It is possible to teach critical thinking
Much has been learned about effective teaching strategies that lead to demonstrable student gains in critical thinking in the two decades since educators have focused increased efforts on training critical thinking skills and habits of mind.
Opportunities to teach critical thinking span every kind of educational discipline and professional specialty:
- Courses in critical thinking and human reasoning
- Seminars examining historical judgments
- Internships training novice professionals
- Clinical rotations
- Online training modules
- Group discussion series
- Training programs in problem analysis
- Case-based programs on error prevention
- Field studies in community problem solving
- Training in decision mapping
Teaching critical thinking takes practice
If these varied offerings focused on training critical thinking are to be effective, educators must intensively practice the critical thinking skills and comment on the habits of mind of those being trained.
This is a surprisingly easy task when educators have trained their own habits of mind toward a standard of externalizing their reasons and evidence for judgments made, and of modeling the habits of mind that are expected from students. Speaking aloud the reasons and evidence for one’s judgments typically results in improved evaluation of one’s own thinking (the critical thinking skill of self-regulation).
Effective pedagogical strategies include setting clear student performance expectations for critical thinking such as:
- Take time to demonstrate that you have been thorough in understanding the topic or problem being addressed.
- Be comprehensive in your search for existing information on the topic or problem.
- Demonstrate, by providing reasons and evidence, that you have fair-mindedly and rigorously evaluated current information relevant to the topic or problem.
- Articulate what is still unknown, or uncertain, before you propose what should be believed or make a judgment about what we should do in regard to the topic or problem.
- Explain what you will be monitoring to see if your judgment is correct.
Many educators have documented the effectiveness of their pedagogical approaches to training critical thinking. See examples of peer reviewed journal reports of these educational research studies in our Research Findings section of our Resources library.