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Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

Matthew Joseph October 2, 2019 Blog , Engage Better , Lesson Plan Better , Personalize Student Learning Better

ways to improve critical thinking among students

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We ask our teachers to be “future-ready” or say that we are teaching “for jobs that don’t exist yet.” These are powerful statements. At the same time, they give teachers the impression that we have to drastically change what we are doing .

So how do we plan education for an unknown job market or unknown needs?

My answer: We can’t predict the jobs, but whatever they are, students will need to think critically to do them. So, our job is to teach our students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Helping Students Become Critical Thinkers

My answer is rooted in the call to empower our students to be critical thinkers. I believe that to be critical thinkers, educators need to provide students with the strategies they need. And we need to ask more than just surface-level questions.

Questions to students must motivate them to dig up background knowledge. They should inspire them to make connections to real-world scenarios. These make the learning more memorable and meaningful.

Critical thinking is a general term. I believe this term means that students effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate content or skills. In this process, they (the students) will discover and present convincing reasons in support of their answers or thinking.

You can look up critical thinking and get many definitions like this one from Wikipedia: “ Critical thinking consists of a mental process of analyzing or evaluating information, particularly statements or propositions that people have offered as true. ”

Essential Skills for Critical Thinking

In my current role as director of curriculum and instruction, I work to promote the use of 21st-century tools and, more importantly, thinking skills. Some essential skills that are the basis for critical thinking are:

These four bullets are skills students are going to need in any field and in all levels of education. Hence my answer to the question. We need to teach our students to think critically and for themselves.

One of the goals of education is to prepare students to learn through discovery . Providing opportunities to practice being critical thinkers will assist students in analyzing others’ thinking and examining the logic of others.

Understanding others is an essential skill in collaboration and in everyday life. Critical thinking will allow students to do more than just memorize knowledge.

Ask Questions

So how do we do this? One recommendation is for educators to work in-depth questioning strategies into a lesson launch.

Ask thoughtful questions to allow for answers with sound reasoning. Then, word conversations and communication to shape students’ thinking. Quick answers often result in very few words and no eye contact, which are skills we don’t want to promote.

When you are asking students questions and they provide a solution, try some of these to promote further thinking:

Utilizing critical thinking skills could be seen as a change in the paradigm of teaching and learning. Engagement in education will enhance the collaboration among teachers and students. It will also provide a way for students to succeed even if the school system had to start over.

[scroll down to keep reading]

Promoting critical thinking into all aspects of instruction.

Engagement, application, and collaboration are skills that withstand the test of time. I also promote the integration of critical thinking into every aspect of instruction.

In my experience, I’ve found a few ways to make this happen.

Begin lessons/units with a probing question: It shouldn’t be a question you can answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ These questions should inspire discovery learning and problem-solving.

Encourage Creativity: I have seen teachers prepare projects before they give it to their students many times. For example, designing snowmen or other “creative” projects. By doing the design work or by cutting all the circles out beforehand, it removes creativity options.

It may help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s material is already cut out, but then every student’s project looks the same. Students don’t have to think on their own or problem solve.

Not having everything “glue ready” in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all the supplies needed to create a snowman, and let them do it on their own.

Giving independence will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to create their own product with the supplies you give them. This might be an elementary example, but it’s one we can relate to any grade level or project.

Try not to jump to help too fast – let the students work through a productive struggle .

Build in opportunities for students to find connections in learning.  Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. The use of real-world scenarios will increase rigor, relevance, and critical thinking.

A few other techniques to encourage critical thinking are:

Critical thinking prepares students to think for themselves for the rest of their lives. I also believe critical thinkers are less likely to go along with the crowd because they think for themselves.

About Matthew X. Joseph, Ed.D.

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph has been a school and district leader in many capacities in public education over his 25 years in the field. Experiences such as the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation in Milford Public Schools (MA), elementary school principal in Natick, MA and Attleboro, MA, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist have provided Matt incredible insights on how to best support teaching and learning. This experience has led to nationally publishing articles and opportunities to speak at multiple state and national events. He is the author of Power of Us: Creating Collaborative Schools and co-author of Modern Mentoring , Reimagining Teacher Mentorship (Due out, fall 2019). His master’s degree is in special education and his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Boston College.

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7 ways to teach critical thinking in elementary education.

Critical thinking skills are an increasingly important element of elementary education, but teaching them can often be a challenge for elementary school teachers.

From what critical thinking is to how to incorporate it into everyday lessons, we examine the essentials of this fundamental intellectual skill below.

7 Ways to Teach Critical Thinking in Elementary Education

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking goes beyond memorization, encouraging students to connect the dots between concepts, solve problems, think creatively, and apply knowledge in new ways.Despite myths that critical thinking skills are only applicable to subjects like science and math, the reality is that these skills—which are based on the evaluation and application of knowledge—are not only vital for success in all subject areas, but everyday life as well.

Critical thinking exercises for elementary education

A BS in Elementary Education—Your Key to Reaching Students

Since children learn in different ways and can come from vastly different backgrounds, it’s essential that future elementary school teachers receive an education that helps them effectively reach various types of students so they can learn to think critically and meet the challenges of living in a diverse, complex world.

If you’re interested helping our children acquire these essential skills, a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Elementary Education can help you prepare to become a certified teacher with the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective professional educator.

Walden University’s online BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) program not only aligns with national professional standards and licensure requirements, it can be earned completely online, making it ideal for those balancing work and family commitments.

Ready to become a certified elementary school teacher? Learn how Walden’s online BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) program can help you engage with children and families to foster healthy development and learning.

The BS in Elementary Education program leads to initial licensure and is approved by the Minnesota Board of Teaching (MBOT) and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. This program does not qualify for teacher state licensure in Kentucky or North Carolina. Students who are interested in receiving teaching licensure in these states should not enroll in this program. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide guidance on licensure issues; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand and comply with all state licensure requirements. Walden makes no representation or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain state licensure or endorsement.

