Ways to Teach Critical Thinking

We want to teach students to think logically and critically and not accept information as fact just because someone tells them it is so. We also want them to go beyond the memorization of facts and be able to analyze, evaluate, and apply what they learn to their own lives. The ability to think critically helps one to make thoughtful decisions about school work, directions in life, friends, politics, etc.

While the development of critical thinking skills is vital for all young people, it is especially important for gifted students. There are many definitions of critical thinking. These include the ability to
  1. evaluate information and opinions in a systematic, purposeful, efficient manner
  2. solve complex real world problems
  3. generate multiple (or creative) solutions to a problem
  4. draw inferences
  5. synthesize and integrate information
  6. distinguish between fact and opinion
  7. predict potential outcomes
  8. evaluate the quality of one's own thinking
The incorporation of critical thinking skills can be a tool used to increase complexity as teachers differentiate curriculum for gifted students.

While it is important that critical thinking be taught in the schools, it is also very important that it be developed at home.

There are two well-recognized systems of questioning that have been developed to teach critical thinking: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Richard Paul’s Socratic Questions. These questioning techniques can be incorporated into both school work and into discussions at home.

Benjamin Bloom created a hierarchical taxonomy of questioning techniques from the very basic levels of knowledge through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation questions. In the 1990’s, his taxonomy was revised. Here is a list of well-constructed question-starters using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy that I would highly recommend. Remember to ask students questions from all levels—not just the complex questions.

Richard Paul’s Six Types of Socratic Questions offers another format of thought-provoking questions that are divided into categories. This is an approach that is different from Bloom’s. These questions are used to
  1. clarify
  2. probe assumptions
  3. probe reasons and evidence
  4. explore viewpoints and perspectives
  5. probe implications and consequences
  6. ask questions about the question
While the questioning techniques of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Richard Paul’s Six Types of Socratic Questions can be applied to any subject that is discussed in school, teachers also need to know that there is excellent, already-developed curricula incorporating these critical thinking approaches. The curricula include

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