Critical Thinking

Critical thinking—it really makes you think, doesn’t it?

Thinking critically is the pinnacle of the accumulation of knowledge and experience. Developing and improving critical thinking skills is a life study, and one that’s definitely worth pursuing. In fact, according to all the educators we speak with in our travels, critical thinking skills rank among what they believe to be the most necessary skills for our learners to have for life beyond school. 

Learning how to think in this manner it isn’t easy—otherwise, everyone would do it. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most beneficial skills we can impart to our learners. Though it’s a universal concept all of us are aware of, a multitude of differing definitions, views, and opinions circulate on what critical thinking actually is.

So here’s a question: what do you think critical thinking means? 

What we want is for you to be able to reflect independently on the exploration we’re about to take on critical thinking, and decide what it means for you. We’ll provide you with the insights, tools, and resources to help you make your own decisions about how to define it and how to develop it—in yourself, your children, and your learners.

Are you ready? Then it’s time to get critical.

What is Critical Thinking?

How we think matters, and thinking critically is arguably the best way we can do it. The greatest minds in history—inventors, scientists, philosophers, and explorers—are all critical thinkers. But how do we define it? What does it mean to think critically, and what does the ideal critical thinker look like? Through an exploration of definitions from around the Web and by profiling the qualities of a critical thinker, we’ll find the answer.

Ultimately it will be up to you to define critical thinking for yourself. First let’s explore some suggestions and viewpoints that will help you formulate your own ideas.

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

One of the skills educators (and us, too) believe students must have for their lives beyond school is critical thinking. The question is, what makes it such a vitally important competency for students? It has much to do with how the world is changing and will continue to change. With the connection to each other and access to ever-expanding information we have now, our lives are transparent. Living in a digital world calls on these types of skills.

Anyone can think critically if they want to, but knowing what you should is crucial. Let’s talk more about why critical thinking is becoming increasingly important to do.

Developing Critical Thinking

Life is very simple, Einstein said once, but the problem is that we insist on complicating it. The same can often be said about learning to think critically. True, it isn’t easy to do and takes practice and diligence, but what is worth doing that doesn’t? However, no one need be intimidated by the process of developing their critical thinking skills. In fact, it can be a whole lot of fun if you have the right tools to work with along the way.

We’re going to take a look at some frameworks and resources for developing critical thinking skills the right way. Enjoy the journey, because that’s what learning is all about.

Improving Critical Thinking

If you work hard to obtain an indispensable aptitude like critical thinking, it’s worth spending time to constantly refine and enhance it. We’re not talking about lots of planning or complicated procedures, either. Instead, we’re after simple exercises and considerations that help us maintain our critical thinking capacity for life. Everyday examples like learning something new, considering what you’ve learned, and listening actively all count.

These are things you can do every day to work on improving critical thinking ability. Try these exercises out with your learners and watch their thinking get a boost.

Critical Thinking Questions

Thinking critically has one undeniable process at its core, and that’s asking questions. Lots and lots of questions. However, it’s important to consider they types of questions we ask. Are they geared toward discovery, analysis of facts, and a search for useful information? Are they essential and meaningful? Are they meant for reflection on what is learned and how it can be used in other applications? These are questions we ask when thinking critically?

Let’s take a look at some examples of solid critical thinking questions, as well as some procedures we can use for effectively developing them anytime we need to. 

How Do We Assess Critical Thinking?

How do we know when our learners are thinking critically? Is there a way teachers can measure what matters? Critical thinking assessment can be tricky to perform because it encompasses such broad skills. However, we can begin to assess critical thinking by breaking it down into more basic components, and then determining criteria you can use with your learners. What we want to provide for you here is a starting point for contemplating how critical thinking assessment can be approached.

These rubrics for critical thinking assessment are based on the stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy. They can be used for either teacher or peer assessment.