Critical thinking is the ability to question, examine, analyze and recognize assumptions, values and conclusions. The ability to be a critical thinker is an important skill for students to develop as early as possible. It is a skill valued by employers in all fields and it is also what usually sets one student or prospective employee apart from another. Learning critical thinking is a process and while there are elements that can be taught, acquiring the skill takes time and effort.
Learning How to Analyze
Teaching a student how to approach a problem means he must learn to be aware of how he approaches a situation. Teaching how to analyze a problem can be done through a text example or with a practical example. A text analysis uses a passage from an essay or a novel while a practical example uses a situation that refers more specifically to the subject matter. A text analysis provides a more abstract and general example that can be applicable to different contexts. A practical example shows that critical thinking is useful and necessary. One way of encouraging analysis is to ask a student why she thinks that something happened rather than giving a mere description. For example, asking "why do you think this took place?" instead of instead of "what happened?"
Using puzzles or games is a good way of teaching students how to problem solve. It makes student learn how to work through a difficult or seemingly impossible problem to reach a goal or achieve success. There are many puzzle books, brainteasers or even logic problems that can help a student learn how to use his analytical skills in everyday or real-life problems.
Learning to Question Everything
An important aspect of critical thinking is learning to think for yourself. That means always questioning the legitimacy of seemingly self-evident truths. Learning how to question the context and content of something leads to a deeper and more detailed understanding of a subject. Questioning assumptions and statements also helps to develop a more reasoned and nuanced opinion, one that can take into consideration multiple perspectives. A good way to practice this type of thinking is through group discussion in which you hear different points of view and the reasoning behind them.
Finding Alternate Solutions
Critical thinking about a problem means that you cannot assume the most obvious solution or answer is always the right one. Coming up with alternative solutions to a problem or a puzzle sometimes requires you to go beyond your first assumption about how something should work. Never be afraid to try a new or unconventional solution simply because it isn't standard practice.
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