The program learning outcomes are guided by the Minnesota Standards of Effective Practice and Minnesota Teachers of Elementary Education (K–6) Standards.

Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.

Prospective Washington state students are advised to contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction at 1-360-725-6400 or [email protected] to determine whether Walden’s programs in the field of education are approved for teacher certification or endorsements in Washington state. Additionally, teachers are advised to contact their individual school district as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.

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How to Improve Student Critical Thinking Skills

Victoria Donohue and Kelly Muic

Home Educators Blog

Why are Student Critical Thinking Skills So Essential?

There are many skills that are essential for students to have in order to better themselves and their learning. Many of these skills should be taught at an early age and practiced as they grow and develop. Skills such as problem-solving , collaboration , and critical thinking are vital to students inside and outside the classroom.

Critical thinking skills are especially important for students to develop. Students need critical thinking skills in many situations such as trying to solve a math problem, figuring out the best way to go from their house to work, or solving any type of puzzle.

These skills are essential to help students learn:

So, how do you know if critical thinking is happening in your classroom? Some of the most obvious ways you will know if your students have acquired this skill would be the following observable actions.


Class discussions are an important method in developing students’ critical thinking skills. Providing students with a safe forum in which to express their thoughts and ideas empowers them to think deeply about issues and vocalize their thoughts. For example, an English teacher might provide pre-reading exercises for students to complete for homework.

These questions can then be used as a springboard to generate a group discussion . To challenge the students more, the questions could be controversial in nature to allow for passionate students to think critically on an issue as they express their ideas.

For instance, before teaching Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the teacher may ask questions like:

While these questions ultimately are relevant to the text, before reading the novel, students must interpret these questions from a personal standpoint and evaluate their own feelings and philosophies.

Once the students complete the questions, there can be a class discussion or debate on each topic. For the discussion to succeed, the teacher must be an impartial facilitator to their discussion, often playing the proverbial “devil’s advocate” to keep the conversation dynamic and engaging. This discussion approach allows students to not only voice their opinions but also to hear the opinions of their classmates and further assess their own understanding of the topics.

This method allows for critical thinking both before the exercise as students complete the questions and then during the exercise as they debate their classmates in a group dynamic. In addition, the questions posed for the group discussion lead directly to another tool for developing critical thinking skills: making real-world connections.

Real-World Connections

It is imperative as a teacher to push students to make real-world and personal connections to the material being covered. If students make these connections, they are more invested in the subject matter and more inclined to analyze and think critically about their work.

As an example, a teacher may take a text written 80 years ago and ask the students to modernize the work; they can keep the same themes and conflicts yet bring the work to a modern-day setting. This exercise allows students to better relate to the text and understand how they might react if put into the same situations as many characters.

Another example is asking students to identify specific mathematical topics in areas in their lives that do not include the classroom. Something such as slope can be identified with how students can go from one floor of the school building to the next. Geometric figures are demonstrated with any building that exists. Specific mathematical or physical laws can happen at any point of their lives.

When students are able to identify these instances, it helps them to make a better connection to the learning. These connections force students to examine and analyze on a more critical level because suddenly the material is much more relatable. These real-world connections challenge students to develop the vital critical thinking skills.

Has the Pandemic Affected Student Critical Thinking Skills?

After navigating through two years of the pandemic, students need to develop critical thinking skills now more than ever. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is no substitute for in-person classroom instruction. As a result of online learning, many students lost the ability to think critically as many of the assignments didn’t allow for that type of learning.

In many ways, students forgot how to be students, and teachers forgot how to be teachers. With the height of the pandemic now behind us, it is imperative that we rebuild critical thinking skills and again teach students how to approach material in an analytical sense.

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in Students

Teachers can challenge their students to discover information about the topic being discussed and gain pre-knowledge as mentioned in the example above. Suppose students can access knowledge prior to the lesson or learning new content. In that case, it can help them to develop the necessary skills for the lesson as well as give them the confidence to learn and practice the newest material. This helps to develop their critical thinking as well as have a better connection to the content.

There are many ways that teachers can help develop student critical thinking skills.

Safe Learning Environments

One of the ways is to create a safe learning place in which students feel comfortable to ask questions. When students ask questions, it helps them to better understand the content and analyze the information better.

Active Participation

Another way that students can develop their critical thinking skills is to be active participants in the lesson and help to collaborate. If a teacher can create an atmosphere where the students work together, participate in the learning , and learn from one another, then students can begin to develop these skills.

Connections with Previous Knowledge

Students can use prior knowledge from previously learned material to make connections to the present topics. If students can build off what they already know and apply it to what they are currently learning, it can help them to see the connections as well as analyze the newest information. Students, also, can work backwards to solve problems. Students can take the question, example, and the answer and work backwards to discover how to go from the start to the end.

Mistakes and Learning from Them

Although some teachers do not like to give the answers to students, this process can actually help them to evaluate the problem better and to learn how to solve it moving forward. One last way students can help develop their critical thinking skills is to take chances, use the guess-and-check method when in doubt, and just try to discover a possible solution. So often, students want to be right, and they want to know that they are right; this happens often at the secondary level .

Many of these students are scared to fail and do not want to take risks. Teaching students that it is okay to explore and make mistakes can help them improve their critical thinking skills and confidence. Life is about discovering and exploring and when the students understand that those are important skills to have in life, it can help them to analyze better within the classroom setting.

Instructional Strategies

Think about the instructional strategies that you use most often — I am referring to your “go to” tools in your toolbox of instructional strategies. Do these strategies develop deeper learning competencies in your students? For instance, do your students have opportunities to use student choice and voice when working on assignments? Students should be able to create their own projects, define goals , develop their learning plan, and communicate their achievements to a broader audience.

When students can make choices and direct their own learning, they become more dedicated and engaged students. An instructional strategy that develops deeper learning competencies (especially critical thinking) is project-based learning .

Student critical thinking skills are many of the important skills they should develop to help them in different aspects of their lives. Through being challenged and encouraged to take different approaches, students can begin to learn and develop these skills. Through learning how these skills can be applied in the classroom as well as the real-world, it helps them to understand better. This not only helps them within the classroom setting but also for life after school.

