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Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Your Students

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It’s very typical for many to think that education is mostly about gaining knowledge. However, learning is far more complex than just taking out information read from a book or something heard from a teacher. Aside from all the knowledge, learning also involves the application process of all this knowledge. And as such, through this, children can also develop their critical thinking skills.

What is critical thinking?

Now that we’re beginning to talk about critical thinking, let’s first properly understand what it means. However, since critical thinking is a very abstract concept, it may be difficult to actually define it.

While an agreed definition is still debated upon, experts do agree on some essentials for critical thinking such as independent thinking. It generally refers to one’s ability to reflect on an idea, apply proper reasoning, and make logical connections between these ideas. Additionally, critical learners are also characterized as active learners. They are not afraid to question and challenge assumptions rather than accepting them as is.

Importance of critical thinking

Since critical thinking is so talked about in the academe and every educator wants to emphasize its development to their students, it brings up the question of just how important is critical thinking to children? Here are a few reasons:

• Career

Students study so that soon, they may start to build their careers in the future. There are several studies that indicate critical thinking skills as one of the most valued traits an employer wants to see in their employees. They are more inclined to hire employees who exhibit critical thinking skills. They want to see problem-solving and decision-making skills in their employees and the rise for demand for critical thinking skills is only growing.

• Fewer negative life events

Since critical thinking skills are also in relation to decision-making skills, many studies also show that through these skills, people have experienced fewer negative life events such as racking up credit card debt or drunk driving. Many critical thinkers see the outcome of their actions when making decisions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

Now that we’ve finished talking about the importance of critical thinking outside of the academe, it’s time to tackle about the ways to develop critical thinking skills for students. Remember that these skills are very important and can help them not just in school but also in their daily lives.

1. Ask open-ended questions

While there are many questions that usually involve knowledge that can be read in a book, these questions are also more into memorization and don’t help critical thinking at all. Instead of asking the usual questions that have definitive answers, why not try questions that will force them to think? Open-ended questions can help make the students think as well as give their opinion about the topic. To make this easier for tutors, try opening the questions with definitive answers and then delve deeper into the topic using open-ended questions.

2. Use problem-solving

Another way to enhance critical thinking is to present the student with a tricky problem. When faced with a tricky problem, students will have to use not just their rational and logical thinking skills but also creativity to help solve the problem. This doesn’t mean, however, that these problems are only for subjects such as Math or Science. As such, using problems that they can relate to would also be good for them as it withholds interest while still being used as a means to get the gears in their heads turning.

3. Encourage creativity

As mentioned above, creativity can also be used to improve the development of critical thinking skills. However, many definitive answers also block out the student’s creativity. While there are already many formulas that can solve problems, it’s also important to encourage creativity in students and encourage them to use their new ideas. Ask them to give further suggestions when presented with a problem. For younger children, playtime can also be used as a way to encourage their creativity.

4. Play brain games

Brain games also provide students with the exercise of their critical thinking skills. They push the players to think really hard and to plot in order to win. When playing games like these, rewards are also important to motivate students and keep them going in practicing their critical thinking skills.

5. Encourage independent learning

Do not make the student totally dependent on their tutor, especially in answering questions. There are many home tutors who answer the same questions they have thrown at their students. If the student is struggling with answering, the best way to do it direct them to the correct path in order for them to reach the right answers. However, if the tutor answers the questions, it will just make the student more dependent on their tutor’s answers. Remember, you may already know the answers to these questions. As such, this will also not help students when they are answering tests in school or if there are changes in the way the question is asked. Let the child think for themselves, steer them in the correct direction, but, ultimately, let them discover and give the right answers.

6. Give examples

Since critical thinking really doesn’t have a fully agreed-upon definition, it may also be harder to understand, especially for young students and beginners. The best way to help them understand critical thinking and why it’s important is to give good examples of it. Tell the student about how critical thinkers are good real-life problem solvers and the rewards for these skills. Tell them also the importance of developing and improving these skills for the long run.

7. Practice classifying thoughts

Classifying thoughts isn’t really a new technique. It can be used in memorizing and studying. However, it is quite effective. The same can be done when students are also developing their critical thinking skills. Classifying thoughts comes with organizing them as well. When students practice sorting out their ideas into different classifications, assessing which works for them in different situations will also be easier.

8. Do vocabulary lessons

Creativity and encouraging children to make judgments of their own is good and all. However, it shouldn’t stop there. Children should also be given a chance and lessons on how to express these thoughts and opinions properly. Tutors can help them through vocabulary lessons that would help them meet and understand new words they can use every day. These words will widen their vocabulary and it will also help them expound more about their judgments and opinions. As such, this will not only help the child verbally but also can help them organize their thoughts even in writing.

9. Practice connecting ideas

Since we have been talking about the organization of thoughts and ideas and how important it can be for children to be able to do so, let’s also not forget a vital part of this which is connecting those ideas to one another. Children can explore on their own or they can have their tutors help them discover the relationships between the ideas that they already have. These ideas can be connected by their definition, their similarities and differences, and which one they can use more to give the best possible answer.

10. Demonstrate

Since we have been talking about the organization of thoughts and ideas and how important it can be for children to be able to do so, let’s also not forget a vital part of this which is connecting those ideas to one another. Children can explore on their own or they can have their tutors help them discover the relationships between the ideas that they already have. These ideas can be connected by their definition, their similarities and differences, and which one they can use more to give the best possible answer.

11. Incorporate debates

Debates aren’t the same as pointless arguments. Healthy debates feed off rational and logical thinking and also tests their critical thinking skills. They will learn to argue using the proper method of a debate and hold their own opinions and stand by them while backing them up with relevant facts. Another thing they will be able to achieve through debates is that they will be able to practice finding possible weaknesses in their opponent or even their own logic and find means to work their way around those or if it’s from their opponent, they can use it to their advantage.

12. Try peer assessments

Children may not think the same way as adults and what better way to help students develop critical thinking than by giving them the chance to bounce off ideas with people in their age bracket? In school, students will be with other students and they will also be learning and collaborating with these same students so it would make sense that they also share ideas with each other. Tutors can bring in other students in a meet-up or collaboration with other students. They can bounce off ideas with every activity and weigh down their options based on their advantages and disadvantages. With this, they will be able to come to a conclusion while still supporting independent thinking. This activity doesn’t have to be a usual occurrence but it would be beneficial for developing students’ critical thinking skills.

Carelle

Carelle

Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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