How to Teach Critical Thinking: A Summary’s Summary

Critical Thinking Can Be Taught

1. Teach strategies and principals and integrate those principals into your teaching

Teaching Critical Thinking for General Transfer

1. Transfer is only possible when there is a relationship between topics.
-Ex: Writing a paragraph will not improve your ability to use a shading technique in drawing
2. Even seemingly related topics do not always allow for transfer.
-Ex: Estimating the area of rectangles does not improve ability to estimate the area of other geometric shapes
3. Teaching general critical thinking skills leads to limited success

Transfer And The Nature Of Critical Thinking

1. Critical thinking is not a generalizable skill because “analyze, synthesize, and evaluate” mean different things in different disciplines
2. Goals for critical thinking must be domain specific
3. There are some logic rules that transfer across domains, but students will struggle to apply them to new, unfamiliar domains

Critical Thinking As Problem Recognition

1. Challenges to transferring knowledge: Deep and Surface Structure
-Deep structures: Deep structures are often abstract and difficult to understand. Understanding the deep structure requires many examples (rich knowledge of surface structure)
-Surface structures
2. Speed recognition of deep structure
-problem comparison (2 worked examples with differing surface structure and the same deep structure)
-Teach the sub-steps of a process (label the sub-steps) to make knowledge more flexible

Open-Ended Problems And Knowledge

1. Critical thinking for routine and open-ended problems relies on extensive stores of domain knowledge.
2. Knowledge helps by…
-Improving the recognition process
-Allowing working memory to treat disparate groups as pieces of a single unit. (Frees up space in your working memory)
-Enabling you to deploy thinking strategies
3. Even experts struggle to think critically outside of their domain of expertise!

How To Teach Students To Think Critically (4 Steps)

1. Identify what is meant by critical thinking in your domain. Be specific.(Think like a scientist is not a helpful goal.) Identify what tasks would demonstrate critical thinking. Explicitly teach and have students deliberately practice said tasks.
2. Identify the domain content students must know. Identify the knowledge students need to successfully complete the tasks in step 1. This will involve uncomfortable, but necessary trade-offs. We interpret new information in light of what we know.
3. Choose the best sequence to learn the skills and knowledge.
4. Decide which skills and what knowledge should be revisited across years

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How to Teach Critical Thinking