Critical thinking is the ability to collaborate, communicate and analyse problems and create innovative solutions. It is one of the key skills that 21st century students need to excel in an ever-changing and highly competitive world. Teachers and educators have an important role in ensuring that children have the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills while they are still in school. Here are some ways teachers can encourage children to think critically from an early age:
- Inclusive language: The first step should be to use inclusive language. Teachers should ask students "can we learn this?" or "why do we think so". This enables a safe learning environment and the students will feel that the teacher is also part of the thinking cohort. The use of inclusive language creates an inclusive classroom, where students feel valued and have a choice.
- Critical thinking starts with why: For teachers, it is important to ask questions but these questions should go beyond ‘what’ and focus more on ‘how’ and ‘why’. Asking the right questions is an important part of thinking critically. While closed answered questions can get the right answer, they do not promote critical thinking. Open-ended questions or the how and why questions get you more information. These questions by nature ask for more details and encourage students to think critically.
- Follow up with a ‘how’ question: If you are teaching a new topic, ask how they know about the subject. Ask them to share their source of information --- which could be word of mouth, classroom knowledge, or a news report. This will prompt students to think whether the source of information is credible or not.
- Ask for examples: Would you give me an example? This question will encourage students to think about the subject and look for examples from their life experiences. Teachers can also ask reflective questions to encourage students to share their perspectives which will be different from one another. How much have you learned about the subject since we first started? How do you plan to implement the learnings of the class in your life? These questions will promote self-reflection.
- Promote a teamwork approach: Teamwork and critical thinking go hand in hand. When students work together in a team they come across different viewpoints. They get to see the same idea from different perspectives and concerns. They will learn to think about others’ perspectives and priorities. When working in a team, students will not only learn to present their own ideas but will also learn to analyse others’ inputs and how to disagree without being hurtful and disrespectful.
- Ask them to offer a solution: The ability to come up with viable solutions shows that students have understood the situation and assessed it based on all the facts and information available. Encourage your students to come with possible solutions. For instance, if you are teaching them about air pollution - ask what they can do on an individual level to reduce air pollution. Answering these questions will require students to look at their actions that are contributing to air pollution and what can they do to address them.
Remember, teachers don’t have to take a session on critical thinking for this. Everyday learning can encourage critical thinking --- all teachers have to do is ask the right questions. The curriculum of our ThinkRoom Programme is designed to ask questions that help children of all ages to think critically about what they’re learning. A hybrid model in education, our programme is different from text-based learning that focuses on repetitive and monotonous questions. Our hybrid education approach involves interactive digital activities that promote varied thinking. To know how our ThinkRoom Programme can transform your school’s curriculum and help students excel in academics and in life, schedule an appointment.