Critical thinking is the ability to compare, contrast, evaluate, understand, organise and classify information. Students who are taught to apply critical thinking in their lives are empowered to make decisions and face problems confidently.
How early do you start developing critical thinking skills in children?
It seems like a lot to ask of a 6-year-old, but through baby steps, critical thinking skills can be developed from an early age to set them up for the next few stages of their development and future career too.
Ways to develop critical thinking:
I. Ask questions
Asking questions helps students face a problem. For example, asking questions like, ‘How would someone else feel about this?’, ‘Is it fair? Why?’, or ‘What can I do about this?’
These, and other questions, can be displayed around the classroom so that students see and use them throughout a lesson and this eventually becomes a habit and a part of their mental process.
ii. Assessing performance through quizzes and tests
Teachers need to create quizzes or tests with questions that are designed to show critical thinking skills. Avoid questions that require the student to commit the answers using memory.
Sometimes, a wrong answer with an interesting explanation shows a stronger mastery of critical thinking processes rather than a correct answer with no explanation.
III. Create a supportive environment
Students need to have the freedom to use their critical thinking ability without the fear of getting the wrong answer. Teachers should praise effort as well as accuracy too.
Students should be encouraged to give reasons for their choices and asking students for their opinions tells them their thoughts are valued in the classroom.
IV. Fostering critical thinking at home
It is important to allow your child to try things without the fear of failure at home. Get them to analyse rather than memorise.
Teach your child to ask the 6 critical questions: ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, and ‘how’. Questions feel scary but questions show that our children are seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their world and they are learning to become independent thinkers.
You can also encourage your child to study a range of topics, consume media from different platforms, and play many different games. By broadening their experience, children will start to make links and comparisons, aided by your questions and encouragement.
What we do at the British Council
Our primary teachers use these techniques and many others to help your children develop a key skill they need to become successful young people. The materials for our primary courses focus not only on language acquisition, but also on analysis, making connections, and formulating opinions.
Find out how we are going to introduce language and critical thinking skills to children for our upcoming holiday programme. For more information visit www.britishcouncil.my/holidays.