7 Ways to Promote Critical Thinking in Young Students


Guest post by Jessica Robinson

Are you a teacher or a guardian who is a critical thinker? Do you believe in the power of critical thinking and in some way want to inculcate the discipline of critical thinking in your students? You are in the right spot.

We all happen to think on a daily basis, i.e whenever we have to make a transaction, solve a problem, or answer a question, but most of us aren’t critical thinkers. The power of critical thinking can only be exhibited in scenarios where one must form a judgment out of the prevailing situation, content, or problem which is intricate.

But what does critical thinking really mean? Critical thinking is the ability to define a problem, assess evidence, and reason critically before making a conclusion. Linda Elder and Richard Paul, authors of “Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory,” stress that students who analyze things or situations are able to make connections across disciplines, understand the content better, and see knowledge as applicable to life.

Jane Qinjuan Zhang, a researcher explains that critical thinking enables students to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, and allows them to take ownership of their education. Developing critical thinking skills can improve student academic performance, but can also be essential throughout one’s life.

Although we can’t directly create circumstances to induce critical thinking in students, teachers can leverage a range of approaches to promote critical thinking. People who think critically make better decisions, form meaningful relationships, and tend to be creative. Given below are some effective and actionable strategies that teachers can use to foster critical thinking skills in their students.

The 7 Reliable Approaches to Promote

Critical Thinking in Students

1. Push for a growth mindset

The concept of a growth mindset is highly recognized in the field of psychology and it was originally coined by Carol Dweck, a psychologist, professor, and researcher at Stanford University, in her 2006 book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”. The professor explains that one exhibits a growth mindset when they aren’t limited by inherent traits. In simple terms, one believes that his ability or skills can be developed.

Teachers who push for a growth mindset in students help them to realize that certain things in life must be obtained by learning or putting in extra effort. The concept of a growth mindset highly requires teachers to celebrate efforts made by trying out new strategies even if students fail to realize the goal. In this way, they are encouraged to work harder or think of new approaches to obtain the set SMART Goals, whether within the earliest or later on. The persistence that is displayed develops the culture of logical thinking which helps students to make full use of their brains.

2. Teach Them to Take Initiative

Taking initiative is a skill that students must develop to thrive in their academic and professional lives. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German novelist, and scientist once said: “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world”. People who take initiative don’t wait for things to happen naturally, but they believe that they can work things out by themselves.

Taking initiative doesn’t always mean that one will be successful, but it enhances logical thinking. It is very necessary as it encourages students to learn on their own or become creative. Teachers can help students learn initiative by encouraging them to indulge in school activities, volunteer to do something, or participate in class.

In fact, as a teacher, you can also encourage initiatives by your students by asking them to propose topics for group discussion, debates, or declamations. In fact, an act of taking an initiative can be as simple as asking your students to suggest some recommendations for summer camp ideas.

When they take initiative and you back them, it will do a world of good to their confidence. With this confidence, they will have greater trust in their thinking abilities and this will further add value to their critical thinking.

3. Encourage Independent Decision Making

Group efforts are good, but they at times kill creativity in learners. That is why tests and exams are taken to assess one’s thinking power. As a teacher, you may not directly inculcate the skill of independent decision-making in students, but you can create instances where students are required to choose from the available options.

Things like sports, maths lessons, debates, and formal discussions can help students learn how to think and make independent decisions. During such activities, it’s essential for a teacher not to intervene quickly in order to see how students solve the puzzle.

4. Provide Leadership Opportunities

Being in a position of leadership at times requires one to make independent decisions and to make decisions one must think critically. Teachers can introduce leadership positions such as sports captain, student body leader, classroom monitor, head prefect, club president, etcetera for students to exercise power.

Such positions expose students to challenges and opportunities. By this, they will ensure to think critically since they must be accountable for their actions or inefficiency. When they step into the shoes of a leader, they will understand the responsibilities of decision-making in a more worthwhile way.

In that entire process, they will be able to develop critical thinking skills in a more realistic way. After all, the responsibilities of a leader are best realized when students actually step into the shoes of a leader. As a teacher, you need to ensure that you offer them enough leadership prospects to embrace. Let them learn from real situations that bring out the best of their thinking abilities.

5. Train Students in Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive, understand and evaluate emotions. It generally refers to the way one controls or expresses emotions. The way one regulates and makes use of his feelings shows emotional intelligence. Although some people are born with a high level of EQ, for some people it must be developed.

Emotions highly influence one’s actions and as educational institutions develop tactics to increase creativity in students, it’s also essential to teach them emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence influences the way students respond to bullying, complicated tasks, or challenges. Besides, controlling emotions require one to think critically, especially during conflicting situations.

More importantly, in the context of critical thinking, EQ will enable students to consider different sides of arguments, different perspectives, and emotions before they jump to conclusions. In fact, this is one of the trademark qualities of critical thinkers. They take different perspectives and try to understand others before making decisions. With high EQ, they can excel in critical thinking in a more worthwhile way. Makes complete sense, right?

Furthermore, as a teacher, it is essential for you to delve into the different components of emotional intelligence. The components of EQ are given below

  • Self-awareness
  • Social skills
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Motivation

As you can see, emotional intelligence in itself is a culmination of different skills. For critical thinking, it is important that students have a great sense of self-awareness. So, when you train your students in emotional intelligence, you can promote a greater sense of self-awareness in them and hence critical thinking.

6. Ask Open-ended Questions

One of the best tactics for improving students’ reasoning capacity is asking open-ended questions. Essay-type questions require students to reason and explain their arguments which requires them to think deeper about the topic. Normally, students have to take a side or explain both sides of the question.

If you want to promote critical thinking in students, introducing this tactic can help you achieve optimal results. Besides, it is a friendly learning approach that will not only promote critical thinking but will also help students become active learners.

Give them the free space to perceive things in their own way and answer with great liberty without whether their answer is right or wrong. If they go wrong, you can always correct them later. However, for critical thinking skills to flourish, you need to give them the freedom to express their thoughts without worrying about the accuracy of their answers.

Having said that, you can always dedicate a small part of your classes to discussing a few interesting open-ended questions with them. The more interesting and subjective the questions the greater will be your students’ indulgence to think outside the box.

7. Inculcate Reading Habits

There are very many benefits associated with reading. When you teach your students to develop a habit of reading books, it can pave way for critical thinking. Certain books require students to refer to what they read to make a judgment and through this, they critically think. Through reading books, students also obtain new approaches to solving problems or accomplishing tasks effectively. Precisely, it highly stimulates mental activity.

So as a teacher, besides encouraging students to read books pertaining to their syllabus, let them explore more with recreational books to widen their knowledge. There is a wide variety of books that students can read in their free time to expand their knowledge, but it’s best to recommend a few to them.

Summing up, critical thinking is one of the best cognitive skills one can possess in life. Although we mostly perceive it to be in-born, students can develop their critical thinking skills during school or throughout life. With the nature of the world we live in today, it is very essential to teach students how to think critically or logically. It will not only teach them to analyze things critically, but it will also help them reason effectively and make sound decisions.

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Jessica Robinson loves to write interesting and knowledgeable blogs regarding business management, education and life to satiate the curiosity of her lovely readers. Currently, she is serving as a content manager at the ‘Speaking Polymath’. Every piece of content that she writes demonstrates her immense love and passion for her profession.