The Importance of Teaching Students How to Think Critically

April 10, 2020


When students graduate, the world expects them to come out of their years of intense study with more than just a degree. They are expected to enter the workforce as functional adults who are ready to take on whatever challenges are thrown at them.

Yet, they are seldom prepared to navigate the vast landscape before them. Some may say that this problem is caused by a lack of experience. While this may be true, it’s only a small part of the bigger issue.

So, how can educational institutions ensure that their students are well-equipped to enter the modern workforce?

According to Jonathan Haber, the author of Critical Thinking Essentials, the solution is to teach students critical thinking.

That’s great, but what exactly is critical thinking?

Although the subject has been constantly debated and redefined since the time of early Greek philosophers, it’s safe to say that critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.

It goes without saying, but without this soft skill, making sense of the world would be a pointless endeavor. So, why not teach students how to think critically as early as possible?

Nowadays, students everywhere can access information at any time with just a click or swipe. But consuming vast amounts of data is not synonymous with properly digesting it. This is where critical thinking comes in to help students and young adults think in a more structured way and:

  • Analyze and evaluate information
  • Systematically solve problems
  • Generate innovative solutions
  • Plan strategically and think creatively
  • Convey messages coherently

The honored skill set outlined above is becoming increasingly valuable for employers around the world. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking and creativity are two of the main skills that will be in demand in 2022.

All things considered, implementing critical thinking programs in educational institutions is a paramount concern. But where do you start? Below, you will find three techniques for teaching critical thinking skills that can be incorporated into any teaching practices.

  1. Information fluency

Most students nowadays use the internet to find the information they need for their studies. However, knowing how to use that information properly is a whole other thing and it’s vital for your students’ success in both school and life. 

Luckily, information fluency techniques can help students dig through vast amounts of information to find the most useful and relevant facts for solving a problem by performing the five A’s: asking, acquiring, analyzing, applying, and assessing.

  1. Role-playing

Role-playing games cultivate creativity, level up social skills, encourage cooperation, and, more importantly, they help develop problem-solving skills like critical thinking.

A good role-playing exercise involves researching the essence and attributes of a character, thus stretching both the analytical and creative aspects of the mind.

So, pair students up and ask them to enact a debate or interaction between two characters, such as historical figures, either from literature or history. Have them discuss their different points of view from the characters’ perspectives and challenge them to reach a compromise that can benefit both. 

  1. Evidence Evaluation

One of the best problem-solving exercises involves the proper assessment of available evidence by asking the right questions:

  • Who gathered the evidence?
  • How did they gather it?
  • Why?

Although many research studies sound convincing on paper, they might employ misleading narratives to serve a purpose or the entities funding it.

However, you can help your students validate or invalidate the results by enabling them to question the process and determine if a conflict of interest is involved in it.

Final thoughts

By implementing solid critical thinking programs, educators can help their students develop this soft skill that can be applied in a range of situations and scenarios. Not only will this help students in life, but also in their area of expertise once they enter the workforce.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of critical thinking is that it doesn’t only help people think more rationally, but also independently. It will help them formulate their own arguments and draw their own conclusions through objective analysis, correlation, and open-mindedness.

So, why not enable future generations to think for themselves by finding new and exciting ways to incorporate critical thinking into the classroom?