Critical Thinking: Teaching Methods & Strategies
Mark Jon Snyder
CEO, MSA Consulting Group
Adjunct Professor, Elon University
In Review … Research and Definition
– Requirements of Analyzing and Evaluating
– Why We Don’t Critically Think
– Instructional Design of Critical Thinking
– IDEALS – Six Steps to Critical Thinking
Goals of Critical Thinking (CT)
The ABC’s of CT Lesson Plans
The CT Classroom Environment
CRITICAL THINKING IN REVIEW
The Research on Faculty Indicates…
89% Claim Critical Thinking is a Primary Objective
78% State Students Lack Critical Thinking Skills
19% Can Clearly Define “Critical Thinking”
9% Can Describe How to Teach Critical Thinking in their Discipline
8% Use Critical Thinking Standards in Their Assessment Techniques
Definition of Critical Thinking…
Thinking About Thinking & How to Improve It
Actively Analyzing, Synthesizing, & Evaluating the Thinking Process
A Product of Education, Training, & Practice
Mental Habit & Power
Critical Thinking Requires Analytically Questioning…
Concepts and Ideas
Point of View
Inferences and Conclusions
Critical Thinking Requires Evaluating the _____ of Your Thinking
Why Students (and Teachers) Don’t Critically Think…
Too Many Facts, Too Little Conceptualizing
Too Much Memorizing, Too Little Thinking
Lecture & Rote Memorization Does Not Require Critical Thinking
Students Are Not “Trained” to Think
Critical Thinking is More Than Simple Engagement
“Life Comes at You Fast”
Instructional Design of Critical Thinking…
Knowledge & Understanding is Not Gained from Memorization
Knowledge is Constructed from Critically Thinking
Link Critical Thinking Skills to Content
Intellectual Challenge is Focusing on Thinking Rather Than Facts
“IDEALS” … Six Steps to Effective Thinking and Problem Solving
I – Identify the Problem
D – Define the Context
E – Enumerate the Choices
A – Analyze the Options
L – List Reasons Explicitly
S – Self-Correct
GOALS OF CRITICAL THINKING
Encourage Students To…
ASK Questions and LOOK for Answers
– What questions could someone have about this?
– What information answers these questions/concerns?
APPLY What They Learn to SOLVE Problems
– Based on the material, how would you …?
– Now that you know ___, how do you solve ___?
LISTEN to Each Other and DEBATE Ideas
– How does John’s comment relate to the text?
– What can you add to his perspective?
– Cover Content PLUS Critically Think About It
Short Class Periods
– Engaged Activities Require Time on Task
Too Many Students
– Difficult to Get Everyone Involved Every Time
Characteristics of Productive Teaching…
Challenge Students to Know, Not Memorize
Question, Examine, Create, Solve, Interpret, Debate
Active Classes are Purposeful and Well Organized
Students THINK About What They Learn
Apply Material to Real Situations (e.g., Case Studies)
Students Continue to Learn Independently…
The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say,
“The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
~ Maria Montessori, Educator (1870-1952)
THE ABC’S OF CRITICAL THINKING LESSON PLANS
Reprinted with permission from The Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking Project
Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Thinking Classroom (www.rwct.org)
© 2005 Open Society Institute
Anticipating – Lesson Introduction…
Call up the knowledge students already have
Informally assess what they already know, including misconceptions
Set purposes for learning
Focus attention on the topic
Provide a context for understanding new ideas
Building Knowledge – Lesson Activity / Discussion…
Students compare expectations with what is being learned
Revise expectations or raise new ones
Identify the main points
Monitor personal thinking
Make inferences about the material
Make personal connections to the lesson
Question the lesson
Consolidating – Lesson Reflection…
Students summarize and interpret the main ideas
Share opinions and make personal responses
Test out the ideas (apply to assignment, project, etc.)
Assess learning and ask additional questions
Avoid Low-Level Questions…
Address Details (facts, figures, etc.)
Useful for Short-Term Memory Only
Based on Memorization, Not Understanding
What are Word’s default margins settings?
What does B2B stand for?
Define an asset.
What is a trademark?
Apply High-Order Questions…
Ask How or Why Something Happens
Requires Application of Details to Larger Context
Go “Beyond Facts” to Constructing a Rationale
Requires Critical Thinking
How would you change the margins to accommodate a short letter?
