From solving problems in class assignments to facing real world situations, critical thinking is a valuable skill for students to master. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze the way you think and present evidence for your ideas, rather than simply accepting your personal reasoning as sufficient proof. You can gain numerous benefits from mastering critical thinking skills, such as better control of your own learning and empathy for other points of view.
Rather than relying on teachers and classroom time for instruction and guidance, students with critical thinking skills become more independent, self-directed learners. Researcher Jane Qinjuan Zhang writes that critical thinking enables students to assess their learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, and allows them to take ownership of their education. For example, students in an English class might write reflective letters about how their writing has improved and what they still need to work on. This lets them view their performance objectively and reach conclusions about what goals they can set next for their work.
Learning critical thinking skills can also enhance your academic performance. According to Linda Elder and Richard Paul, authors of "Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory," students who know how to analyze and critique ideas are able to make connections across disciplines, see knowledge as useful and applicable to daily life and understand content on a deeper, more lasting level. For example, AP United States History students learn to analyze and compare historical events. Writing about history can therefore help them better understand its relevance and application to present-day concerns.
Appropriate Emotional Appeal
It's easy to let your emotions take over when making an important decision or arguing for your opinion, especially if you are personally invested in it. However, "Why Critical Thinking?", a report from York University, asserts that critical thinking can help you effectively use emotional appeal, letting your feelings influence, but not control your reasoning. For example, a public speaking student arguing for health care reform might share a personal story about a relative who struggles with getting insurance, but also provide solid supporting evidence from credible sources to support this position.
Teamwork and Empathy
Ultimately, critical thinking skills help you to better understand the experiences and views of others, enhancing your ability to work with different people. For example, the Scholastic Parents article "Think About It: Critical Thinking" shares that group activities let elementary school students hear their peers' ideas for accomplishing a task, rather than zeroing in on their own thoughts. This not only shows them that any given problem can have multiple solutions, but lets them work together to agree on one idea. Activities like this teach students to cooperate rather than make judgments or assumptions.
- University of Sydney: Orientation Lecture Series: Learning to Learn: Developing Critical Thinking Skills
- Nicola Valley Institute of Technology: Critical Reflection and Student Autonomy
- The Critical Thinking Community: Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory
- York University: Why Critical Thinking?
- Scholastic Parents: Think About It: Critical Thinking
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images