How To Help Students Think For Themselves: 10 Ways To Promote Critical Thinking
As teachers, we need to make sure that our students are learning how to think critically, and not just memorizing facts and figures we’ve presented them with. Doing so makes it far more likely that they’ll remember the content and be able to apply it in real life situations they’ll inevitably come across in the future. If you’re looking for some tips on how to help students think for themselves and develop their critical thinking skills, here are 10 of my favorites!
1) Question Assumptions
Asking questions is a great way to help students think for themselves. It forces them to consider what they know and don’t know, and it encourages them to seek out answers. When you ask a question, make sure you follow up with additional questions that probe deeper. This will help students explore different angles and come up with their own ideas.
2) Create Positive Interactions
When it comes to promoting critical thinking in the classroom, one of the most important things you can do is create positive interactions with your students. Here are few ways to do just that
- – Focus on the student’s strengths and build upon them.
- – Listen actively and be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- – Encourage sharing their thoughts and ideas without interrupting or judging them.
- – Show empathy by reflecting back what they said so they know you heard them correctly.
- – Appreciate their efforts and recognize their successes no matter how small.
3) Ask Open Ended Questions
Asking open-ended questions is a great way to promote critical thinking. By definition, open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. They require students to think critically and creatively in order to come up with a response. Here are six ways you can ask open-ended questions in the classroom
- 1) What do you think about what we just read?
- 2) What’s an example of when this would apply?
- 3) How could we have done this better?
- 4) Which one of these ideas best describes your opinion on that topic?
- 5) What do you predict will happen next?
- 6) Why do you believe that people behave this way?
4) Teach Students What It Means To Sustain Thought
When we think about how to help students think for themselves, it’s important to first define what we mean by thinking. According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective activity. It requires careful planning and execution, as well as constant reflection and refinement. In other words, critical thinking is a purposeful and reflective form of thinking that leads to conclusions that are well thought-out and supported. (It also entails both deductive and inductive reasoning). We can try to teach our students this kind of reasoning through modeling good thinking habits. And by constantly encouraging them to develop skills that promote effective critical thinking—for example, communicating one’s ideas effectively and identifying hidden assumptions or inferences. By teaching these skills, we can ensure they have the ability to not only come up with their own ideas but also evaluate whether those ideas make sense or not.
The goal is not simply giving them more information; it’s helping them think critically so they can generate new ideas on their own.
5) Allow Time for Creative Solutions
When you give students time to think for themselves, they often come up with creative solutions that you may never have thought of. This is because they are not limited by the same constraints that you are. They can think outside the box and come up with ideas that are truly original. As a teacher, you should be doing this on a regular basis if you want your students to grow and thrive. One way to do this is through group work. Give your class a problem or task and let them divide into groups of four or five people before giving them an allotted amount of time to come up with their solution as a group. You might even find that some groups will present two possible solutions so everyone has a chance at coming up with what could be the best answer for the issue at hand.
6) Start with Reasons & Not Facts
Facts are the things we can measure, and they’re important. But ultimately, it’s our reasons that matter most. Facts without reasons are like stones in a sack–useless and heavy. Reasons without facts are like smoke–evanescent and intangible.
7) Encourage Analysis (Not Just Description)
One way to encourage students to think for themselves is to encourage them to analyze, rather than simply describe. When students are asked to analyze something, they must go beyond simply describing what they see or what they think. They must ask themselves why something is the way it is, how it got that way, and what the implications of that are. By encouraging students to engage in analysis, you are encouraging them to think for themselves and to develop their own opinions and ideas.
8) Use Case Studies
Case studies are an excellent way to promote critical thinking in the classroom. By presenting students with real-world problems, they are challenged to think creatively and come up with solutions that could actually work. Additionally, case studies force students to consider all sides of an issue and to think about the implications of their proposed solutions. Here are few ways you can use case studies in your classroom:
- 1) If your lesson is on government or politics, ask students to write a summary of a recent news story and then have them give three possible causes for what happened as well as what might happen next.
- 2) Ask your students to take on the role of different people involved in a scenario from history, such as FDR trying to convince Congress not to enter World War II or Gandhi trying to persuade British colonists not to turn over India’s salt tax revenue for the purpose of fighting poverty.
- 3) Challenge groups of students to interview people in your town about how they solve certain problems like repairing things around the house or managing food costs during tough economic times.
9) Collaborate in Groups (No Pass/Fail Grading Here!)
There’s no question that collaboration among students can promote critical thinking. But how can you encourage students to work together without resorting to pass/fail grading? Here are strategies that will get your students thinking for themselves – and working together to boot!
- Assign small groups of students a project that requires different skillsets. You might assign the group a quiz about a certain book, or the group might be asked to design a museum exhibit on the Civil War.
- Allow them time at the end of class to work with their peers to make sure they have all the pieces they need before submitting their final product.
10) Provide Additional Resources in Class & Online
One way to promote critical thinking in the classroom is to provide additional resources that students can use to explore a topic on their own. This could include books, websites, articles, or even other people who are experts on the subject. By giving students the opportunity to find information for themselves, they will be more likely to think critically about what they are learning. Additionally, online resources can be a great way to engage students in critical thinking. There are many websites and apps that allow users to answer questions, solve problems, or otherwise engage in critical thinking activities. By providing these resources in class, you can encourage students to think critically even when they are not in the classroom.
Teachers play a vital role in promoting critical thinking in the classroom. By asking open-ended questions, encouraging students to think about multiple perspectives, and challenging students to defend their positions, teachers can help students learn how to think for themselves. Additionally, teachers can create opportunities for students to practice critical thinking outside of the classroom by incorporating it into homework assignments and class projects. By taking these steps, teachers can help their students develop the skills they need to be successful in school and in life.