How do B2B marketing strategies apply to EDI technologies?
Explain how assets depreciate. How does this impact a balance sheet?
What are the consequences of improperly using a trademark?
Strategies for Effective Questioning Techniques… (Gibbs, 2001)
Ask questions that invite more than one plausible answer.
Provide wait time after asking a question to give less confident students time to think.
Ask follow-up questions, such as, “What can you add?” or “What is your opinion?”
Provide feedback that neither confirms nor denies students’ responses to ensure the discussion remains open. Examples are: “Interesting.” or “I hadn’t thought of that.”
Request a summary. “Who can make the point in different words?”
Survey the other students: “Who agrees with Max? Who disagrees? Why?”
Encourage students to direct questions to other students.
Play devil’s advocate: “How would you feel if…?”
To Teach Critical Thinking…
Create a Culture of Inquiry by Supporting Students’ Thinking Process
Model Critical Thinking Skills
Actively Question Students’ Thinking
Guide Reflecting on the Thinking Process
Why do you think that?
What is your knowledge based upon?
What does it imply and presuppose?
SOCRATIC QUESTIONING STRATEGIES
Selected questions from a list compiled by Richard Paul
Critical Thinking: What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World
Rohnert Park, CA: Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique, © 1990. Used with permission.
Questions for Clarification
What do you mean by _____?
What is your main point?
How does _____ relate to _____?
Could you put it another way?
What do you think is the main issue here?
Let me see if I understand you: you mean ____ or _____?
Jane, could you summarize in your own words what Richard has said?
Richard, is that what you meant?
Could you give me an example?
Would this be an example: _____?
Could you explain that further?
Questions about the Initial Question or Issue
How can we find out?
What does this question assume?
Would ____ put the question differently?
Can we break this question down at all?
Does this question lead to other questions or issues?
Questions that Probe Assumptions
What are you assuming?
What could we assume instead?
You seem to be assuming _____. Do I understand you correctly?
How would you justify taking this for granted?
Is this always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?
Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence
What would be an example?
Could you explain your reasons to us?
Are those reasons adequate?
Do you have any evidence for that?
How could we find out if that is true?
Questions that Probe Origin or Source Questions
Where did you get this idea?
Have you been influenced by anyone? The media? Your peers?
What caused you to feel this way?
Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences
What are you implying by that?
What effect would that have?
What is an alternative?
If this is the case, then what else must be true?
Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives
How would other groups of people respond? Why?
How could you answer the objection that _____ would make?
Can anyone see this another way?
What would someone who disagrees say?
THE CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT
1. Students share in the responsibility for classroom environment
cooperative learning techniques
group or class discussion leaders
2. Teachers model thinking and support students as they share their thinking strategies
Demonstrate by …
– Approaching ideas tentatively
– Using questioning techniques
– Promoting respect for different points of view
Question conclusions and encourage student to do likewise
– Not only … What? Where? When?
– But also … Why? What if? Why not?
3. The classroom has an atmosphere of inquiry and openness
Students make predictions, gather info, organize it, and question conclusions
Teachers provide corrective advice rather than criticism and evaluation
4. Students are supported, but also challenged to think independently
Pay attention to HOW students are thinking
Encourage students to investigate and communicate as they go
5. The classroom arrangement allows students to work together
Focus should be on the students, not the teacher
Arrange desks in horseshoe or grouped clusters
Practice Critical Thinking
Model Thinking Behaviors
Use ABC Lesson Plans
Question Students’ Thinking
Create a CT Classroom
TEACHING METHODS & STRATEGIES
Learning Information from Text (KWL)
1. Structured Overview – Anticipation (5 minutes)
a. Short discussion about the topic (ask questions and encourage comments)
b. Raise students’ curiosity (relate to current knowledge)
c. Use visual aids (maps, charts, samples, objects, etc.)
2. Paired Reading / Paired Summarizing – Building Knowledge
a. KWL – Know, Want, Learn …
What do we KNOW about this topic?
What do we WANT to know about this topic?
