In class I like to do a critical thinking skills evaluation on my students.
I usually do it a week into the course. By that time, my students have had the time to read some of the material on the topic that we will focus on. So, let’s say our topic is globalisation.
I’ll ask a question, like, “Globalisation is mostly beneficial for all countries.”
And then it’s the moment of truth…
The students have to stand at one side of the room or the other. They have to make a decision:
Do they agree with my statement… or do they disagree?
In my classes, there is no middle ground. There is no, “I’m not sure”. Some teachers think that, “I’m not sure” is lazy…
Call me naive, but I don’t think that all students are lazy. Don’t get me wrong, there definitely are lazy students!
If you’re reading this, you’re not a lazy student.
The truth is, for most students, critical thinking is new and challenging. Saying “I’m not sure” is easy, but it won’t help you to write a good essay, give a good presentation, or achieve success.
Because it affects how well you:
But not just that, developing your critical thinking skills can also have really positive impacts on your life. You will be able to make decisions based on research and not on feelings!So, what do you think – do you need critical thinking?
Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:
Quick Tip before you start: this is an intermediate level text and should take 10-15 minutes to read.
An article published this year (2016) by Nisbah Shaheen, features various teachers’ thoughts on what critical thinking actually means. Here are some of these thoughts. Critical thinking:
I also asked the question on my Facebook page and there were many different answers:
I’m going to use critical thinking skills to summarise all of that for you here.
Critical thinking skills are the combination of:
I think the best way to give you an example of critical thinking skills is by using Pokemon. Yes – Pokemon has been all over the news recently (and I’ve already sent an email out to the English For Study newsletter about it!), but Pokemon taught me about critical thinking from the age of 8 or 9:
If you don’t know what Pokemon is, it’s a Japanese cartoon and video game where people capture small creatures, raise them and battle them.
These creatures are called Pokemon, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you can only carry six Pokemon with you at one time.
This means you have to be prepared for any situation with these six Pokemon. You need to build your team around strengths and weaknesses, which requires... critical thinking skills!
Here’s what usually happens:
It’s simple, but this is how essays and assignments work: You have a problem (writing an essay) which you need to solve (through research).
So how do we do the research? There are two requirements:
#1 Mindset – being ready to research critically
#2 Asking the right questions – knowing which questions to ask
We’re going to look at them both now.
We have a saying in English: “put on your thinking cap”. It means to start “thinking of a solution”.
Well, I want you to put on your ‘critical thinking cap’ every time you read something.
Before you start reading and article, you need to be ready! Being ready means that you are prepared to read and you know why you’re reading.
When you have done that, you need to read actively. As you’re reading question anything that you think is important.
You can use reading skills, like skimming and scanning, to find the parts of the text which are useful.
Having the correct mindset is important to start, but as you read, you need to ask questions. In the next section, there are 17 questions to help you think critically about what you are reading.
So far we have discovered three things:
And finally, the number one question that you can ask is: why?
Whenever you see something interesting, ask ‘why’.
If you like to see the development of questions, this image might help:
This isn’t a complete list of questions, but it should be enough to start with.
Well hopefully now you have a better understanding of what critical thinking is and how you can develop your critical thinking skills. By using critical thinking, you can make better judgements in your life as well as get better grades.
After you’ve made notes from your reading, the next step will be to plan and write an essay.
For now, though, here’s what you should do next:
#1 Add your own critical thinking question in the comments section
#2 Share this post with a friend who needs to get better at making decisions
#3 If you’re serious about improving your English & getting better grades: join the English For Study newsletter:
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Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also a lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.