Article | Let’s Encourage Critical Thinking in Class
Miss Jane’s, grade 1 class is in progress. Today she’s teaching her students about houses. She shows pictures of different houses and names them, she also explains why people live in houses. Anna, raises her hand and asks, “Miss Jane why do houses have walls and doors?”. Miss Jane explains why, and proceeds to teach the lesson.
If someone were to ask whether Miss Jane did the right thing, most people would agree that she did. She answered the question that the student asked and provided information or knowledge to the student. How can that not be right?
But, if someone were to ask whether Miss Jane helped Anna develop critical thinking skills, what would you say?
21st Century skills refer to a set of skills that students are required to have, in order to succeed in the digital-age world. In his speech in March 2009, U.S. President, Barack Obama emphasized the importance of preparing students for 21st Century skills.
I’m calling on our nation… to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity”
U.S. President Barack Obama, March 2009
One of the important skills require of 21st Century students is critical thinking. The Critical Thinking Community sates that…
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.
Critical thinking skills cannot be taught as theory. Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be inculcated as a habit, and practiced and encouraged, so that it becomes the usual way of thinking.
When a child asks a question, we immediately launch into a teaching mode, and explain the reason behind things. But do we really need to always give an answer for a question asked, or can we answer a question with another question? Can we help the child analyze information and deduce or construct new information from old information? Can we help the child develop critical thinking skills?
Let’s revisit Miss Jane’s class, to see what she could have done different to help her students develop critical thinking skills.
Anna: Miss J, why do houses have walls and doors?
Miss J: Think about it Anna, if a house did not have walls, what would happen to you in the rains?
Anna: I would get wet.
Miss J: And how would you feels in the scorching summer heat?
Anna: Hot and sweaty.
Miss J: Do you feel the rain and heat in the house you live in?
Anna: No, Miss J.
Miss J: Can you tell why?
Anna: Because the walls of my house protect me from heat and rain.
By asking further questions, Miss Jane encourages Anna to think rather than listen to an explanation. As Anna answers a question, she is given another question. At the end, she puts together the different answers and arrives at the final answer herself.
Do you think it’s important to practice 21st Century Skills in all classes? How do you encourage critical thinking in class?
Do share your teaching strategies in the comments box below.