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Minds in Bloom

By Rachel Lynette

5 Easy Strategies for Developing Critical Thinkers

We’re excited to have Sydney from Love, Laugh, Teach guest posting for us today! Her post includes helpful insight and advice for developing critical thinkers in the classroom. As teachers, we all know how important critical thinking is, but sometimes it feels like an abstract concept to teach. Read on to learn Sydney’s suggestions!

It should always be a teacher's goal to promote critical thinking in the classroom. This guest post on Minds in Bloom shares five easy strategies for developing critical thinkers -- and they're not tricky! Click through to get ideas for teaching students to think critically in the classroom.

Developing critical thinkers in the classroom is essential to creating a classroom full of excited and motivated learners. What exactly is a “critical thinker”? Critical thinkers don’t just think clearly or rationally; they use skillful analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing to make decisions every day. When we develop critical thinkers, this happens seamlessly. According to Educational Psychologist Dr. Linda Elder, “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically…”

Students who master their critical thinking skills will be able to differentiate between which influences will shape their personality and which influences will not. But how do we develop critical thinkers in the classroom? All you need are a few simple strategies to develop critical thinkers in your classroom.

#1 – Questioning Techniques

Questioning is an essential tool for developing critical thinking skills. This is the simplest and easiest strategy to start implementing in your classroom right now. Develop questions that require students to dig deeper. Ask open-ended questions instead of “yes” or “no” questions. For example, instead of asking students, “Is learning important?” ask, “WHY is learning important?” Open-ended questions give students an opportunity to examine their own knowledge on the topic in question. I like to ask my students “why” multiple times during a lesson to help them dig deeper. Sometimes they get frustrated, but by the time I’ve asked my last “why,” I can tell if a student understands the concept well or has barely skimmed the surface. When thinking of questions to ask, it’s helpful to take a look at Bloom’s Taxonomy .

#2 – Student-Led Discussions

Student-centered learning environments promote critical thinking skills by requiring students to reflect metacognitively. In a student-centered classroom, students rely more on their peers for answers to their questions than on the teacher. One activity I like to use in my classroom is a mystery game. In this game, students rely solely on their classmates to solve the mystery of who stole the Mona Lisa from La Louvre museum in Paris. Read more about it here ! It is amazing to see students engaged in their learning. They are so focused throughout the entire lesson, they barely even know I’m in the classroom. The whole group discussion at the end of the lesson is very powerful and an excellent way to get students collaborating.

#3 – Inquiry-Based Learning

We want our students to be interested in what they’re learning. Inquiry-based learning is an excellent strategy to get students involved in the learning process and to engage critical thinking skills. Inquiry-based learning is more than just asking what students want to learn; it’s about activating interest and curiosity. The first step in successful inquiry-based learning is to get students to develop questions they want answers to. We want our students to ask and answer higher-order thinking questions. To read more about inquiry-based learning, click here .

#4 – Collaboration

One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is the ability to ask questions and analyze the answers. When students collaborate with their peers, they take ownership of their work, which promotes independence and critical thinking. Give students time throughout your lessons to converse with peers and share ideas. Oftentimes, students will learn from each other, which can eliminate confusion and misunderstandings. Collaborating also expands students’ thinking by demonstrating that not everyone has the same thought process.

#5 – Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning, or PBL, is a strategy that encourages students to use critical thinking skills by providing a structure for discovery that helps students deepen their understanding. The steps are simple and can be repeated for each new topic:

Looking for more information on classroom strategies? Check out my most popular post on 5 Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in the Primary Classroom . Also, check out all the fun and engaging mystery games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store to develop critical thinkers in your classroom!

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It may not seem like it, but project-based learning is the perfect way to meet all of your students' needs. There are a variety of ways in which project-based learning can be implemented and tweaked to do just that.

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ways to improve critical thinking among students

Critical thinking

Try These Tips to Improve Students' Critical Thinking Skills

Students need strong critical thinking skills to read and write effectively in high school and college. Furthermore, many jobs require employees to think critically to analyze data, choose the best course of action and act on their choices. The earlier students cultivate critical thinking, the more skilled they will be at producing sophisticated, thoughtful analyses of the challenges they face.

Critical thinking

Assign free writes to connect with other course work

After introducing new content or concepts, teachers should assign students free writes that draw connections to other materials or classes. They should begin by determining how the new information connects to what they already know, which will ultimately strengthen their memory.

Once students learn to see how the material connects, they’ll get better at recognizing relationships between ideas that aren’t necessarily correlated on the surface.

Start analyzing and assessing ideas

The next major component of critical thinking is analyzing and assessing the validity of facts and ideas. Have your students actively engage with course material to:

The goal is to push students to think critically about the text at hand to determine how valuable and useful it is.

Use stories to draw connections

When analyzing and assessing, teachers can ask students to practice on a text that they are familiar with to help them understand the process. For example, teachers can start by asking students to tell a common story in our culture.

Some examples might include the Tortoise and the Hare, Cinderella or the Three Bears.  While these stories are fairly well-known, there are many versions or adaptations out there, so students will probably know slightly different versions. Ask students to consider where they learned the version they know and its overall moral or message. Next, have students think about how the origin of the story influences the moral or how it is told.

Connect stories to related concepts

Once students understand the story’s basic meaning, ask them to draw connections outside the story by getting them to identify stories that have a similar message or plot.

Next, ask them to consider:

In this stage of critical thinking, students interact directly with the text to determine how valid the ideas are and whether they are conveyed in a manner that is easy to follow.

Finally, if possible, introduce additional texts that provide new information or concepts students can use to analyze the original text. This process lets students determine the overall significance of the original source material.

Once you’re done with this part of the process, ask students what they still want to know or find out, and have them suggest why they are unclear.

Embrace active learning

One of the major goals of teaching critical thinking is turning students into active learners. Students often engage passively with material, or they learn it without truly thinking about it and connecting it with what they already know. It’s important to forge these connections because you’re creating pathways in the brain that enhance memory.

