questions that require “lower-order thinking” (often “closed” questions) to assess students’ knowledge and comprehension with questions that require “higher-order thinking” (often “open” questions) to assess students’ abilities to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.

LOWER LEVEL QUESTIONING

REMEMBERING  – This means memorizing and recalling facts by recognizing, listing, describing, identifying, retrieving or naming, eg:

  • What do we already know about . . . ?
  • What are the principles of . . . ?
  • How does . . . tie in with what we learned before?

UNDERSTANDING  – This is interpreting meaning by describing, generalizing, explaining, estimating or predicting, eg:

  • Summarize . . . or Explain . . .
  • What will happen if . . . ?
  • What does . . . mean?

To develop critical thinking skills, teachers model the thinking processes necessary for the development of the skills. The thinking process is cyclical, containing several key steps, starting with an issue or focus, before then questioning and analysing the evidence, then empathising and defining possible hypothesise, before forming a view or reviewing the evidence.

HIGHER LEVEL QUESTIONING

APPLYINGThis means applying knowledge to new situations by implementing, carrying out, using, applying, showing, solving or hypothesizing, eg:

  • What would happen if…?
  • What is a new example of…?
  • How could … be used to…?
  • What is the counterargument for…?

ANALYZING – It is breaking down or examining information through comparing, organizing or deconstructing, eg:

  • What are the implications of . . .?
  • Explain why / Explain how . . . ?
  • What is … analogous to . . . ?
  • How are … and … similar?

EVALUATING – This is judging or deciding according to a set of criteria by checking, critiquing, concluding or explaining, eg:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement…?
  • What evidence is there to support your answer?
  • What are the strengths and weakness of . . .?
  • What is the nature of . . .?

CREATING/SYNTHESISING  – This is combining elements into a new pattern by designing, constructing, planning or producing, eg:

  • What is the solution to the problem of…?
  • What do you think causes…?  Why?
  • What is another way to look at…?

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking has been an important issue in education, and has become quite the buzzword around schools. Critical thinking is a skill that young minds will undeniably need and exercise well beyond their school years. Experts agree that in keeping up with the ever-changing technological advances, students will need to obtain, understand and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. It is our job as educators to equip our students with the strategies and skills they need to think critically in order to cope with these tech problems and obstacles they face elsewhere.

18 Ways To Develop Critical Thinking Among Students

These techniques can generate ideas to develop critical thinking in students:

  1. BRAINSTORMING before everything you do – One of the easiest and most effective ways to get students to think critically is to brainstorm. Regardless of subject, have students think about what they’ll be doing, learning or reading before actually starting each activity. Ask a lot of questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me three things you think you will be learning in this lesson about . . .” Give students every opportunity you can to be critical thinkers.
  2. GUIDING them as they gather and question as much relevant information as possible/sufficient to inform thinking, eg: mind map or visual organiser, pair-share or collective memory.
  3. USING SCAFFOLDS to organise their thinking, eg: listing evidence For and Against.
  4. BALANCING VIEWS and contradictory or opposing evidence, weighing one set against another, eg: ideas on post-it notes, info-graphs or role play.
  5. CONFERENCE STYLE LEARNING – Another strategy to develop critical thinking in students is for the teacher to avoid “teaching” in class, but play the role of a facilitator in a conference, where you guide the class along even as students are the ones who do the reading and explaining. It is important that teachers’ do not misinterpret their role to be passive but remain in control of the lesson while letting the students do the thinking.
  6. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS – By giving students broad writing assignments allows them to think through an issue. Teachers should encourage students to reason and argue both sides of the issue as well as subjecting thinking to challenges and hypothesis forming.
  7. EXPLORING ideas from different perspectives and empathise, eg: imagine a situation from the perspective of others or arrange a debate.
  8. Asking students to JUSTIFY THEIR REASONING and the views they arrive at, eg: hot-seating or debate.
  9. AVOIDING BEING JUDGMENTAL, eg: empathise and continually test their own perspective.
  10. AMBIGUITY – Being a little ambiguous forces students to think for themselves. Remember though that there is a difference between being ambiguous and simply confusing your students.
  11. MODELLING the use of good critical thinking questions, to find out more and think problems through.
  12. Providing GROUP OPPORTUNITIES – Group settings are the perfect way to get students thinking. When students are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think and that their way is not the only route to explore.
  13. MAKING CONNECTIONS – Encourage students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look out for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.
  14. Designing QUESTIONNAIRES by students for an interview that is part of a project based learning or for a guest speaker talking on a specific topic of interest followed by analyzing and interpreting their findings make the students active learners. This, in turn, would aid in making meaningful connections, proving and altering their hypothesis and drawing relevant conclusions.
  15. COMPARING and CONTRASTING – Much like classifying, students will need to look closely at each topic or object they are comparing and really think about the significance of each one.
  16. CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES – In this technique, the teacher lets the student assess the lessons on an ongoing basis. Posing questions like ‘What’s the most important you learnt from today’s lesson’ will get into thinking critically.
  17. CLASSIFYING and CATEGORIZING – Classification plays an important role in critical thinking because it requires students to understand and apply a set of rules. Give students a variety of objects/ideas and ask them to identify each one of them, then sort them into categories. This is a great activity to help students think and self-question what objects/ideas should go where and why.
  18. CASE STUDY/ DISCUSSION METHOD – This technique helps to foster a discussion or present a case study in the classroom. The teacher does not present a conclusion but would let the students wander through the discussion or case and think their way to a conclusion.

Surely, the development of critical thinking skills like any other skill needs adequate exposure and opportunities to apply them. All this demands teachers’ use of innovative and creative mode of teaching and learning in this ever-changing world of education.

 Do you have some strategies that you can use to encourage critical thinking in the classroom? Please share your ideas.

Closely related to the benefits of teaching Critical Thinking skills among OUR students and children at home is the issue of REASONING. Hence, my THIRD post is entitled:

Amazing Ideas On Training Reasoning Skills Among Students

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!

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13 thoughts on “HOW CAN CRITICAL THINKING BE CENTRAL AND BENEFICIAL TO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, and ADULTS ALIKE?

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