Critical Thinking originated in ancient Greece and was created by the father of philosophy, Socrates. He discovered a method of probing questioning when people could not support their confident claims with knowledge. Confused meanings, inadequate evidence and self-contradictory beliefs led him to the conclusion that, one could not depend on people in authority to have sound knowledge insight. He established the importance of deep questioning and profound consideration before accepting ideas as worthy of belief.
The Benefits to Children
Developing this mind-set at a young age results in children growing up with the ability to analyse information objectively and make reasoned decisions.
It promotes confidence and encourages children to question what they are learning. A child who is unafraid to stand up in class and ask a question, will likely have a more successful school career, something we all want for our children.
I’d never heard of critical thinking until my eldest son went to senior school but curiosity fuelled my desire to investigate this subject because I immediately knew that this would help children learn. As I read and gained knowledge, I learned a lot about this subject and found ways to communicate better with my growing sons. One of the best tricks I learned however was something called, structured choice. Structured choice is an intervention to give children control over a situation by giving them choices. For parents, this can be a dream come true. Some of my regular structured choice questions to my sons were:
Would you like to do your homework, before or after dinner?
Do you want to clean your room on Saturday or Sunday?
Do you want to have a bath tonight or a shower in the morning?
Would you like peas or carrots?
These questions instigate commitment and action which can often avoid hours of arguments. This positive approach allows them to control while securing commitment. Of course, as they got older they would often try for option three. Evidence that critical thinking worked well with them.
Critical Thinking and Technology
There are many ways for parents to help engage their children in critical thinking. Fun websites and phone apps allow parents to interact with their children, enabling both child and parent to learn critical thinking together.
For younger children, games such as Minecraft build critical thinking skills and for the older children solving apps such as Jumpstart encouraging innovative thinking. The many thinking websites allow parents to learn more about this subject and to encourage these skill sets in their own children.
How do Schools approach Critical Thinking?
While many schools in Essex have adopted this method of teaching, many schools simply don’t have the resources to provide it. Independent schools in Essex are embracing these methods and techniques, I contacted a few key schools to ask their thoughts on the subject.
Brentwood School incorporates critical thinking into two classes: Global Perspectives and The Human Universe. Both classes encourage students to think openly and for themselves.
New Hall School feels these skills are more important than ever and teach them in two classes. Firstly, focusing on ‘scholarly habits,’ which includes analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Secondly ‘metacognition’, which is the ability to think about and assess your own thinking.
Felsted School integrates critical thinking into the curriculum. The Higher Project Qualification (in Year 10) and the Extended Project Qualification (in Lower 6th) help students to think independently, imaginatively and critically.
In the Future
Thinking critically is the number one sought-after skill that employers look for today in candidates with most industries requiring these five skills:
Analysis - The ability to analyse information and understand it completely before making decisions.
Communication - When sharing conclusions with employers and colleagues, being effective and articulate is vital.
Problem Solving - A skill that involves analysing the problem, planning and implementing a solution.
Creativity - Being able to spot patterns in information and arrive at rapid, alternative solutions often requires a creative eye.
Open Mindedness - To think critically, any assumptions or judgments need to be cast aside to analyse information objectively and evaluate ideas without bias.