More significantly, though, learning to think critically will help students examine information and not take it at face value. They will be able to draw upon current knowledge, summarize and synthesize the information at hand, and determine whether it is factual, valuable and relevant.

Ultimately, critical thinking is an important skill both in the classroom and in almost any career. Students who can think critically can learn to analyze data sets, detect problems or patterns, develop marketing plans that reach the ideal audience, or engineer new products that represent creative solutions.

Caitrin Blake has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Denver. She teaches composition at Arapahoe Community College.

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Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

November 24, 2021, 00:00 , 00:00

The learning acquired in schools serves multi-dimensional purposes. It shapes your interests, future education plans, career plans, and personality. This cannot be accomplished solely through the school curriculum, but rather through a combination of academic learning and the development of life skills such as critical thinking.

What is critical thinking?

If you have already come across this term before, then you must know that this is a complex subject to discuss. But let’s try and break it down in the most simplified form. Critical thinking is the process of actively conceptualizing, analyzing, and applying the information gathered through observation, experience, or reflection. It relies on rationality and reasoning. Critical thinking is the ability to find solutions on the basis of evaluation, logic, and evidence.

Have you ever caught yourself in a moment where you have mugged up an answer to a question or a definition of a scientific phenomenon without clearly understanding its meaning and application? It does not take long for this one moment to turn into a habit. This might help you remember the answers, but your quality of learning is deteriorating.

Instead, if you choose to understand the definition, figure out its application and purpose, and go through some examples, you will not only remember the answer, but you will be learning consciously and expanding your knowledge. This is how critical thinking works.

Why should students have critical thinking skills?

There is a difference between memorization and learning. That difference is critical thinking. Everything you learn in school might have a practical implication in your professional life. You must have critical thinking skills in order to not just follow ideas or facts but to find the meaning and connection behind them.

It helps you form relevant arguments, find errors in reasoning, and synthesise solutions to problems. It is important that you develop this skill early in school because, as you move on, life gets tougher when you make choices like choosing a major in education or starting your own venture in the future. Critical thinking skills will be at the core of your decision-making.

How to increase critical thinking skills as a student?

1. ask questions.

It is often seen that students hesitate to ask questions in the classroom. It could be the result of a fear of speaking in public or of embarrassment. But don't hold back from asking questions that could help you learn better. Asking questions enhances your critical thinking in learning.

You can often wait for your class to finish before personally approaching your teacher and clearing up your questions. One question may lead to another, and that will further help in clearing your concepts. If nothing else, then you can always turn to the Internet and ask questions without being judged. Whereas when it comes to classrooms, here are a couple of questions that you may ask:

2. Participate in discussions

Critical thinking skills for students can be developed through social experiences. If you get opportunities to participate in discussions, both online and offline, you must go ahead with it. This will help you come across different perspectives, it will introduce you to new information, you will face disagreements and more. It can give you a lot to think about and analyze. Plus, it helps you develop better communication skills.

3. Practice active learning

If you want to remember what you studied through understanding and not just by reciting it innumerable times, then you must practise active learning. It is a method of learning that is based on an experiential approach. Active learning can be achieved through group learning, case studies, demonstrations, visual learning, etc.

4. Study with the help of examples

It is easy to remember information through examples and stories as they reflect the practical implications. They contribute to mindful learning. Real-life examples, anecdotes, analogies, and facts help develop critical thinking skills.

5. Go beyond academic learning

The academic curriculum helps you lay the foundation for further learning. It is impossible to gather every piece of knowledge in the world or even on a particular subject. But if something strikes your curiosity, then go beyond your academic textbooks and indulge in more research and learning with the help of the Internet.

Pearson’s K12  education is focused on providing learning that helps students build critical thinking skills. It involves interactive learning activities and games that make education light-hearted and effective for students from pre-primary till class 12th. Pearson also offers support to teachers through its  Active Teach  and Comprehensive Teacher Resource Books. This helps teachers keep up with modern times and opt for innovative teaching techniques.

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ways to improve critical thinking among students

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How Can Teachers Encourage And Promote Critical Thinking Among Their Students?

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Elevate your students’ mental workflow beyond just memorizing…

Researcher Dr. Peter Facione states, “Education is nothing more, nor less, than learning to think!”. All educators today agree to the fact that students must become critical thinkers in order to become true learners. Applying critical thinking in the classroom enables and encourages learners to speculate, criticize, and form conclusions about knowledge they already have as well as information they will acquire in the future. Thus, to activate and increase critical thinking in their students, teachers need to devise tasks and activities, and improve their teaching methods to encourage such thinking.

An ideal critical thinker…

Here are some teaching strategies that can be implemented to encourage and promote critical thinking among students:

1. “Let’s think”

It’s very easy to always find a solution for a student who needs your help. Avoid that and instead, try responding with “Let’s think about how we can do this.” Then, you can assist the student in figuring out the best possible solution for the problem.

2. Brainstorm

Give students an opportunity to think. Regardless of the subject, have students analyze what they’ll be doing, learning, or reading – before actually starting each activity. Ask lots of questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me two things you think you will be learning in this lesson about American History?”

3. Make Connections

Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situations and identifying patterns is an excellent way to boost their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.

4. Compare & Contrast

Have your students compare and contrast just about anything, to get them critically thinking. For example, students can compare and contrast the book class is presently reading or an interesting Science lesson with the previous one.

5. Group Activities

When children are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think. This allows them to become better problem solvers when presented with difficulty.

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ways to improve critical thinking among students

Develop Critical Thinking Skills In Students

Critical thinking is the analytical conceptual method of accurately and passionately conceptualizing, analyzing, applying, and evaluating information collected from or created by experience, reflection, communication, or observation as a mentor to measures and reliance.

In school and college, students require strong critical thinking skills to read and write effectively. Along with this, the jobs need employees to think critically to analyze data, opt for the best course of action, and act on their choices.

