The Importance of Critical Thinking in the Classroom – Preparing Your Students for the Future.

Sometimes I think we get all wrapped up in “what we have to teach” we forget that it is really all about thinking. If we can get students to think creatively and critically, we have done our job. 

Critical thinking is an essential skill to develop in students to aid them in future success. It is all about interpreting the world around them in an informed way. 

It is about being an active participant in learning rather than a passive recipient of information. Isn’t this what we want from all our students?

Critical thinking “is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2,500 years.”
– Critical

But What is Critical Thinking?

I mean, everyone thinks all the time. However, most of our thinking, if not actually thought about (yes, thinking about our thinking), is biased, distorted, uninformed or can be downright prejudiced. Yet, our life and everything we do is based on the quality of our thought. Therefore, poor-quality thinking can be costly in more ways than just money. It can affect our quality of life and our future. Excellence in thought, therefore, can have the opposite effect. This is why critical thinking (an excellent thought process) is so important.

Critical thinking involves questioning, analysing, interpreting, evaluating and making judgments about what you are reading, hearing, saying or writing. It is a way to think about a problem and come up with possible solutions.

The word critical comes from the Greek word kritikos which means “able to judge or discern”. 

Critical thinking does not just mean to criticise. So often, we think this when we say “critical review” or “critical feedback”, but critical thinking is about clarifying your own thinking, breaking down ideas, interpreting them and using these interpretations to make an informed decision or judgement.

It is not just about having ideas. It is about having the skills to evaluate the quality of these ideas. Finally, it is the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

question words on cards -  why, when, who, where, how to promote critical thinking
A big part of critical thinking is asking questions to evaluate information

What is a Critical Thinker?

Critical thinkers:

  • Evaluate information and arguments in a logical and analytical way
  • Consider multiple perspectives on an issue
  • Identify the underlying assumptions behind ideas as well as assess evidence
  • Construct counter-arguments that are informed and backed by evidence
  • Are open-minded
  • Are willing to consider other points of view
  • Are aware that there may be more than one answer to a problem
  • are curious and engaged with the world around them
  • Can analyse information from a variety of sources, including digital technology

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

  • Understand the links between ideas
  • Determine the importance and relevance of different arguments or ideas
  • Recognise and build arguments
  • Evaluate arguments and ideas 
  • Identify inconsistencies and errors in arguments or information
  • Reflect on their own understandings, beliefs, values and assumptions

Isn’t this what we want all our students to be and be able to do?

No one is born with a critical-thinking mindset. This is learnt and improved through practice.

Why is Critical Thinking Necessary?

Critical thinking is an essential 21st-century skill. It is about making sense of the world through reasoned judgement and evaluation.

It helps you:

  • Make better decisions by evaluating information and arguments logically and analytically. This means you can better make evidence-based decisions rather than relying on gut feeling or personal biases. 
  • To solve problems more effectively by thinking critically, you can break down complex problems into smaller parts and consider multiple solutions. This helps in finding the most effective solution. 
  • Think creatively by questioning assumptions and considering multiple perspectives. You can come up with new and innovative ideas that you might not have considered otherwise. 
  • Communicate more effectively as you can clearly and logically express your thoughts and ideas. 
  • Learn more effectively as you can evaluate the quality of information and arguments and understand complex concepts more thoroughly. 

The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Students.

Thinking about the above points for students, teaching critical thinking skills to students helps them to:

  • make informed decisions by evaluating their options and making decisions based on evidence rather than just going with what they think might be good or the first option. 
  • solve problems more effectively by identifying the root cause and creating creative solutions. 
  • think creatively by seeing things from different perspectives and coming up with new and innovative ideas for problems in their lives.
  • communicate more effectively by helping them articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and present them logically and in an organised manner. 
  • learn and grow as they are challenging their own assumptions constantly. 
Boy looking upwards at decision tree ending in a lightbulb with math working out in background
Critical thinking helps students evaluate problems and make decisions.

Critical thinking skills are essential as they help us to make better decisions, help us to be more creative, and allow us to be more productive. Not being able to think critically will leave students vulnerable to outside influences and the possibility of believing anything that is told to them.

Developing strong critical thinking skills means students can eliminate unfounded ideas that do not make sense and are left with only the most reliable information.

The importance of teaching critical thinking skills to students is undeniable. Critical thinking skills will make our society more productive and will give them the ability to make better decisions that benefit themselves and others.

What are the Best Approaches to Incorporate Critical Thinking into Classroom Activities?

Teaching children about critical thinking skills is an essential aspect of their education. Critical thinking is a skill that everyone needs to be successful in life.

Teachers can help by:

  1. Asking open-ended questions: Asking questions that do not have a simple right or wrong answer encourages students to think critically about the topic being discussed.
  2. Using problem-based learning activities: These activities present students with a real-world problem and require them to think critically to devise a solution.
  3. Encourage independent thinking: Encourage children to develop their own ideas and solutions to problems rather than just following instructions or accepting what they are told.
  4. Encourage curiosity: Encourage children to ask questions and to be curious about the world around them. 
  5. Encourage scepticism: Encourage children to question information and to look for evidence to support their ideas. This will help them to think critically about the information they encounter.
  6. Providing opportunities for independent thinking: Allow students to explore a topic independently and come up with their own ideas and solutions.
  7. Modelling critical thinking behaviours: Show students how to think critically by demonstrating these behaviours yourself.
  8. Use real-world examples from everyday life or current events to illustrate critical thinking concepts. This will help children to see the relevance of these skills.
  9. Using case studies: Case studies present students with a real-world scenario and ask them to analyse and solve the problem. 
  10. Use games and puzzles: Games and puzzles that require children to think critically and solve problems can be a fun way to develop their critical thinking skills.
  11. Encouraging group work: Working in groups allows students to share ideas, challenge each other’s thinking, and develop creative solutions.
  12. Foster a love of learning: Encourage children to be lifelong learners and seek new information and ideas. 

Developing critical thinking skills in the classroom is about preparing your students to succeed in the future.

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