How students can develop critical thinking through school

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This assignment is an exploration of how students can develop critical thinking through school. The investigation on what activities and strategies can the school, and moreover teachers and leaders, adopt to help students to develop critical thinking is vital. Some people believe that critical thinking is the enemy of love, amusement, art or poetry; they feel that practicing critical thinking indicates that they will turn into moving logic devices with a cold heart (Schick and Vaughn 2005, p.338). A lot of thoughts are unfair, deformed, prejudiced, unshaped or absolutely biased (Paul and Elder 2006, p.4). It is provided that critical thinking is a basic skill; citizens need this skill to participate actively in a democratic society; critical thinking facilitates citizens to contribute to society in an essential and responsive way (Dam and Volman 2004, p.375). Critical thinking is both a type, part of or consists of problem solving; it is also part of decision making (Papastephanou and Angeli 2007, p.610). A vital characteristic in human nature is thinking (Paul and Elder 2006, p.4). 'People think carefully and reflectively not out of habit, because such thinking is not an effortless habit to maintain, but because they are convinced of the value of doing so' (Kuhn 1999, p.24). The quality of living and the things that are created, formulated, or built depend accurately on the quality of people's thoughts. Poor thinking contribute negatively in the quality of our world (Paul and Elder 2006, p.4). Critical thinking and its training are not exclusively connected with the success of accomplishing the goals that are aimed, but also with the ability to think seriously and support or argue against important or ethical logic subjects (Papastephanou and Angeli 2007, p.609). In this assignment there are first described the role of the school against children education and the definitions of intelligence and critical thinking. Critical thinking is identified with intelligence (Moore 2007, p.64). Critical thinking can be developed (Paul and Elder 2006, p.4). Angeli's et al. (2003, p.40) study showed that interactions between students did not consist of critical thinking that is required to examine difficult course problems; the discussion between students was also particularly informal, opinionated, and pointed little verification of critical thinking. It is mentioned that school is the right place where students' critical thinking can be developed. Moreover teachers, leaders and the structure of the classroom contribute to this development. There are several activities and techniques that teachers can adopt in school classes in order to help students to think critically. Moreover, some problems that slim down students' critical thinking development are provided and the strategies that teachers can use in order to face them are suggested. As a future teacher in physics I want to investigate this theme because science education is a position where critical thinking has a natural position (Davson-Galle 2004, p.514).

Critical thinking and intelligence

Barr and Dreepen (1983, p.73-74) state that school is an organization for teaching children. A conventional idea, as Barr and Breepen (1983, p.74) mention, is that schools are not organizations for educating students. They are places where children grow up and teachers are responsible to provide them the appropriate learning materials according to their age and their abilities (Barr and Breepen 1983, p.75). Silins and Mulford (2002, p.29) also argue that schools can be characterized as organizations for education as they set up structures and techniques to support a common and trusting environment, a shared operation, a participative decision-making, a place to take risks and challenging professional development.

On theoretical views, the difference between education and other reasons that may influence the intelligence development is advantageously; school clearly intend to the intellectual skills development (Cahan and Cohen 1989, p.1240). Sternberg (2003, p.141) quote that 'intelligence is defined in terms of the ability to achieve success in life in terms of one's personal standards within one's socio-cultural context'. Intelligence is the ability that a person has to achieve his/her goals; take advantage of strengths and accept or balance the weakness; accept, figure and decide on environments; and work through a mixture of creative, practical and methodical skills (Sternberg 2005, p.189). 'There are as many types of human intelligence as there are types of human goal' (White 2006, p.141).

The development of critical thinking abilities is connected with intelligence (Moore 2007, p.64). Critical thinking is necessary to several parts of intelligence development; improving critical thinking raises the possibility of intelligence success (Moore 2007, p.81). Critical thinking is defined as the ability that absorbs understanding and estimating reasoning; reasoning is the action or method of illustrating terminations for facts or verifications (Lally et al. 2008, p.2). Critical thinking means good thinking (Facione 2007, p.2). It is the thinking that has a reason; it proves an idea; deduces the meaning of something; or explains a problem (Facione 2007, p.3). Critical thinking involves understanding or working out the problem and the ability to the direct reflection to the exact reason of answering the problem, recognizing the structures of situation or the important points of view (Davis-Seaver 2000, p.2). The main intention of critical thinking is to formulate and evaluate the arguments for an issue that is regular or as strange as it can be. Through critical thinking we are trying to work out or to consider arguments; we are aiming to prove that a state is true or to verify whether an argument is true in reality. Facione (2000, p.74; 2007 p.10) argues that the characteristics of critical thinking are: making vital questions; organized, methodical, open-minded and judicious thinking; looking for the truth and be confident in explaining a matter. Using critical thinking is not only when someone achieves his goals with success, but also when consideration and essential questions are carried out (Papastephanou and Angeli 2007, p.608).

