How to Help Students Improve Critical Thinking Skills

  • Anagha Vallikat
    Anagha Vallikat

Critical thinking can result in a class full of motivated students who are eager to learn new things.

Critical thinking skills play a major role in our lives and hence, they need to be honed right from childhood. These refer to not just thinking clearly or rationally, but also being skilled enough to analyze, assess and reconstruct things for making decisions efficiently in everyday lives. This compels teachers to come up with strategies of integrating them during classroom learning. It may feel like an abstract concept, but with the right techniques, it can be easily inculcated in students.

Best strategies for developing critical thinking skills in students:

Some simple strategies that need to be followed for this are explained below:

i. Questioning:

This technique is the simplest and easiest way to foster critical thinking. Open-ended questions compel students to think deeper. Bloom's Taxonomy can be helpful in this. It helps them examine their knowledge of a topic. Though they might feel frustrated sometimes, teachers can explain if the concept is well understood using the technique.

ii. Let students lead the discussions:

It needs students to reflect metacognitively, i.e. they begin thinking about their thoughts and learn. Instead of being dependent on teachers, they start discussing things with their peers to come up with answers to questions. Interesting activities such as mystery games are a great way to keep students engaged and enhance their critical thinking.  

iii. Collaboration with peers:

The ability to ask questions and analyze answers is a crucial aspect of critical thinking, which is promoted when students not only discuss with their peers but also begin to take ownership of their work. It makes them independent. If teachers start using this during the learning phase for any chapter, there will be less chance of misunderstandings and better clarity on a topic. During collaboration, they do not just interact but also learn to accept that everyone can have different thought processes. They learn that there is no single approach to solving a problem.

iv. Learning through inquiry:

It doesn't just involve asking what students want to learn but activating interest and curiosity. So, teachers can help students develop questions and start thinking about answering higher-order thinking questions. Encourage students to do this by letting them explore topics that they find exciting.

v. Solving problems:

This promotes critical thinking by providing students with a structure to discover and deepen their understanding.  It has some simple steps which can be followed for every new topic. The first step is to explore an issue by letting students gather details to arrive at a solution. They should be allowed to present their solutions to everyone in the classroom, and these need to be discussed in detail. While doing this, it is important to see if they have clarity on the steps involved.

vi. Letting students make decisions:

Critical thinking not only involves applying knowledge but also evaluating solutions, which help in decision-making. It helps them understand the pros and cons of different solutions to zero in the idea which works the best for them.

vii. Exploration of concepts from different perspectives:

This tactic involves encouraging students to explore ideas from different points of view instead of quickly forming an opinion. It gives them a chance to share their views as well as listen to others and think from different angles. This makes them flexible thinkers. At the same time, they can put forth their own opinion and draw inferences without being influenced by anyone.

viii. Connecting ideas and inspiring creativity:

Teachers must present situations to students that can help them consider different angles for situations. Thus, they would use their prior knowledge for new contexts. Apart from this, teachers must use new ways to inspire creativity in students such as asking them to create an interesting game, write a story, design their classroom in an event, and much more. Brainstorming can be used to encourage critical thinking by pairing it with visual elements to bring discussions to life.

ix. Asking students to clarify meaning and translate thoughts to pictures:

While practicing something, students can be asked to express their thoughts in their own words in different ways, while ensuring that the meaning remains intact. They should be encouraged to make meaningful differentiation. And while telling them to do things in a certain way, it is crucial to tell them the reasons, so that they understand the motive behind it. Apart from this, critical thinking must not just be confined to academic or factual matters, but also to moral, ethical issues and problems related to public policies.

Humans are visual learners. Translating a thought to a picture encourages critical thinking. Students learn to use a different mental skill set in this way.

x. Role playing:

It involves acting as someone else, which calls for an analytical and creative mind. Teachers can pair students and assign them roles with a different point of view, and let them decide which character they want to play. They might have different points of view in the conflict, but they should be able to discuss and suggest a compromise.

Conclusion

Teachers must aim at promoting critical thinking skills in a classroom. This can result in a class full of motivated students who are excited to learn new things. Critical thinking helps them lead a rational and empathetic life. Students mastering this skill can think independently and differentiate between influences which shape their personality and which don't.