Critical Thinking: How to Develop It at Home and at School
What is critical thinking? It’s a way of reasoning and questioning things to help us make better decisions. We’ll explain what critical thinking is and how you can improve it daily. You’ll also learn how to boost a child’s critical thinking at school! Andrea Garcia Cerdan explains below.
What is critical thinking? It’s the ability to think clearly and rationally, and understand the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking allows us to think independently and reflexively.
Thinking critically requires the ability to reason and learn actively, not passively. This means taking an active approach to learning information, rather than just letting the information reach you.
People with developed critical thinking skills question ideas and thoughts and don’t take everything they hear as fact. They work to get a rounded view of an argument or idea, research and thinking reasonably about each possibility, and welcome a contradictory view. They don’t see an argument as something negative, but rather a chance to grow and learn.
Characteristics of a critical thinker:
- Understands the connections between ideas
- Determines the importance of these ideas
- Recognizes and creates valid arguments
- Identifies inconsistencies and reasoning errors
- Approaches problems consistently and systematically
- Reflects on their own beliefs, thoughts, and values
Critical thinking is a great decision-making tool, but that doesn’t mean that we always have to think critically because not every decision is important. Think about it: you could think critically about whether you’re going to eat salmon or chicken, but probably not a life-changing decision. When you’re in one of these situations where you have to make a decision, it’s better to be intuitive than critical. You’ll save time and psychological resources that you could be using to solve another problem.
How can you boost critical thinking?
1.Don’t believe everything you hear
The first step to improving your critical thinking skills is to evaluate the information that you receive on a daily basis. Before doing something based on information that someone else told you, do your own research! Think about the problem and what possible solutions may be. Need some help coming up with answers? Maybe you want to improve your creative thinking as well! You have to decide for yourself what you want to do and what you believe is best, and evaluating all of the possibilities is a great way to do that.
2. Define you goals
What do you want to do? What’s your goal? How are you going to make it happen? Knowing what the goal is is an important part of creating a plan to get it done.
We’re constantly being bombarded with information which can sometimes be overwhelming, but this constant information can actually help you make better decisions. When you’re faced with a problem or decision that you’re not sure about, look online, ask a forum, read a book, watch a documentary, or get in touch with someone who might be able to help you. Look at different opinions and arguments and look at it from all sides. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make a good decision.
4. Don’t assume that you’re always right
Everyone loves being right. It makes us feel like we know everything and can be a mood booster. But thinking that other arguments and ideas aren’t valid closes our eyes to other points of view. Your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are just one possible solution, but there are other equally valid ideas that you should get to know and respect. Open your mind to other perspectives.
5. Don’t complicate things
There is a line of thinking that’s often used in scientific research when they’re trying to figure out which hypothesis is correct. It’s called Occam’s razor, and it’s the idea that when there is more than one possible answer, go with the simpler one until proven false.
6. Divide the problem into parts
When you’re faced with a difficult problem, try to break it up into smaller, more manageable parts. You’ll find it easier to evaluate and take on each different part of the puzzle on it’s own.
Developing Critical Thinking in the Classroom
One of the most important things that we can teach our children is showing them how to think, argue, research, and make their own ideas and opinions about diverse topics. Learning to do this as children will make it easier to do as adults, when the decisions and topics are more serious and have potentially serious consequences. Learning to how to question things and not believe every word they hear, read, see, etc. will help them make their own decisions in the future.
So, how can we help develop critical thinking skills at school?
1. Group work
Working as a team helps children learn to think. When they’re surrounded by classmates and have to work together to talk about their ideas and thoughts, not only will they be exposed to other ideas, but they’ll have a chance to form their own opinion.
2. Let them use their creativity
Creativity is a skill that we have since birth, but using it more helps us develop and strengthen it. Learning to use creativity to solve problems can help us come up with ideas that we might not have thought of before, which is why it’s so important to use in a classroom. Instead of giving kids instructions to something, let them try to figure out how to do it on their own. Give them space to problem solve and use different theories to get the job done without a specific plan.
3. Don’t run to their aid right away
Children will get used to having things done for them. If they try to do something and ask for help, you might be inclined to solve the problem for them, which will inhibit their ability to problem solve on their own. It’s better to let them struggle and think of the answer on their own rather then run in and save them right away. For example, if they’re having trouble with a math problem, ask them questions to help them figure it out on their own.
4. Have brainstorming sessions
Brainstorming is a great way to help develop critical thinking. It helps the child reason and see different possibilities and points of view. Ask them questions like: “What is the book about? or What do you think you’re going to learn in this chapter?
5. Compare and contrast
A great way to help students learn to think critically is to let them compare and contrast the information that they have available to them. It can be about anything-books, hobbies, favorite x. You can do the same thing with a pro and con list.
6. Ask them questions
Asking questions helps students reflect and apply what they’ve learned to a real situation, which will help them consolidate the information and create an informed response. You can ask things like: “Do you agree with this? Which option do you think is better? Explain why you think this happened. Try to avoid questions with a yes or no answer and make them think and develop a response.
7. Let them debate
Debated are a great tool to help students reflect and thinking about a topic and develop opinions about what they’re learning.
A good way to promote critical thinking is to let each child defend an opinion. Do you think we should have uniforms at school? Break the kids into groups or assign each one a side to take and let them debate.
The video below will give you some more great ideas to improve critical thinking. Check it out!
Did we leave you with questions? Leave us a comment below! 🙂
This article was originally written in Spanish by Andrea Garcia Cerdan
Psicóloga General Sanitaria y sexóloga. Deseosa de mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas mediante la práctica clínica y la comunicación a través de la red.