Using critical thinking expands our knowledge and develops our understandings (Schick and Vaughn 2005, p.154). The development of critical thinking includes thinking of critical, clear and well-defined questions and problems; collecting and considering important information, using theoretical thoughts for successful understanding; approaching aptly answers according appropriate criteria and values; discussing with other people to find out answers for more difficult problems; and thinking in an open-minded way by identifying and measuring statements, suggestions and practical results (Paul and Elder 2006, p.4). It is highlighted that critical thinking abilities can be developed by using dialogues and conversations with people (Angeli et al. 2003, p.32).

Critical thinking and education

Thinking critically is the aim of the educating development (Davis-Seaver 2000, p.1). It is supposed that direct experiences are very important for the development of critical thinking; and mainly young children can gain understanding merely through such experiences (Davis-Seaver 2000, p.1). The primary purpose is not only to teach students to think critically in school subjects but generally in nonschool contexts (Ennis 1989, p.4). Lally et al. (2008, p.2) assume that 'practicing critical thinking skills is like preparing for a sports event or training as a musician: however strong your natural ability, the right practice will enable you to perform better'. According to Facione (2000, p.62) 'critical thinking is judgement, reflective and purposive'; thinking skills can be improved, to the level that is permitted form our abilities, by practising and with good guidance from teachers. Schools should provide plan courses that consist of cognitive ideas; offer progressive schooling strategies depended on different levels of thought; decide on instructional materials that promote problem solving; increase learning activities that raise thinking; evaluate student development in thinking skills (Costa 1985b, p.30).

Potts (1994, para.4) assumes that teachers are the ones who can help students to develop their critical thinking. He provides that there are some techniques of training students to have critical thinking. Teachers should promote communication between students in the classrooms; working in groups may help each child to attain more. Moreover, teachers can make imprecise questions that will assume different correct answers. With this activity students are not afraid of giving the wrong answer, they think and react productively. Furthermore, teachers should provide adequate time for children to think and understand the questions or the problems that were asked; helping them to realize that they are supposed to ponder and that the direct answer is not always the excellent answer. Teachers should also offer chances to students to observe how the new skill can be related to other circumstances and experiences (Potts 1994, para.4). Teachers should offer students opportunities and explain the reason to think critically; they should ask children to make arguments, challenges and discussions with respect toward classmates (Smith 1986, p.107). Teachers should benefit the arrangement of the classroom and the techniques they apply in facilitating the education and allow children to think in critical ways (Davis-Seaver 2000, p.8). Moreover they can reward good and challenge poor critical thinking; create an environment of rational examination; expand judgement backgrounds; connect students with critical thinking; form critical thinking skills and characters; and explain how useful the critical thinking is (Facione 2000, p.80).

Barell (1985, p.34) supports that teachers should make sure that students know the names of their classmates in order to be more open to the opinions they hear in the class. Furthermore, they should spend inadequate time monitoring students whether they listen and react to their classmates. For example, they should ask the students to rephrase or complete the words of the previous speaker. With these activities the communications in the class will be multidirectional. Their aim is that all students respond to the explanation for any answer, opinion or question. Teachers should spend the needed time to build the situations where students can listen to and state critically on what their classmates are stating and why. Students must know that they will be disputed to apply information as unrefined material for more dynamic thought, create ideas and many clarifications to problems. Moreover, teachers can offer sufficient time to students to think responsively to multipart questions; they can write down an answer to these questions and after analyzing the problem and generating the answer, they can discuss into groups and share their opinions, achieve agreements, list main concerns, or search the reasons that they conclude to this answer. Besides, thinking loudly with students is one of the greatest ways to talk about the importance of thoughtfulness; teachers should encourage students to think of different ways to solve a problem and to discuss together in the classroom. Teachers can, also, promote students to ask questions; they should ask complex questions and make a discussion with the students about what they have already known and what they should know. Teachers need to recognize excellent answers that appear in the classroom and notice how students conclude to these answers. They should reward excellent thinking by corresponding through their appraisals that they import more complex thinking. It is important to identify or rethink information and use it critically and creatively.

There are different strategies for training critical thinking. One problem is that students are frequently asked to memorize rules strictly for categorizing information (Potts 1994, para.5). The 'Building Categories strategy' is an important tool that facilitates students to classify information by understanding the rules and not memorizing them (Potts 1994, para.5). Another problem is that the arrangement of exercises in the classroom, mainly in math and science, indicates little similarity to how problems appear in real life. Indeed, the ability to recognize a problem is one of the major useful thinking skills. The 'Finding Problems strategy' is a method of structuring duties so that children apply skills analogous to those required for the fuzzy problems they will face in life (Potts 1994, para.10). This strategy is a brilliant activity to work in groups, mostly when they work in small groups in the similar problem separately and then they discuss about their findings; each student is able to report to different ways of answering the problem (Potts 1994, para.14). 'Enhancing the environment strategy' that promotes students a spirit of invention. Students should seat and teacher should stand in positions that are able to see each other and cooperate. This strategy reduces the passive receptive manner that most students have when they are opposite the teacher. Visual assists are also needed in the classroom to support the concentration to critical thinking practices. For example questions like 'Is it fact or opinion?' or 'what would happen if…?' (Potts 1994, para.15).

