DEVELOPING CRITICAL THINKING
by Dr. Babis Bakopoulos
Director of MyTopEducation Network
It is generally acknowledged that children should grow up being analytical and critical in the judgments they make. While children are expected to pass their class tests, bringing up a class of like-minded students with a robotic sense cannot be used to define the goal of education(Ennis, 1993 pp 181). If society wishes to advance and discover solutions to the many societal problems, then the parents should be told to develop critical and analytical thinking in their children from a tender age. Critical thinking entails integrating one's thinking to a deeper level of understanding where the knowledge can be applied in real life situations(King and Kitchener, 1994). MyTopUni tutors around the world help students to develop critical thinking through by designing activities to incorporate critical thinking. This article picks on some of the strategies and tips used with success by our tutors which can be used by parents to help students develop critical thinking.
Strategies and Tips to Developing Critical Thinking
The first strategy that parents can use to instill critical thinking in children is engaging them in the productive struggle. This entails a platform where students grapple with challenging issues and formulate solutions by themselves(Brookfield, 1987). The productive struggle also entails developing resilience and persistence in pursuit and attainment of the learning goal. The teachers, on the other hand, can aim at designing the classroom assignment with the end or solution in mind. In other words, if society wants students to apply their learning through autonomous performance then there should also be the need to design the curriculum backward from its goal. With this in the curriculum, students would train themselves on how to think critically and apply their understanding of real-life situations.
One common barrier to critical thinking used by many teachers is the idea of marching through standards and covering each unit of study. These standards are usually not formulated to be a checklist. Furthermore, students also need more time for reflection and to develop a deeper understanding of a concept. Often, parents and the teachers provide a safe zone which does not give failure as an option. Most teachers and parents prefer spoon-feeding students with the correct answer to giving students the option of creating, collaborating, thinking critically, analyzing, writing and exploring.
Another way of developing critical thinking skills is through accountable talk. This kind of talk provides a structured framework to engage in thought-provoking issues which help them reinforce their ability to think and reflect on issues critically and analytically. Another way of developing critical thinking in students is through the essential question. An essential question is one which supports students understanding and cuts across disciplines(Meyers, 1986 pp 2086). These are timeless questions which give the students the opportunity to ponder, understand deeply what the question entails. Often, these questions do not have a fixed answer but rather gives the student the chance to make their arguments using supportive facts. For most organizations, employers seek to recruit employees who can think critically, provide solutions to problems, and add value to the organization.
Another strategy is on reflection. Reflection may come in many ways including group work, reflective journals, personal reflections, diaries, and many other examples. Teachers should not focus on rushing on to the next unit but should instead allow students to reflect on their previous units and share what they already learned(Halpern, 1999). Parents should also give their children time to reflect on their experiences and put it down in a diary or personal journal. Reflection helps students to construct meaning out of their experiences. Teachers should also practice formative assessment. This is a process or method used to measure students understanding. While most schools have misinterpreted the meaning of formative assessment to mean test preparation, this kind of assessment goes deeper beyond the classroom examinations.