The previous students propagate critical thinking, the more skilled they will be at creating refined, thoughtful research of the challenges they face.

At any corner of the world, we ask teachers what they feel are the essential skills for modern learners. Educators, teachers, school leaders have various shared objectives. Although no matter where they barrage from, one of the basic among them is effectively developing critical thinking skills.

Thinking critically is the peak of aggregation experience and knowledge. Some crucial skills that are the base for critical thinking are Communication and information skills, Collaboration skills, thinking and Problem-Solving skills and Interpersonal and Self-Directional skills.

These are the essential skills that students are going to need in any field and in all levels of education.

Critical Thinking Skills

The Asian School is one of the most reputed boarding school in Dehradun . This school teaches students to think critically. One of the objectives of this boarding school is to ready students to learn through discovery.

Offering opportunities to practice being critical thinkers will help students examine others’ thinking and analyzing the logic of others. Understanding others is a vital skill in everyday life and collaboration. Critical thinking will permit students to do more than just remember knowledge.

Utilizing critical thinking skills could be seen as a change in the standard of learning and teaching. Engagement in education will improve collaboration among teachers and students.

Critical thinking is just systematically and consciously processing information so that you can make the finest decision and commonly understand things better. If you want to know how to develop critical thinking skills in students, so here we highlight some essential ways.

Critical thinking is the opposite of everyday or regular thinking. Like other academics skills, critical thinking needs an excellent deal of practice.

Here Are Some Ways To Develop Critical Thinking In Students:

1. encourage project-based learning.

To develop critical thinking is students , it is essential to encourage project-based learning in students. By figure, out and solving real-world problems gets the children out of the classroom and into the real world. Critical thinking is a skill that predominant to success in life beyond school.

Developing critical thinking skills and higher-order thinking skills comes to the limelight here. Project-based learning is the great way to introduce new knowledge, concepts, and ideas that motivated the students to learn and also develop critical thinking skills in students .

2. Freedom To Learn

Give freedom to students to learn things; this is one of the effective ways to develop critical thinking skills in students . After introducing new concepts and content, teachers should give freedom to students to learn what they want to learn.

This way definitely helps students to develop critical thinking skills. When students learn the things of their choice, they will learn effectively. Whatever learning methods, the students want or learn, or he/she comfortable in learning should be encouraged.

The freedom to learn results in the intensified sense of ownership of the problem and creative access to solutions. Along with this also elevate critical thinking as well.

3. Connects Stories To Related Concepts

Connects stories to relatable concepts is also an essential way to develop critical thinking . When students understand the story’s fundamental meaning, ask them to draw connections outside the story by obtaining them to analyze stories that have the same concept.

Also, introduce the additional texts that offer new information or concepts students can utilize to examine the original text. This method permits students to determine the overall importance of real source material.

4. Start Analyzing And Assessing Ideas

Analyzing and assessing the effectiveness of facts and ideas is another primary element of critical thinking. If the students are actively engaged with course material to draw connections with other material, regulate the primary ideas, and evaluate whether the ideas are valid and logical.

The main objective is to push students to think critically about the text at hand to regulate how beneficial and useful it is.

5. Embrace Active Learning

Turning students into active learners is a primary goal of teaching critical thinking. Students frequently engage calmly with the material, or they learn it without truly thinking about it and linking it with what they already know.

It is essential to produce these connections because you are generating expressway in the brain that improves memory. Learning to think critically will help students analyze information and not take it at face value. Critical thinking is an essential skill both in the classroom and in almost any career.

Develop critical thinking skills in students is essential because it helps you make hard decisions and allows you to continue to develop brilliantly after you graduate. The critical thinking set up opportunities for students to find connections in learning.

Motivating students to make connections to real-life conditions and classify patterns is an excellent way to practice their critical thinking skills.

Also read, How To Maintain A Positive Mindset In The Classroom

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Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Learning to think critically may be one of the most important skills that today's children will need for the future. In today’s rapidly changing world, children need to be able to do much more than repeat a list of facts; they need to be critical thinkers who can make sense of information, analyze, compare, contrast, make inferences, and generate higher order thinking skills.


Building critical thinking skills happens through day-to-day interactions as you talk with your child, ask open-ended questions, and allow your child to experiment and solve problems.

Here are some tips and ideas to help children build a foundation for critical thinking:

Of course, there are situations where you as a parent need to step in. At these times, it is helpful to model your own critical thinking. As you work through a decision making process, verbalize what is happening inside your mind. Children learn from observing how you think. Taking time to allow your child to navigate problems is integral to developing your child's critical thinking skills in the long run.

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College Info Geek

7 Ways to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills

ways to improve critical thinking among students

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ways to improve critical thinking among students

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice:

Your teachers in high school won’t expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you’ve forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think ; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it’s not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them.

And now that I’m in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the “real world” than specific content.

Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it. It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies. While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? This post is my attempt to answer those questions.

In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.

What Is Critical Thinking?

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.” – The Foundation for Critical Thinking

The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website  is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex.

Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions and generally understand things better. The above definition includes so many words because critical thinking requires you to apply diverse intellectual tools to diverse information.

Ways to critically think about information include:

That information can come from sources such as:

And all this is meant to guide:

You can also define it this way:

Critical thinking is the opposite of regular, everyday thinking. 

Moment to moment, most thinking happens automatically. When you think critically, you  deliberately  employ any of the above intellectual tools to reach more accurate conclusions than your brain automatically would (more on this in a bit).

This is what critical thinking is. But so what?

Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?


Most of our everyday thinking is uncritical.

If you think about it, this makes sense. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. It’s good that much of our thinking is automatic.

We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions. Without critical thinking, it’s easy for people to manipulate us and for all sorts of catastrophes to result. Anywhere that some form of fundamentalism led to tragedy (the Holocaust is a textbook example), critical thinking was sorely lacking.

Even day to day, it’s easy to get caught in pointless arguments or say stupid things just because you failed to stop and think deliberately.

But you’re reading College Info Geek, so I’m sure you’re interested to know why critical thinking matters in college.

