5 steps to develop critical thinking skills in students
Critical thinking is the ability of interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation
Education is a life-long process, which aims at imparting the skills and knowledge needed to lead a focussed life. Learners should be equipped to adjust to the dynamic world and unknown future and deal with problems and emerging dilemmas. Therefore, the learner must have the relevant body of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that would make him an active and effective member of the society. One such skill the learner is expected to be adept at is critical thinking.
Over 2,500 years ago, Plato, in his discussions of logic, highlighted the importance of critical thinking (Thayer-Bacon, 1998, Studies in Philosophy and Education). Socrates, Plato’s teacher, believed that discussions and critical thinking with knowledge reside in the mind of an individual, rather than a teacher transmitting knowledge to a student (Ornstein & Levine, Foundations of Education). Nearly 2,500 years later, scholars and educators are still discussing the mechanisms, importance, and outcomes of critical thinking skills.
In simple words, critical thinking is the ability of interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. When you think critically, you weigh all the sides of an argument and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Only a sound mind, a mind infused with reflective thinking, which can engage in deep analysis, can come up with the cause of the problem and find possible solutions to get out of the problem.
Preparing students to think critically is one of the key goals for higher education institutions and is also a trait sought by most recruiters. It is an invaluable skill that can be taught through explanation, practice, and direct application. Let’s take a look at how to develop critical thinking skills so that you can walk into any situation and make insightful decisions.
Ask basic questions: One might think that good critical thinkers ask intellectual and complex questions when they try to solve a problem. However, the truth is the opposite. The better you are at critical thinking, the simpler and clearer your questions become. To enhance your questioning while solving a problem make sure you break questions down.
Develop foresight: Foresightedness is an asset. Whether you are at a job interview, trying to promote a product or crack a specific deal, you will be able to make the right decisions if you can see the consequences further down the line.
Active listening: To become a critical thinker, you need to listen to others’ opinions, arguments, and criticisms without thinking of your response or reaction while they are speaking. You should listen carefully while your professors and peers are talking. Practise empathy and try to understand their perspectives. Active listening can help you react positively and have a subsequent productive conversation.
Encourage decision-making: A large part of critical thinking skills revolves around applying knowledge and evaluating solutions, students should be encouraged in decision-making as much as possible. This will enable students to apply what they have learned to different situations, weigh the pros and cons of every solution and then decide which ideas work best.
Encourage creativity: There cannot be one definite formula to solve an issue. This limits students’ creative spirit and discourages them from using their ideas. Students should be encouraged to think out of the box and look for easy and effective solutions.