Encouraging Critical Thinkers in the Classroom

A lot of educators place a huge emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, and for good reason. Critical thinking is a crucial life skill and is important in exercising young minds beyond mere memorization and theoretical knowledge. It guides one in making sound decisions, differentiating right from wrong, and solving problems in alternative and creative ways.

Fortunately, you don’t have to devote hours of lesson planning or spend thousands of bucks just to teach this valuable life skill. Here are five proven techniques that can help you foster a child’s critical thinking skills.

Ask questions

Asking open-ended questions that go beyond the traditional yes or no questions is one of the simplest ways to foster critical thinking. Essential questions, such as the ones that answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of any issue, push students to dig deeper into their learning and allow them to brainstorm and find answers themselves. It is easy to incorporate questioning in everyday lectures, as well as small group discussions with their classmates.

Allow students to inquire

You should not be the only ones doing the questioning. Allowing the students to be creative and inquire about topics that pique their interests can also be another way to encourage critical thinking. When you allow students to ask questions, they can build background knowledge, search for new information, synthesize new learning, demonstrate understanding, and share what they learned with others. Throughout the process of inquiry, students can probe for deeper meaning, thereby sharpening their critical-thinking skills.

Collaborate with peer groups

Critical-thinking skills can be easily developed through teamwork and collaboration. Being in the company of their peers exposes students to other people’s thought processes. This enables them to understand how other people think. Peers are a great source of guesses, predictions, information, questions, and problem-solving tactics. When students collaborate with one another, they learn to communicate with others effectively and work as a team. Aside from fostering critical thinking, the collaboration also helps improve their interpersonal and social skills.

Encourage problem solving

Simply delivering answers to students will not help them develop their critical-thinking skills. Instead, you should help students analyze the problem or issue, giving the students the opportunity to solve these problems on their own. This is the very essence of asking essential questions that pave the way for the process of discovery and the synthesis of knowledge. It extends the inquiry process and allows students to apply the theoretical, critical-thinking strategies that they have learned.

Employ fun activities

There are many simple activities that exercise students’ critical thinking skills. For instance, a debate activity where students are paired up, given an issue to discuss, and asked to take on an opposing point of view is a great way to encourage critical thinking. It also allows them to understand each other’s point of view and reach a compromise. English teachers can also use classic novels to bring out empathy in students, allowing them to learn lessons from narratives, characterization, motivation, and plot themes.

Since critical thinking is a lifelong skill, students will benefit greatly from the exposure given to them in the classroom setting. This will allow them to apply everything that they have learned in the classroom to their everyday activities and decisions.

Maria Dublin
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Maria is a writer, an editor, and a law student. She plays for the Philippine national touch football team, and does a lot of travelling during the holidays.