Effective Methods for Helping Students Improve Critical Thinking Skills

It is a proven fact that a student can get full-fledged knowledge only under the condition of developing critical thinking. Therefore, in modern higher education, it is necessary to shift the emphasis from informational education to an extraordinary one with an enormous amount of time dedicated to critical thinking development. This requires changes in the approaches to the learning process, finding the most effective ways of forming a student’s critical thinking, assessing the reasons and outcome of what is happening.

In addition, there are some reasons why students have to possess such a skill as critical thinking:

  1. Nowadays the access to information is unlimited that is why it is important to be able to navigate its flows, analyze it, distinguish between major and minor, critically interpret information, etc.
  2. Modern educational process decreases the number of lecture hours any teacher can provide students with so it is necessary to develop cognitive independence, self-education activities, to teach students to think critically.

Moreover, scientists believe that mathematical disciplines are the most effective to provide students with elaborate tasks, which in turn leads to critical thinking development. Mathematics, like no other subject, allows students not only to solve a given problem but also to do it in various ways, including such methods of working with information as search, analysis, synthesis, processing, and presentation, it teaches reasoning, evidence, and validity of reasoning, etc. However, one more interesting way to work with information is to write an essay on non-standard topics. It helps to get out of the box and fully activate the imagination and brain. While learning it would be a smart decision to find the essay writing service and look up to the examples of complicated topics. It also improves grammar and attention to details, but sometimes essay fixer is required to understand whether you keep up the right direction.

By critical thinking, one should understand the assessment of credibility, accuracy, the ability to evaluate tasks and find proper reasons, distinguish different points of view, change the task based on facts and arguments. Critical thinking is called logical or analytical thinking. In addition, this thinking is reflexive, evaluative, where knowledge is not the final point, but the action point. It is based on a convincing argument, which implies the learner’s possession of communication skills.

Thus, the establishment of a student’s critical thinking contributes to:

  • development of student’s information culture, i.e. the development of skills to work competently and purposefully with information, using new information technologies, modern technical means and methods for its creation, processing, transfer, and consumption;
  • development of cognitive motivation, i.e. increased interest in the subject, the learning process, the active learning of educational material, development of the ability to raise and formulate important problems and questions;
  • formation of social competence, establishment of perfect communication skills and responsibility, the ability to communicate effectively with the interlocutor, solving complex problems and convincingly arguing a specific point of view, respecting the opinions of others.

In general, the development of critical thinking is not focused on memorization, but on a thoughtful creative process of cognition, on the formulation of a problem, the search for its solution provides more detailed learning of the material, rises an interest in the learning process and subject.

There are three stages on the way to critical thinking development:

  • The stage of the challenge (so called awakening of interest in obtaining new information, updating student’s knowledge, defining the objectives for studying the material);
  • The stage of comprehension (meaningful work of a student with the text, obtaining new information;
  • The stage of reflection (formation of student’s personal opinion about the material studied, a conclusion about the goal achievement, correction, formulation of new learning goals).

The following are the methods of learning that help to develop students’ critical thinking:

  • Systematization of the material (graphical): clusters, tables;
  • Analysis of correct and incorrect statements;
  • Finding logical errors and self-correction;
  • Solving confused logical chains;
  • Establishment of a causal relationship between the blocks of information;
  • Brain attack;
  • Problematic issues;
  • Methods of active reading (insert, fishbone, ideal, logbooks, etc.);
  • Discussion of errors in solving problems (by choosing the most rational solutions) by organizing discussions and disputes;
  • Critical analysis of the text;
  • Training on evidence, a refutation of hypotheses, etc.

Some typical examples of tasks that contribute to the development of critical thinking are represented below:

  1. During a seminar or practical class, the situation is created where a new conclusion is obtained from the incorrect initial premise by correct logical judgments, which is completely contrary to the students’ position. It is necessary to propose to find the cause of this discrepancy;
  2. The situation is created where an absurd conclusion is obtained from an initially fair judgment by incorrect logical operations. The goal is to find the proper reason;
  3. Provocative tasks: the conditions contain references, instructions, hints or other motivators that encourage students to choose an erroneous solution or a wrong answer. Provocative tasks serve as a mean of preventing various kinds of delusions or mistakes of students and show the need for evidence, reasoning, through which students control their actions while solving problems;
  4. Clusters – the allocation of semantic units of text and their graphic design in a certain order in the form of a bunch.

To sum up, it should be noted that the formation of critical thinking gives students: increase in the efficiency of information perception, interest both in the material being studied, and in the learning process itself, responsibility for their own education, ability to work in teams, improvement of education quality, desire and ability to learn throughout life.

Thus, critical thinking is a vital skill for any student and should be a top-1 priority throughout the educational process.

Lewis Mitchell

Lewis Mitchell is a freelance writer from the U.K. who specializes in technology and Internet niches.