You hear the phrase “critical thinking” often when talking about education, but what does it really mean?
Scholastic defines critical thinking as “a skill that elevates thinking beyond memorization into the realm of analysis and logic. Put another way, critical thinking is about knowing how to think, not what to think.” An article on Edutopia describes critical thinking as “when the brain is active, making connections to the material and applying original thought to the concept.”
Simply put, critical thinking is a higher-order 21st-century skill allowing a student to analyze and assess information in order to come to an informed conclusion instead of simply taking things at face value. That evidence-based conclusion can then guide the student in understanding future situations. It is a component of active learning, which means that the student is an active participant in his or her learning rather than just the recipient of information. Critical thinking is essential for:
- Problem solving
- Independent learning
- Seeing the big picture
What does critical thinking look like?
Critical thinking is a healthy, curious attitude, in other words, asking thoughtful questions. An example of questions that a critical thinker will ask are:
- How do you know that?
- Where did you get your information?
- Can I get more information?
- Are there other ways to look at this situation?
- Are there inconsistencies in the information being presented?
- Does this new information match what I’ve known to be true in the past?
- Is this reasoning logical?
- Will anyone be harmed from this?
- Who will benefit from this?
- What is the intention of this?
Thinking critically is also about being flexible and having the ability to admit being wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that contradicts your thinking.
When will my child use critical thinking?
We actually all use critical thinking every day. For example, when we are:
- Interpreting new situations
- Performing academic tasks, such as reading and science
- Assessing truth of news stories and social media posts
- Having a normal conversation
- Problem solving
Here’s a simple example:
Your child comes home from school one day and tells you that her friend said the sky will be purple tomorrow. The friend does very well in school and is very smart so your child immediately believes that yes, indeed, the sky will be purple instead of blue.
You begin to discuss the idea with your child, guiding her to think critically about the statement by asking her (or leading her to ask) questions such as: “Has the sky ever been purple before?” and “Why would the sky turn purple?” These prompts will help your child think about the situation logically and assess the information she’s gotten from her friend. More likely than not, she will conclude that the sky will be blue tomorrow and not purple (although that would be pretty).
In all of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford, our goal is to integrate rigorous academic curriculum with Catholic tradition, and teaching students to think critically in our ever-changing diverse society is more important today than ever.
What are some ways that you help engage your child in critical thinking? Let us know on our social media.