Here’s why:

According to Andrew Roberts, author of The Thinking Student’s Guide to College , c ritical thinking matters in college because students often adopt the wrong attitude to thinking about difficult questions. These attitudes include:

Ignorant Certainty

Ignorant certainty is the belief that there are definite, correct answers to all questions–all you have to do is find the right source (102). It’s understandable that a lot of students come into college thinking this way–it’s enough to get you through most of your high school coursework.

In college and in life, however, the answers to most meaningful questions are rarely straightforward. To get anywhere in college classes (especially upper-level ones), you have to think critically about the material.

Naive Relativism

Naive relativism is the belief that there is no truth and all arguments are equal (102-103). According to Roberts, this is often a view that students adopt once they learn the error of ignorant certainty.

While it’s certainly a more “critical” approach than ignorant certainty, naive relativism is still inadequate since it misses the whole point of critical thinking: arriving at a more complete, “less wrong” answer.

Part of thinking critically is evaluating the validity of arguments (yours and others’). Therefore, to think critically you must accept that some arguments are better (and that some are just plain awful).

Critical thinking also matters in college because:

Doing college level work without critical is a lot like walking blindfolded: you’ll get  somewhere , but it’s unlikely to be the place you desire.


The value of critical thinking doesn’t stop with college, however. Once you get out into the real world, critical thinking matters even more. This is because:

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7 Ways to Think More Critically


Now we come to the part that I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for: how the heck do we get better at critical thinking?  Below, you’ll find seven ways to get started.

1. Ask Basic Questions

“The world is complicated. But does every problem require a complicated solution?” – Stephen J. Dubner

Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost. To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.

Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem:

Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity.  Seek the simple solution  first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem. it’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.

Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong. From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang , questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.

You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. That trip you’ve wanted to take? That hobby you’ve wanted to try? That internship you’ve wanted to get? That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?

All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies . It’s a tool that musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created to aid creative problem solving . Some of the “cards” are specific to music, but most work for any time you’re stuck on a problem.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically. Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.

This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.

A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases   and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.

All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first.  Or did it?

Even if it turns out that the reverse  isn’t  true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area. There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.

It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion. Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:

Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal. On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing. That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.

You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results, but you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself

Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself –sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.

Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation  E=mc 2 ), C.P. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others. To a surprisingly large extent, that is precisely what he had done'”(121).

Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions. I find this to be true when writing essays–it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

For more on the importance of thinking for yourself, check out our article on mental laziness .

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time

“Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought.” – Michael Scriven and Richard Paul

You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay. Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.

And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning. What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.

Even Isaac Newton, genius that he was, believed that alchemy was a legitimate pursuit .


As I hope you now see, learning to think critically will benefit you both in the classroom and beyond. I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can think more critically in your own life. Remember: learning to think critically is a lifelong journey, and there’s always more to learn.

For a look at critical thinking principles in action, check out our guide to strategic thinking .

Image Credits: skyline ,  waterfall , vaulted ceiling ,  snowy road , thinker

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Active Learning Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking

Stacy E. Walker, PhD, ATC, provided conception and design; acquisition and analysis and interpretation of the data; and drafting, critical revision, and final approval of the article.

To provide a brief introduction to the definition and disposition to think critically along with active learning strategies to promote critical thinking.

Data Sources:

I searched MEDLINE and Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) from 1933 to 2002 for literature related to critical thinking, the disposition to think critically, questioning, and various critical-thinking pedagogic techniques.

Data Synthesis:

The development of critical thinking has been the topic of many educational articles recently. Numerous instructional methods exist to promote thought and active learning in the classroom, including case studies, discussion methods, written exercises, questioning techniques, and debates. Three methods—questioning, written exercises, and discussion and debates—are highlighted.


The definition of critical thinking, the disposition to think critically, and different teaching strategies are featured. Although not appropriate for all subject matter and classes, these learning strategies can be used and adapted to facilitate critical thinking and active participation.

The development of critical thinking (CT) has been a focus of educators at every level of education for years. Imagine a certified athletic trainer (ATC) who does not consider all of the injury options when performing an assessment or an ATC who fails to consider using any new rehabilitation techniques because the ones used for years have worked. Envision ATCs who are unable to react calmly during an emergency because, although they designed the emergency action plan, they never practiced it or mentally prepared for an emergency. These are all examples of situations in which ATCs must think critically.

Presently, athletic training educators are teaching many competencies and proficiencies to entry-level athletic training students. As Davies 1 pointed out, CT is needed in clinical decision making because of the many changes occurring in education, technology, and health care reform. Yet little information exists in the athletic training literature regarding CT and methods to promote thought. Fuller, 2 using the Bloom taxonomy, classified learning objectives, written assignments, and examinations as CT and nonCT. Athletic training educators fostered more CT in their learning objectives and written assignments than in examinations. The disposition of athletic training students to think critically exists but is weak. Leaver-Dunn et al 3 concluded that teaching methods that promote the various components of CT should be used. My purpose is to provide a brief introduction to the definition and disposition to think critically along with active learning strategies to promote CT.


Four commonly referenced definitions of critical thinking are provided in Table ​ Table1. 1 . All of these definitions describe an individual who is actively engaged in the thought process. Not only is this person evaluating, analyzing, and interpreting the information, he or she is also analyzing inferences and assumptions made regarding that information. The use of CT skills such as analysis of inferences and assumptions shows involvement in the CT process. These cognitive skills are employed to form a judgment. Reflective thinking, defined by Dewey 8 as the type of thinking that consists of turning a subject over in the mind and giving it serious and consecutive consideration, can be used to evaluate the quality of judgment(s) made. 9 Unfortunately, not everyone uses CT when solving problems. Therefore, in order to think critically, there must be a certain amount of self-awareness and other characteristics present to enable a person to explain the analysis and interpretation and to evaluate any inferences made.

