Quora Question: How can we improve critical thinking skills in our students/kids?
We have to teach these skills in a way that allows for continuous practice and application in specific contexts. One of the most difficult things about teaching critical thinking is that there is not as much skill transfer from one context to another as we might think. So, students might be good at critical thinking in one area but seem to completely lack the skill in another area.
Part of this is due to interest in the context versus lack of interest. But, another important aspect is that too often critical thinking is taught in a way that seems to define specific contexts where it is applied and thus it is not obvious how it can apply in other areas.
We also need to recognize that some aspects of critical thinking may not be developmentally appropriate to teach at an early age as the child’s brain is not yet wired to comprehend these concepts. But, that doesn’t mean that some aspects of critical thinking can’t be taught. We just have to develop and deepen the skills as appropriate for the child’s development.
As strange as it might sound, one of the major impediments to teaching critical thinking is the way critical thinking courses are taught. The emphasis is often not on deep critical thinking skills but on surface-level skills which are easier to measure. Watch out for critical thinking courses where the learning outcomes are very low on Bloom’s taxonomy. While these are crucial at first, one cannot develop really good critical thinking skills unless you dig deeper.
A key factor to critical thinking is knowing to think critically about. Too often we are not teaching children enough facts about history, science, and other areas to give them fuel for their thinking. Critical thinking does not occur in a vacuum. Unless you have some information about which to think you cannot think critically.
Finally, adults need to model these skills. And, in cases where the adults do not have critical thinking skills they need to learn them and apply them. That means work for the adults as well as the children!
Start with reading some good books about critical thinking. Continue by reading good non-fiction books to add to your store of knowledge.
Here are some good books to start on critical thinking:
Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational
Michael Shermer Why People Believe Weird Things
Theodore Schick How to Think About Weird Things
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator