At Wabisabi Learning, we ask teachers all the time about the most important skills for modern learners to have. School leaders and educators of all kinds have many shared goals, but one of the most common among them is effectively developing critical thinking skills in students.
Thinking critically is the pinnacle of the accumulation of knowledge and experience. How can we start developing our learners' critical thinking skills rather than teaching to the test?
Below is a list of some of the ways we have of developing critical thinking skills the right way for our learners. Ultimately this is as much about how teachers teach as it is about how learners learn.
For more ideas, be sure to look at our Critical Thinking Companion, it's full of activities and rubrics to easily start building this vital skill in your learners.
1. Give Them Freedom
In short, this means to give to the testers what is theirs, but give the freedom to think back to our learners. In the Guardian article Give Your Students the Freedom to Learn, Matthew Bebbington talks about a strategy used by companies like Google for increasing employee engagement.
They allow workers a certain "freedom" for focusing on personalized approaches to working on problems. Essentially, they have carte blanche to work on whatever they wish with whoever they wish. The result is a heightened sense of ownership of the problem, and a creative approach to solutions.
Of course, this elevates critical thinking capacity as well. There's absolutely no reason why the same thing couldn't work in a classroom.
Students can reach their potential through learning approaches that build social and emotional learning skills, career-ready skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
2. Use Inquiry-Based Learning
Students can reach their potential through learning approaches that build social and emotional learning skills, career-ready skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking. This gives them autonomy to explore, ask questions and share ideas. Inquiry-based learning uses all these different approaches, cultivating skills through guided learning and small-group discussions to apply reasoning to reach conclusions.
From an instructor’s perspective, this learning style focuses on helping students get from the curiosity stage into critical thinking and deeper levels of understanding. They guide students through the investigation process, encouraging them to ask questions through structured inquiry activities.
3. Encourage Teamwork
Bring teamwork and peer collaboration into the mix and you're sure to engage critical thinking skills. This applies not only in your classroom with other students, but also beyond the classroom walls into broader areas. It can involve the community and all the interesting professionals that are part of it.
Think about collaboration along the lines of using technology to reach out to the global community. Don't just invest in technology; the end goal is students collaborating, thinking critically, and solving problems relevant to their world.
Solution Fluency is a process for working through any problem no matter how big or small—it's what you do when you don't know what to do.
4. Use Solution Fluency
Solution Fluency is a process for working through any problem no matter how big or small—it's what you do when you don't know what to do. In this sense, Solution Fluency is also a foolproof and fail-safe system for developing critical thinking skills.
There are plenty of tools to help you bring this unique critical thinking process into your classroom teaching, as we have with thousands of educators all over the world. Begin with the Solution Fluency Companion or the Critical Thinking Companion, which are excellent resources for developing understanding of this invaluable lifelong learning process.
5. Teach Design Thinking
Design thinking is another angle very similar to Solution Fluency. In any design approach, nothing is linear. There is always a never-ending cycle of revisitation and revision. When processes are kept linear, possibilities become limited. Possibilities are what both Solution Fluency and design thinking are intended to generate by working cyclically. With them, there are no limits.
The chart on the right is a side-by-side comparison of the stages of both Solution Fluency and design thinking. It’s intended to display the striking similarities between the two. Hopefully, this comparison will demonstrate a bit more of the remarkable versatility of Solution Fluency. It truly is a process for both living and learning, and for assisting one in developing critical thinking skills.