Various Definitions of Critical Thinking

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Recently researchers have begun to investigate the relationship between the disposition to think critically and CT skills. Many believe that in order to develop CT skills, the disposition to think critically must be nurtured as well. 4 , 10 – 12 Although research related to the disposition to think critically has recently increased, as far back as 1933 Dewey 8 argued that possession of knowledge is no guarantee for the ability to think well but that an individual must desire to think. Open mindedness, wholeheartedness, and responsibility were 3 of the attitudes he felt were important traits of character to develop the habit of thinking. 8

More recently, the American Philosophical Association Delphi report on critical thinking 7 was released in 1990. This report resulted from a questionnaire regarding CT completed by a cross-disciplinary panel of experts from the United States and Canada. Findings included continued support for the theory that to develop CT, an individual must possess and use certain dispositional characteristics. Based upon the dispositional phrases, the California Critical Thinking Dispositional Inventory 13 was developed. Seven dispositions (Table ​ (Table2) 2 ) were derived from the original 19 published in the Delphi report. 12 It is important to note that these are attitudes or affects, which are sought after in an individual, and not thinking skills. Facione et al 9 purported that a person who thinks critically uses these 7 dispositions to form and make judgments. For example, if an individual is not truth seeking, he or she may not consider other opinions or theories regarding an issue or problem before forming an opinion. A student may possess the knowledge to think critically about an issue, but if these dispositional affects do not work in concert, the student may fail to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize the information to think critically. More research is needed to determine the relationship between CT and the disposition to think critically.

Dispositions to Think Critically 12

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Educators can use various instructional methods to promote CT and problem solving. Although educators value a student who thinks critically about concepts, the spirit or disposition to think critically is, unfortunately, not always present in all students. Many college faculty expect their students to think critically. 14 Some nursing-specific common assumptions made by university nursing teaching faculty are provided 15 (Table ​ (Table3) 3 ) because no similar research exists in athletic training. Espeland and Shanta 16 argued that faculty who select lecture formats as a large part of their teaching strategy may be enabling students. When lecturing, the instructor organizes and presents essential information without student input. This practice eliminates the opportunity for students to decide for themselves what information is important to know. For example, instead of telling our students via lecture what medications could be given to athletes with an upper respiratory infection, they could be assigned to investigate medications and decide which one is appropriate.

Common Assumptions of Nursing Faculty 15

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Students need to be exposed to diverse teaching methods that promote CT in order to nurture the CT process. 14 , 17 – 19 As pointed out by Kloss, 20 sometimes students are stuck and unable to understand that various answers exist for one problem. Each ATC has a different method of taping a sprained ankle, performing special tests, and obtaining medical information. Kloss 20 stated that students must be exposed to ambiguity and multiple interpretations and perspectives of a situation or problem in order to stimulate growth. As students move through their clinical experiences, they witness the various methods for taping ankles, performing special tests, and obtaining a thorough history from an injured athlete. Paul and Elder 21 stated that many professors may try to encourage students to learn a body of knowledge by stating that body of knowledge in a sequence of lectures and then asking students to internalize knowledge outside of class on their own time. Not all students possess the thinking skills to analyze and synthesize information without practice. The following 3 sections present information and examples of different teaching techniques to promote CT.


An assortment of questioning tactics exists to promote CT. Depending on how a question is asked, the student may use various CT skills such as interpretation, analysis, and recognition of assumptions to form a conclusion. Mills 22 suggested that the thoughtful use of questions may be the quintessential activity of an effective teacher. Questions are only as good as the thought put into them and should go beyond knowledge-level recall. 22 Researchers 23 , 24 have found that often clinical teachers asked significantly more lower-level cognitive questions than higher-level questions. Questions should be designed to promote evaluation and synthesis of facts and concepts. Asking a student to evaluate when proprioception exercises should be included in a rehabilitation program is more challenging than asking a student to define proprioception. Higher-level thinking questions should start or end with words or phrases such as, “explain,” “compare,” “why,” “which is a solution to the problem,” “what is the best and why,” and “do you agree or disagree with this statement?” For example, a student could be asked to compare the use of parachlorophenylalanine versus serotonin for control of posttreatment soreness. Examples of words that can be used to begin questions to challenge at the different levels of the Bloom Taxonomy 25 are given in Table ​ Table4. 4 . The Bloom Taxonomy 25 is a hierarchy of thinking skills that ranges from simple skills, such as knowledge, to complex thinking, such as evaluation. Depending on the initial words used in the question, students can be challenged at different levels of cognition.

Examples of Questions 23

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Another type of questioning technique is Socratic questioning. Socratic questioning is defined as a type of questioning that deeply probes or explores the meaning, justification, or logical strength of a claim, position, or line of reasoning. 4 , 26 Questions are asked that investigate assumptions, viewpoints, consequences, and evidence. Questioning methods, such as calling on students who do not have their hands up, can enhance learning by engaging students to think. The Socratic method focuses on clarification. A student's answer to a question can be followed by asking a fellow student to summarize the previous answer. Summarizing the information allows the student to demonstrate whether he or she was listening, had digested the information, and understood it enough to put it into his or her own words. Avoiding questions with one set answer allows for different viewpoints and encourages students to compare problems and approaches. Asking students to explain how the high school and the collegiate or university field experiences are similar and different is an example. There is no right or wrong answer because the answers depend upon the individual student's experiences. 19 Regardless of the answer, the student must think critically about the topic to form a conclusion of how the field experiences are different and similar.

In addition to using these questioning techniques, it is equally important to orient the students to this type of classroom interaction. Mills 22 suggested that provocative questions should be brief and contain only one or two issues at a time for class reflection. It is also important to provide deliberate silence, or “wait” time, for students upon asking questions. 22 , 27 Waiting at least 5 seconds allows the students to think and encourages thought. Elliot 18 argued that waiting even as long as 10 seconds allows the students time to think about possibilities. If a thought question is asked, time must be given for the students to think about the answer.

