Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Practical Points
By: Linda B. Nilson, PhD
Critical thinking scholars also agree that questions are central to students acquiring critical thinking skills. We must ask students challenging, open-ended questions that demand genuine inquiry, analysis, or assessment—questions like these:
- What is your interpretation/analysis of this passage/data/argument?
- What are your reasons for favoring that interpretation/analysis? What is your evidence?
- How well does your interpretation/analysis handle the complexities of the passage/data/argument?
- What is another interpretation/analysis of the passage/data/argument? Any others?
- What are the implications of each interpretation/analysis?
- Let’s look at all the interpretations/analyses and evaluate them. How strong is the evidence for each one?
- How honestly and impartially are you representing the other interpretations/analyses? Do you have a vested interest in one interpretation/analysis over another?
- What additional information would help us to narrow down our interpretations/analyses?
Some teaching methods naturally promote inquiry, analysis, and assessment, and all of them are student-active (Abrami et al., 2008). Class discussion may be the strongest, and it includes the debriefings of complex cases, simulations, and role plays. However, debates, structured controversy, targeted journaling, inquiry-guided labs, and POGIL-type worksheets (https://pogil.org/) are also effective.
more on critical thinking in this IMS blog