Critical thinking is at the core of most intellectual activity that involves students learning to recognise or develop an argument, use evidence in support of that argument, draw reasoned conclusions, and use information to solve problems.
“Typically, students who implement critical thinking skills approach the courseware in a more thoughtful and effective manner, ask more challenging questions and participate in the learning process more intensely. This critical thinking process endures beyond the classroom and into the workplace.”
Yet despite Critical and Creative Thinking being a core general capability of the Australian Curriculum, many teachers are unsure how to include it explicitly in their classrooms to enable students to practice this vital skill.
Critical thinking is the ability to accept facts and evidence, even when they go against what you currently believe. It means acknowledging when you are wrong, and changing your mind based on new information. It can be difficult for several reasons:
- Admitting you were wrong can be embarrassing.
- Changing your mind has the potential to upset the people you used to agree with.
- You can usually find convincing evidence for both sides of any argument.
We tend to instinctively take a passive approach to our beliefs, meaning it is far easier to continue accepting what we currently believe than it is to challenge those ideas. Growth comes from change, so it is helpful to realise that every time we change our beliefs, attitudes, or opinions, we are also growing as people.
The purpose of the lessons in this unit is therefore to teach your students the importance of being able to back up their opinions with solid evidence. They will learn how to test their ideas, and to consider alternatives. A lot of people make claims based on personal beliefs and propaganda, and encouraging students to look beyond these into the facts is vital.
The challenge for critical thinking is overcoming your personal biases. Evidence and facts don’t always lead to a change of opinion, especially when those opinions are deeply-held, or reinforced by others.
If you’re interested in further developing your ability to teach critical thinking, consider signing up for our professional development course.