What did we LEARN about this topic?
b. In pairs, students list what they know about the topic – DISCUSS
c. In pairs, students list what they want to know about the topic – DISCUSS
d. Paired groups read prepared material to answer questions
e. Teacher circulates among the pairs to monitor and question their progress
f. If most pairs are struggling, remind the class how to summarize and question
a. Students reflect on the activity and apply ideas to discussion questions
b. Students reconsider what they already knew before in light of what they learned
c. Complete the last column … what did we learn about this topic?
TOPIC: How to Teach Critical Thinking Skills
What do we know? What do we want to know? What did we learn?
Discussing New Ideas: The Value Line
STEP 1: The teacher poses a yes/no question on which opinions can vary (e.g., Is the time required to teach critical thinking skills worth the effort when other methods offer quicker results?)
STEP 2: Each student considers the question alone and writes an answer with supportive reasoning.
STEP 3: Two students stand at opposite ends of the room. Each states an extreme position on the issue, and their statements are diametrically opposed to each other.
STEP 4: The students are asked to take their place along an imaginary line between the two extreme positions, according to which pole of the argument they agree with more.
STEP 5: Students are asked to discuss with other students in the line their responses to the question to make sure they are standing among people who share their position.
STEP 6: If students are clustered, have one representative from each group summarize their position on the issue. Students can change positions after hearing the statements.
Reflection: The value line is enjoyable for students because they like moving around in the class and sharing their opinions with others. It is interesting to demonstrate for the physically what is meant by “having a position” and changing one’s position” on an issue.
NOTE: This activity can be modified using true/false or multiple choice questions for pre-assessments (what do you know) or reviews for tests:
True/False – Assign one side of the room as the “True” side and the other as the “False” side. As the teacher reads a true/false statement, students move to the correct side of the room. Students who are unsure about the answer remain in the middle of the room. Representatives from each side are asked to explain their choice.
Multiple Choice – Same as above, but each corner of the room is assigned a letter (e.g,. A, B, C, D) where students move to answer the question. Representatives from each corner explain their groups’ positions.
Informal essay, reflective free-writing
One to five minutes; goal: to capture thoughts and ideas
Use prompts (e.g., This is important because…, Something that now makes sense is…)
Collect and informally assess … What did you mean by…? How does this relate to…?
What? So What? Now What?
“From every important idea, some action should follow” ~ Paolo Freire
“Praxis” – The link between a compelling idea and social action
Helps students find the main ideas and connect them to realistic actions
After “Now What?”, have the class reflect on the process… did we leave anything out?
What? So What? Now What?
Students summarize the most important ideas from the lecture or assigned reading.
Then students are asked to determine what is important about the ideas they just listed. Why do they matter? What difference do they make?
Finally, students brainstorm actions … what can they do about the problem or issue?
3 Recalls – List three things you recall from the homework, lecture, or activity
2 Insights – Brainstorm two insights (ideas, connections, main points) not directly covered
1 Question – Write one question you have about the material (or a sample quiz question)
Collect and discuss or have pairs/squares answer the questions
Directed Reading-Thinking Activity
Prepare the text by marking stopping points where students can think about content
Student pairs read to each other and answer questions; then the class discusses
Review prior thought processes at each subsequent stopping point
Conclude with a reflective discussion
Directed Reading Activity, Continued …
Relation to Prior Part
Predict Next Part
After Part 1
After Part 2
After Part 3
After Part 4
Sample Lesson Plan (One Class Session Integrating Several Methods)
Introductory Discussion of Topic (Anticipation) 5 minutes
Lecture Segment, Paired Discussion, Square the Pairs 15 minutes
Class Discussion Using Questioning Techniques 10 minutes
Quick-Write Activity (Individual Summary and Reflection) 5 minutes
3-2-1 Processor (Summary) 5 minutes
Value Line (Reflection) 10 minutes
CRITICAL THINKING RESOURCES
Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills (Webliography of Sources)
The National Center for Teaching Thinking – ”All Students Can Be Good Thinkers”
The Critical Thinking Community
The Thinking Classroom – A Journal of Reading, Writing and Critical Reflection
Teaching Critical Thinking – The Dartmouth Writing Program
An Introduction to Critical Thinking (by Steven D. Schafersman)
Research Support Provided by Lisa E. Gueldenzoph, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Business Education
North Carolina A&T State University