According to Costa et al. (1985, p.141) there are different strategies that help students to develop their critical thinking. 'Directive strategies' set teachers in a role of a person who provides information; they should organise the information so that students want to learn more; they must choose the aims to be achieved and the ways of achieving them under which circumstances and by what criteria; they can also provide an organization that allows storage and recovery; moreover they can check if the students understand and moderate what is said in the classroom; and they should reward good critical thinking (Costa et al. 1985, p.144). 'Mediative strategies' provides the dialogical advance; teachers can raise enquiries and dilemmas that motivate students to think curiously; give an answer and check it if it is correct; relate the theories they have provoked; and think other theories or clarifications and test them with problem solving methods. These strategies are consisted of "Open-Ended Discussion, Concept Development (which includes Concept Attainment and Concept Formation), Values Awareness Clarification, Inquiry, Moral Reasoning and Deep Process Instruction' (Costa et al. 1985, p.151). By 'Generative strategies', teachers encourage students thoughts by using creative descriptions, metaphors, hypothetical and apparently strange situations (Costa et al. 1985, p.171). 'Collaborative strategies' can create helpful interdependence when the achievement of a student is related to other classmates who are in the same group by distributed guidance; oral communication skills are needed to create and sustain positive interdependence; personal responsibility is effective if students take accountability for what they achieve in a task and how they help and encourage the members of their group to understand; social skills are required to achieve the task and keep the group in good working order (Costa et al. 1985, p.177).

Teachers must take the role of leader as students criticise their classmates' thinking in different activities (Barell 1985, p.36). Leaders should present questions in different cognitive levels; ask simplifying questions; pay attention and develop student's answers; encourage students' questions; and motivate communication and critique to classmates' thinking (Barell 1985, p.36). Teaching thinking indicates that teachers should create problems, make questions, and interfere in paradoxes, dilemmas, and disagreements that students are capable of trying to resolve (Costa 1985a, p.20). Teachers and managers should arrange the school in a way that can help thinking development; they should value it, spend time for it, provide safe support materials, and appraise growth in it. They should also count students ideas in way that sustain a school environment that is composed of trust, allows risk taking, is creative, and positive. Moreover they should form the thinking behaviours that are needed for students (Costa 1985a, p.20). Philippou (2005, p.360) suggests an education depended on critical thinking, teachers and students should work in a cooperative environment and concept structure so that variety of views, independent thinking, better critical evaluation of information and better interaction between them are promoted in the classroom. Furthermore, Pouyioutas et al. (2007, p.5) provide 'Problem-based learning' that will help the students' critical thinking development. This education absorbs working in groups and communication exercises; abilities for answering questions and solving a problem; individual, vital, methodical and useful research (Pouyioutas et al. 2007, p.1).

The experiments and uses of science help critical thinking to transfer to different areas of thought (Davson-Galle 2004, p.514). It is accepted that critical thinking should be an important dimension of science education (Bailin 2002, p.361). Critical thinking in science is described in terms of processes (Bailin 2002, p.364). Applying critical thinking in science education absorbs focusing on problems and tasks in the curriculum that prompt or need critical thinking. For example, students can decide which conclusions are permitted by the proof of a physics experiment or plan an experiment to examine a theory (Bailin 2002, p.370). Teachers can make different activities in order to help students to understand the ideas of predictions, hypothesis and initial conditions. In addition, they can make experiments to assist students to understand the criteria and why an experiment is needed; to examine the phenomenon and discuss about what causes it; to desire a hypothesis and separate the students into groups to plan an experiment to investigate it; to encourage students to criticize their classmates experiments related with the criteria; and discuss the results of the experiment (Bailin 2002, p.371).


It is concluded that school is a vital place for children to learn how to think critically. Different activities, such as: working in groups and discuss for different problems, can be hold in the classrooms in order to improve students' critical thinking. Teachers can provide sufficient time for students to think the question that is asked; they can make inexact questions that have different correct answers and uphold communication between the students; encourage students to criticise what other students say; encourage students to make queries about something they do not understand. Teachers and students should work in a supportive environment. The promotion of critical thinking is important for school activities and courses, but, more vital for nonschool activities (Ennis 1989, p.4). Thinking in a critical and effective way helps people in different situations- such as problem solving, formulating suggestions, calculating possibilities and taking decisions- because of the fact that critical thinking is purposeful, rational and goal focussed (Halpern 2003 in Papastephanou and Angeli 2007, p.605). By the time we accept as true that identities have the ability to set up forms or techniques of thought to allow moving towards new situations, in that case critical thinking will make sense as a creation (Kuhn 1999, p.24). The current society needs critical thinking and active involvement from all students (Demetriou 2009 in Papaieronymou 2010, p.2). Students need to apply critical thinking to examine reasonable or the extensively recognized statements and facts of their socio-cultural background and ideology (Philippou 2005, p.357).