For a long time now we’ve discussed critical thinking as being one of the top skills our students need for life beyond school. Such skills are enhanced by the processes of some of our other favourite tools and methodologies like problem-solving and inquiry-based learning. But just how important are critical thinking skills? Additionally, what evidence can we look to for seeing the benefits of teaching them to our learners?
Critical thinking is talked about in many educational circles, but the conversations are not always about how to pursue it
Also missing in the conversation is what the next steps are for bringing it into our classrooms. If these are the aptitudes our students require for global workforces in an ever-changing world like ours, doesn’t teaching these skills deserve a place of honour in our classrooms?
What we want to do here is find a way to move past discussion and into action. Let’s talk more about why teaching critical thinking matters to our future. Afterwards, we’ll look at how we can make it happen for our young learners as a regular practice in our teaching.
Who Believes in Critical Thinking?
The Benefits of Critical Thinking Development
“Over one hundred years of research on intelligence testing has shown that scores on standardized tests of intelligence predict a wide range of outcomes, but even the strongest advocates of intelligence testing agree that IQ scores … leave a large portion of the variance unexplained when predicting real-life behaviours … critical thinking ability had a greater association with real life decisions, and it added significantly to explained variance, beyond what was accounted for by intelligence alone.”
“When an issue comes up in the workplace, a common reaction is to assume that it falls into a predetermined category. Critical thinking does not make any assumptions, and using the process of critical thinking in the workplace removes the temptation to immediately classify every issue under something that has happened in the past. It forces employees and managers to look beyond conventional solutions and look for new ideas that can help to efficiently address problems.”
“Critical thinking is the foundation of strategic thinking, creative thinking, good judgement and good decision making. Good critical thinking results in the ability to draw the right conclusions more often. The good news is that there is substantial evidence showing that critical thinking can be improved with training. Research also suggested that improving critical thinking ability has a knock-on effect in improving problem-solving ability, openness, creativity, organisation, planning and making the right choices in life.”
Research and Discussion Questions
- What other benefits of critical thinking are there besides what we’ve read?
- How does critical thinking development shift responsibility for learning to our students?
- What examples can you pinpoint of how we would call on critical thinking in everyday life?
- Why do you think schools have not placed more of a focus on such skills?
- What improvements have you seen in this over the past few years?
- What activities would build students’ capacity to think critically about the subjects you teach?
- What curricular barriers exist in teaching critical thinking, and how can we overcome them?
- How do you intend to start bringing critical thinking instruction into your own classrooms?
- Who can you call on to help you, and how can you help them do the same?
- How would you measure students’ results and progress with these skills?