Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

Researching a couple of articles on the internet, I found that not only are critical thinking skills recommended by every educational entity and scholar, but that there are tried and tested means to accomplish this for students at a tender age. One article in defining what comprised critical thinking in the classroom, suggested that it was the ability to think logically about information given, and after processing and supported inference, have the ability to be sure of one’s convictions, and to discard any other theories unless these are based in proven fact.

The article spoke to our fundamental right to freedom of choice, and it becomes imperative that we can engage in critical thinking, to facilitate good decision-making and careful thought. Teachers who try to incorporate higher level thinking in their classrooms, rather than just regurgitation of facts, have found their attempts stymied by a marked lack of student response. To this end, teachers are now being asked to themselves become familiar on how to approach incorporating critical thinking skills in the classroom, and by constant practice, not only master the technique themselves, but also succeed in having students who question, assimilate, process and make informed decisions.

The preparation of teachers is done on several fronts. In promoting critical thinking, teachers listened to their students more, rather than the expected learn-by-rote answers.

In engaging students in classroom discussions, posing higher order questions, and allowing a few seconds for thought, teachers were found to promote thinkers in their classrooms, and students would recognize the changed rhythm of the lessons, where their input was not only expected, but was warmly accepted.

Curriculum that was thought-provoking broadened the students’ capacity for analytic thinking; they now cited examples for their thoughts, and backed up their conclusions with facts read and interpreted. Teachers were encouraged to incorporate critical thinking questions in the simplest of tasks in the classroom, by promoting students to air their thoughts, feelings and ideas prior to the lesson content being formally introduced.

These brainstorming exercises led to students becoming more questioning of data presented to them, praise from the teacher led to more participation and lesson interest, and students felt encouraged to speak to the lesson content, rather than just be directed how to view it. These sessions where students are trained and encouraged to practice critical thinking are measurable, and the levels of input, increasing higher order questions and inferences can be noted to provide some data on improvement.

As a math teacher, I crave critical thinkers in my classroom, as each topic is interrelated, and it behooves the students to be able to correlate each topic, as a means of learning. As understanding and correlation occurs, each student will be able to identify and thereby remember different classes, as they will be able to infer what to extract from each successive lesson, what is necessary for future understanding of the year’s curriculum.

I have found resistance to higher order thinking, and some of it can be ascribed to fear of ridicule, or just being wrong. I definitely do not allow yes or no answers in my class; as a matter of fact if a student does not explain an answer, we together turn our wrists in circles, saying, ”because”, and the answering student usually smiles and explains. This is now an everyday, every question model in my classroom, and I do see pride in my students as the praise and encouragement leads to much interest in the curriculum and competition for creative, correct inferences.

Although I teach algebra, I have a very large globe in the classroom, and everyday we take a couple minutes to spin, choose a country and brainstorm what we know of it, beginning with the spelling of its name to its culture, people, exports, color. This I do as critical thinking skills need to be developed over a broad cross-section of topics, and I use this especially in a difficult class session to lighten the mood, and allow my students some outlet for information.

Every teacher and every class needs to be trained in the formidable art of critical thinking, if we are to give to society educated individuals who are able to decipher, make logical, correct informed decisions. The art of critical thinking from the classroom to our entire lifespan, there will never be viable solutions to any problem.

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