Improving Thinking Skills in Your Classroom

Do you ever have the sudden urge to pick up random educational texts and start reading them? This morning, I had that urge when I decided to walk down memory lane by opening up one of my college textbooks called, Curriculum Leadership by Allan Glatthorn.  As I was flipping through the text, I ran across a chapter in the book discussing ways that we can meet the needs of our learners by giving them opportunities to practice thinking critically.download

I do not think that this is to anyone’s surprise that critical thinking is trending upwards. Getting students to share their thinking rather than simply sharing an answer is no longer a should but a must in the classroom. As teachers, we should strive to provide our students with learning opportunities that are not only engaging but are purposeful with the content that we are teaching. One of the best ways that we can be purposeful with our content is to give students opportunities to share background knowledge and firsthand experiences. 

Should thinking skills be general processes or content-specific? 

According to Francis Bacon, “Critical thinking is the skillful application of a repertoire of validated general techniques.” Unfortunately, Mr. Bacon did not leave us a lot of information on how we should teach these ‘general techniques.’ As educators, we have the important responsibility of deciding how thinking is taught. Should we teach thinking skills generally throughout our curriculum or should we be content-specific? Before deciding, take a look at the following thinking skills below and consider the following:

Which skills are the most important for your classroom? How do you currently teach them? Which skills are the least important? 

  • Finding and defining problems
  • representing problems
  • organizing facts and concepts systematically
  • inferring
  • evaluating sources
  • synthesizing to reach conclusions
  • distinguish between observations, assumptions, and inferences
  • classifying
  • making predictions

Integrating Thinking Skills into Your Curriculum

Once you have identified the most important skills for your classroom, it is time to start thinking about strategies that we can use to teach these thinking skills. According to Gibbons(2004), it is essential that we teach thinking skills using the following three strategies:

  1. Independent thinking– students use inquiry to address essential questions
  2. Self-managed learning– students have objectives to achieve. Students select their own goals and track their own progress
  3. Self-directed – students have time set-aside to practice processing new information and expand on their ideas

Reflecting on the strategies above, it will be important to plan out times throughout your day/week that gives students the opportunity to practice these strategies. The important question to consider is, how do you plan to do this?

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