How to help students think critically

Critical thinking is the ability to think for oneself, draw personal logical conclusions despite popular opinions is considered one of the most valuable skills for a child or student to have. It helps them become independent thinkers, problem solvers and allows them to develop various skills which can be applied to any life situation.

The first part of this blog is aimed at teachers/tutors to guide them on how to help their students become critical thinkers, whereas the second half of the blog is aimed at advising parents on how to encourage their children to think critically.

For Tutors/Teachers
Encourage self-awareness

Self-awareness is a bit difficult for students to grasp. They go through a great deal of emotions as they grow physically and psychologically, and they are not even what those feelings are most of the time.

Self-awareness is a key trait in meta-cognition and helps students and control their learning processes and emotions. To help students to be self-aware, the first focus they can identify. Anger, happiness, and sadness are easy to understand. Build up to identify emotions like jealousy, empathy, and competitiveness.

Keeping a diary is also another form of processing emotions through writing thoughts, events and feelings. Students who keep a diary can track and spot patterns and trends in their behaviour and relationships with others.

Make the classroom conducive for questions

Students learn by asking questions, which is a good thing. Questions mean the students are thinking outside the box, it means they are interested in the subject and it also means they are curious. But they will only ask questions if they are comfortable.

To help them become proactive in asking questions, don’t shut them down when they ask questions. Don’t make mocking remarks about their questions like specifying that a question is stupid. Things that come easily to you with experience and practice are things students still struggle with.

Give thoughtful responses to questions asked and explain the reason for your answer. You could get others to participate by throwing the question to the class to hear other opinions and answers.

Ask questions

Ask the students questions about the lessons and sometimes about general stuff. In fact, it is advisable to begin a class session with a probing question. Questions that cannot be answered with just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Questions that will give the students something to think about.

Help students find real-life connections in learning

Sometimes, learning can be abstract. For example, in mathematics, when teachers talk about x and y, it is hard to link that to everyday life. It just seems like something to cram without a real-world application. It also makes the subject a difficult one for students.

If the students can make the connection between real-life and a lesson learned in a class, it makes it relatable and easy to remember. The students also get to think of different instances of the same thing, ask questions on how it can be different or better.

Look at things from different perspectives

Once we have a bias or opinion based on personal experience, geographical location or social status, we could take that to mean fact. To help students develop critical thinking skills, they should be taught how to analyse a situation and look at things from different perspectives.

For Parents

Critical thinking has always been an important skill in child development. It lays the foundation for a life-long skill to help a child socially, academically and professionally. This skill is even more useful as a child grows older and leave the nest. They are able to make good decisions based on their own analysis of a situation

The world a child grows in today is bombarded with too much information. As more younger kids have access to the internet, where there’s an overwhelming influencer culture trend, it is important now more than ever that children develop their critical thinking skills. They need to be able to evaluate the information they get to form their own opinions and analysis. It is no longer enough for them to simply remember and repeat a list of facts.

If you want to help your child further develop their critical thinking skills, Booksmart Tutors has the tips and tricks to help.

Build on your child’s critical thinking skills

A child’s first interaction with the world is from their parents and through daily interactions at home. There are a couple of ways you could help them develop their critical thinking skills.

Here are Booksmart Tutors’ top tips and tricks to help children develop their critical thinking skills:

Encourage their curiosity

Children are enthralled by almost everything they come in contact with. They often have questions about how things work and why certain things are done in certain ways. To an adult, the questions can seem endless and basic, but it is just a child’s way of getting used to their environment.

As exhausting as it seems at times to be at the receiving end of a torrent of questions, it is important to let your child feel comfortable to ask the questions they want. Wanting to know why is the basis of critical thinking. It means they are challenging their minds and not just accepting everything they are told.

Leave the little decisions to your children

A child’s opinion is often considered negligible. Parents even make it a point to ask a child for their opinion but would disregard that opinion. If a child is made to feel that their opinion does not matter and will be overridden, it could create self-esteem issues and an inferiority complex.

Inferiority complex stifles critical thinking. Children with an inferiority complex will prefer to go for a more popular choice when asked to make a decision because they feel their choices are wrong. It is a parent’s job to make decisions for their children, but little decisions like what to eat, what to wear, what movie to see can be left to the child’s discretion. When these decisions are regarded, the child’s esteem soars and they will be confident in themselves and their choices.

Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions allow the child to form their own thoughts about a situation. Even when a child asks a question, rather than give your own answer, you could first find out what the child thinks about the situation. Questions like ‘Why do you think that happened?’ ‘Do you have any ideas?’ will go a long way in helping your child form their own ideas.

Encourage innovative and unconventional thinking

There are certain ways of doing things and why those things are done like that. Allowing your child to explore to think outside the standards is a good way to hone their critical thinking skills. They become problem solvers when they can think of different ways of solving a particular problem.

Allow them to form their own ideas

Don’t always jump in to help your child out whenever they encounter challenges. Whether they’re contemplating their next move on a board game, working out how to stick googly eyes on a paper plate or thinking up a response to a question, giving your child time to figure these out on their own allows them to develop and refine their responses and improve their skills.

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