Classroom Discussion and Debates

Classroom discussion and debates can promote critical thinking. Various techniques are available. Bernstein 28 developed a negotiation model in which students were confronted with credible but antagonistic arguments. Students were challenged to deal with the tension between the two arguments. This tension is believed to be one component driving critical thought. Controversial issues in psychology, such as animal rights and pornography, were presented and discussed. Students responded favorably and, as the class progressed over time, they reported being more comfortable arguing both sides of an issue. In athletic training education, a negotiation model could be employed to discuss certain topics, such as the use of heat versus ice or the use of ultrasound versus electric stimulation in the treatment of an injury. Students could be assigned to defend the use of a certain treatment. Another strategy to promote students to seek both sides of an issue is pro and con grids. 29 Students create grids with the pros and cons or advantages or disadvantages of an issue or treatment. Debate was used to promote CT in second-year medical students. 30 After debating, students reported improvements in literature searching, weighing risks and benefits of treatments, and making evidence-based decisions. Regardless of the teaching methods used, students should be exposed to analyzing the costs and benefits of issues, problems, and treatments to help prepare them for real-life decision making.

Observing the reasoning skills of another person was used by Galotti 31 to promote CT. Students were paired, and 4 reasoning tasks were administered. As the tasks were administered, students were told to talk aloud through the reasoning process of their decisions. Students who were observing were to write down key phrases and statements. This same process can be used in an injury-evaluation class. One student performs an evaluation while the others in the class observe. Classroom discussion can then follow. Another alternative is to divide students into pairs. One student performs an evaluation while the other observes. After the evaluation is completed, the students discuss with each other the evaluation (Table ​ (Table5 5 presents examples). Another option is to have athletic training students observe a student peer or ATC during a field evaluation of an athlete. While observing, the student can write down any questions or topics to discuss after the evaluation, providing the student an opportunity to ask why certain evaluation methods were and were not used.

Postevaluation Questions

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Daily newspaper clippings directly related to current classroom content also allow an instructor to incorporate discussion into the classroom. 32 For example, an athlete who has been reported to have died as a result of heat illness could provide subject matter for classroom discussion or various written assignments. Such news also affords the instructor an opportunity to discuss the affective components involved. Students could be asked to step into the role of the ATC and think about the reported implications of this death from different perspectives. They could also list any assumptions made by the article or follow-up questions they would ask if they could interview the persons involved. This provides a forum to enlighten students to think for themselves and realize that not each person in the room perceives the article the same way. Whatever the approach taken, investigators and educators agree that assignments and arguments are useful to promote thought among students.

Written Assignments

In-class and out-of-class assignments can also serve as powerful vehicles to allow students to expand their thinking processes. Emig 33 believed that involving students in writing serves their learning uniquely because writing, as process and product, possesses a cluster of attributes that correspond uniquely to certain powerful learning strategies. As a general rule, assignments for the purpose of promoting thought should be short (not long term papers) and focus on the aspect of thinking. 19 Research or 1-topic papers may or may not be a student's own thoughts, and Meyers 32 argued that term papers often prove to be exercises in recapitulating the thoughts of others.

Allegretti and Frederick 34 used a variety of cases from a book to promote CT regarding different ethical issues. Countless case-study situations can be created to allow students to practice managing situations and assess clinical decision making. For example, after reading the National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement on lightning, a student can be asked to address the following scenario: “Explain how you would handle a situation in which a coach has kept athletes outside practicing unsafely. What information would you use from this statement to explain your concerns? Explain why you picked the specific concerns.” These questions can be answered individually or in small groups and then discussed in class. The students will pick different concerns based on their thinking. This variety in answers is not only one way to show that no answer is right or wrong but also allows students to defend their answers to peers. Questions posed on listservs are excellent avenues to enrich a student's education. Using these real-life questions, students read about real issues and concerns of ATCs. These topics present excellent opportunities to pose questions to senior-level athletic training students to examine how they would handle the situation. This provides the students a safe place to analyze the problem and form a decision. Once the students make a decision, additional factors, assumptions, and inferences can be discussed by having all students share the solution they chose.

Lantz and Meyers 35 used personification and assigned students to assume the character of a drug. Students were to relate themselves to the drug, in the belief that drugs exhibit many unique characteristics, such as belonging to a family, interaction problems, adverse reactions, and so forth. The development of analogies comes from experience and comparing one theory or scenario to another with strong similarities.

Fopma-Loy and Ulrich 36 identified various CT classroom exercises educators can implement to promote higher-order thought (Table ​ (Table6). 6 ). Many incorporate a personal reaction from the student and allow the student to link that learning to his or her feelings. This personal reaction of feelings to cognitive information is important to show the relevance of material.

Exercises to Promote Critical Thought 36

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Last, poems are another avenue that can be used to promote CT. 20 Although poems are widely thought of as an assignment in an English class, athletic training students may benefit from this creative writing activity. The focus of this type of homework activity should be on reviewing content creatively. The lines of the poem need not rhyme as long as appropriate content is explained in the poem. For example, a poem on the knee could be required to include signs, symptoms, and anatomical content of one injury or various injuries. A poem on head injuries could focus on the different types of history questions that should be asked. Students should understand that the focus of the assignment is a creative review of the material and not a test of their poetic qualities. The instructor should complete a poem as well. To break the ice, the instructor's poem can be read first, followed by a student volunteering to read his or her poem.


Regardless of the methods used to promote CT, care must be taken to consider the many factors that may inhibit a student from thinking critically. The student's disposition to think critically is a major factor, and if a deficit in a disposition is noticed, this should be nurtured. Students should be encouraged to be inquisitive, ask questions, and not believe and accept everything they are told. As pointed out by Loving and Wilson 14 and Oermann, 19 thought develops with practice and evaluation over time using multiple strategies. Additionally, faculty should be aware of their course goals and learning objectives. If these goals and objectives are stated as higher-order thought outcomes, then activities that promote CT should be included in classroom activities and assignments. 14 Finally, it is important that CT skills be encouraged and reinforced in all classes by teaching faculty, not only at the college level but at every level of education. Although huge gains in CT may not be reflected in all college students, we can still plant the seed and encourage students to use their thinking abilities in the hope these will grow over time.


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