10 Tips for Improving Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is paramount to the development of students and should be the goal of all teachers no matter what subject they teach. Teachers should consider building critical thinking skills in all the rubrics and lesson plans hey use in their classrooms.
Critical thinking skills can be taught in any classroom and any subject with a little creativity. Check out the following tips for improving critical thinking in students.
1. Deep analysis - Take something that students see often and take for granted, and have them analyze it more deeply. For example, if a class says the pledge of allegiance every morning, one day have them spend some time answering some questions about what it means and why we say it.
2. Compare and contrast - Have students compare and contrast similar concepts or object to begin to understand the differences between them. Using the flag as an example, have them explain the elements or the U.S. flag compared to the Canadian flag.
3. Open-ended questions - Make students answer tough questions without pre-determined choices. This will force them to come up with the answer on their own.
4. Evaluation - Give the students a concept and allow them to evaluate its merit, giving supporting reasons why they think it is good or bad. This makes students think beyond what someone has told them or what they feel to the logic of an argument. This can even be done in a group if it is too difficult for the students to come up with several reasons on their own.
5. Synthesis - give students two or more articles on a topic, and have them put the information together in a summary. This exercise forces students to truly comprehend the material in an article instead of simply memorizing it.
6. Critique - give students a paper arguing for a particular position on an issue and have them point out the weak points in the argument. Make sure it is a concept they can understand.
7. Paraphrase - give students a passage of a book or article and have them explain it in their own words. This is similar to synthesis in that it forces students to understand the passage rather than memorizing it.
8. Debate - give students a topic (something as non-controversial as possible to start) and have one group of students debate one side of the argument and another debate the opposite. Make sure that there are some strict guidelines in order to avoid the degradation of the debate into a heated fight.
9. Application - give students a worksheet with the directions on how to complete a task, and then have them apply this knowledge by actually completing that task. Make sure that the directions are clear.
10. Higher-order comparison - have students complete a task similar to the "compare and contrast" activity, but this time, have them evaluate which object or concept is better and why it is better. This makes the students analyze the reasons why something is better and the higher-order rules that define its superiority.
These types of activities can be used in any classroom for any subject, and if used correctly can result in a higher level of thinking for our students, a lofty and worthy goal for any teacher.