How Educators Can Actively Work Towards Improving Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

How Educators Can Actively Work Towards Improving Students’ Critical Thinking Skills
Many different definitions of critical thinking exist in the world today, but the most common definition is “analyses of facts, evidence, observations and arguments to form a judgment.” Critical thinking skills are vital in any academic environment and our students need to become well cultivated critical thinkers to improve their academic skills and succeed in thinking with an open mind. A trained critical thinker should be able to raise vital questions and formulate them clearly and precisely. They should be able to gather and assess relevant information, come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, and should communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is one of the most important and valuable life skills that anyone can acquire, and it is a very vital and necessary part of a student’s academic skills. Thinking skills for a student means the ability to think logically, clearly and rationally. This is in reality a mindset used to reason and reflect in a systematic way. It enables a student to think about a topic in an objective and critical manner that helps him or her to understand various points of view. For teachers, it serves as the hallmark of knowing when students shift from dependent learning to independent learning: something that all teachers should need to aspire for. It is imperative for teachers to know that critical thinking is happening in the class they are teaching and to be able to identify the clear signs to show this process taking shape. Some of the most common and obvious signs of critical thinking being acquired by the students are that they start asking deep probing questions about a topic and they connect new ideas to background knowledge. Students start to create rational and sensible arguments about a topic and use reflective thinking with ease and quite often. When thinking skills are used by students, they are able to apply creative problem-solving that assists in selecting the soundest decision. Our daily lives are full of things that involve problem-solving and decision making. We are inundated with information from the media and social media platforms. People, and especially students, need to know how to sift through this information and decide about the reliable and credible sources of information to use in their daily lives or in their academic endeavours.

How to improve critical thinking is a question haunting our education system at all levels, but nobody seems to have an answer. Our education system has yet to wake up to the importance of critical thinking. Most teachers in Pakistan enter the profession of teaching straight out of college, without any training or knowledge of modern teaching methods - so critical thinking is an alien and newfangled concept for them. To improve and develop thinking skills in students, teachers have to commit to an honest reflection of their existing teaching practices. They can begin this process by a careful analysis of their current teaching strategies, no matter what grade level or subject they are teaching. To develop critical thinking in students first of all it is required to promote project-based learning. Figuring out and trying to solve real world problems makes the students get out of the class and into the real world. Project-based learning is the best way to introduce new knowledge, concepts and ideas that motivate students to learn and develop critical thinking skills. Students should be able to develop their own projects, define goals, define their learning plan and communicate achievement to a broader audience.

When students can make choices and direct their own learning, they become more dedicated students any teaching strategy that develops critical thinking is project-based learning.
Most teachers in Pakistan enter the profession of teaching straight out of college, without any training or knowledge of modern teaching methods - so critical thinking is an alien and newfangled concept for them

Another very effective way to develop critical thinking in students is to give them the freedom to learn things. After an introduction of new concepts and content teachers should give freedom to learn what they want to learn and that is a great help in developing critical thinking skills. The freedom to learn means intensified sense of ownership of the problem along with an elevated process of critical thinking. Connecting stories to relatable concepts is also another way to develop critical thinking. When students understand the story’s fundamental meaning, ask them to draw conclusions outside the story and to analyse stories that have the same concept.

Another basic element of critical thinking is the ability to assess the effectiveness of facts and ideas. If the students are engaged with course material to draw connections with other material, regulate the primary ideas and evaluate whether the ideas are valid or logical. The objective should be to make students think critically about the text at hand to regulate how beneficial and useful it is.

The primary objective of critical thinking is to turn students into active learners. Students normally engage calmly with course material, or they learn it without truly thinking about it and linking it with what they already know. Learning to think critically will help students analyze information and not take it at face value. Critical thinking is as an important and essential skill both in school and in almost any career. To encourage critical thinking teachers should make effective use of analogies, promote interaction and group cooperation in their students. Ask open-ended questions and not questions with a ‘yes or no’ answer, allow time for reflection and criticism in class, talk about real life problems and allow frequent open discussions. Critical thinking prepares students to think for themselves for the rest of their lives. Critical thinks are much less likely to go along with the crowd because they think for themselves.

Students must be heard more often to promote independent learning and a student-centered classroom. More opportunities for student led discussions and less lectures. More interactive opportunities to work in small groups or with partners to teach and learn from each other and all of these methods help to develop critical thinking skills.