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How To Develop Your Critical Thinking Skills

Image by Alli

Image by Alli

Are you sitting comfortably on your chaise lounge, basking in the knowledge that critical thinking is for chumps? Have you got it all covered? Or, even better, are you thinking – what’s so important about critical thinking?

Everything. Even if you think you’ve got it down to a T, it never hurts to improve the ability to think rationally. Not only will it help improve academic endeavours but social situations as well.

So, What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and judiciously – in other words, to look at a subject or argument rationally from both sides, using critical thinking to come up with a logical conclusion or answer. Good use of these skills will enable you to understand the rational connection between a set of ideas, to identify the significance of ideas and to solve problems methodically.

This way of thinking will help you to purge and identify mistakes in an idea or an argument and make you a great essayist – and, ultimately, person. Developing critical thinking skills in children will help them write and think better. This will inevitably affect the way they interact as well; rather than jumping to conclusions, a good critical thinker will be able to deduce consequences from what’s in front of them, coupled with sensible reasoning. It will lessen the harmful, pointy accusations at the other kid in the class who drew on his pencil case by mistake.

How Do I Develop My Critical Thinking Skills, Then?

Reflection: Learn to take a step back and view an argument from another viewpoint:

First and foremost, try to understand and identify where the arguers come from and why. WHAT WHERE WHY HOW – these are your vital tools. View the argument objectively. Forget about your personal opinion for a minute. Once you’ve learnt how to evaluate an idea or situation – you’ll be able to solve a problem and construct a rational conclusion or explanation much more easily.

Information: What are the alternatives? Do your research:

Critical thinking is more than just sourcing and gaining information – but that’s a start. Once you know both sides of an argument, once you understand what it is that you’re trying to solve or identify, you’ll be able to create your own conclusion or argument. It’s not just about handing out criticism, either – it’s about being judicious with what’s in front of you along with the knowledge you’ve now gained.

Use objectivity, information and reflection to structure your own conclusion:

Now that you’ve identified the what, where, why and how – start to deduce your own opinion. The great thing about being part of the most intelligent species on the planet is that you will undoubtedly have the ability to forge your own opinion already. This is a great start.

But What If I’m The Creative Type?

Here’s a great example of an artist who was borderline genius in both creativity and logicality – Lewis Carroll, a.k.a. Charles Dodgson. He created puzzles, riddles and used a mathematical approach to solving problems that eventually leaked into his stories and poems. ‘Jabberwocky’ may be utter nonsense – but who says there’s no method in the madness? Great poetry encompasses rhythm or beats that are appealing to the eye and to the ear – that requires clear, intelligent thinking.

Solo Games And Puzzles For Children

Puzzles are a great way to develop critical thinking skills in children. Sudoku, chess, solitaire or card games that involve developing a game strategy all help to enable children to think strategically and clearly.

Literacy

Literary comprehension is another effective way to train the mind. Give children an exercise that lets them read through a passage and answer the following questions; but make sure those questions invite thoughtful, logical answers. Simply repeating what’s in the passage will come to no avail.

Debating

This may seem like a task you want to stay away from in the classroom, but give children a topic they can get their teeth stuck into and already have some knowledge about, like reality television – healthy or unhealthy? Or how about getting rid of coursework, creating tougher GCSE grade boundaries, the school’s new cafeteria as a subject to debate? Give them time to think about their answers, write a pros and cons list and draw a logical conclusion. This is also a great way of rewarding children in class; by letting them feel like their opinion matters. As the next politicians and doctors, their opinion means everything.

Do you think critical thinking skills are important to a child’s growth, both academically and socially?

Carlotta Eden has never been very successful at solving a mathematical problem, so she writes poetry and stories instead, to avoid using that side of her brain. She is co-editor for Synaesthesia Magazine and writes for Classroom Carrots.
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