Critical thinking – educational buzz word or valuable skill? You may have heard teachers, or even parents, toss the term around but what does it mean and should we be teaching it to our children?
Critical thinking, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”1 Critical thinkers know how to find and use the information they have to form an opinion, understand consequences and solve problems.
Critical thinking should not be confused with being critical or argumentative, nor is it restrictive. Students with critical thinking skills:
- Have strong problem-solving skills, including interpretation, evaluation and reasoning.
- Are creative, adaptable and flexible – they can think outside the box.
- Can assess if the information they have is relevant and accurate, or if more data is necessary to form an opinion.
- Have clearer and better thinking, and feel more confident in making decisions.
- Have a sense of excitement about learning and evaluating facts presented to them and filtering what is true and feel right to them.
When we teach our children to be critical thinkers we give them the tools to find success in the classroom and beyond. And in a world where over half of future jobs have yet to be invented, it also gives them the tools adapt to an ever-changing workplace.
Here are three strategies to help foster critical thinking skills:
- Ask open-ended questions. The simplest way to start teaching your children critical thinking is to start with an open question on a topic that interests them. Let their curiosity lead the way. Encourage them to put their thoughts in their own words. This will help them assess and form opinions based on their knowledge and recognize where they may need more information.
- Ask them to consider alternate explanations. Many problems and decisions our children will have to make will have more than one option or solution. When we encourage our children to consider other explanations or solutions they may become more flexible thinkers. Don’t be afraid to discuss biases. Even young children can understand how emotions or motives can influence their judgments.
- Categorize and classify. Sorting or grouping items requires children to classify and apply a rule, or set of rules which in turn facilitates how they organize and establish relationships. Encourage your children to talk about the similarities and differences between the groups. This will help promote how to evaluate and make connections, an important component of critical thinking.
1 1. Oxford Dictionaries: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/critical_thinking