Develop the Critical Thinking Skills in the Classroom

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As I mentioned before above that using the lectures questions in the class room is a way to create the critical thinking skills of students and I will discuss this issue in this part and this will involve:

Definitions of critical thinking

Approaches to be critical thinking classroom

Definitions of critical thinking

For a variety of reasons people use critical thinking. Such reasons include applying skills such as technical knowledge and professional skills. Critical thinking guarantees the possibility of successful outcomes. (Russell & Richard 2002)

Recently, critical thinking is frequently used because of its importance in the both the education and working society. (Ennis 1996)

Critical thinking skills are skills that can be used to solve the problems that occur in our life and lead to the most logical and reliable conclusions, which lead to critical thinkers making responsible decisions while simultaneously having a full knowledge of assumptions and consequences of those decisions. (Waller 1988)

There are a several definitions about critical thinking that can be found in the literature but to support my views of critical thinking.

The classic definition of critical thinking is made by the American philosopher John Dewey as follows:

Active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey, 1909, p.9)

A clearer definition of critical thinking that involves words that are perhaps more familiar to us is made by Robert Dennis as follows:

Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do (Norris and Ennis 1989).

However the best definition in my opinion is described by Halpern & Diane who state that critical thinking is the use of strategies or cognitive skills that increase the probability of a successful outcome. It describes thinking as purposeful, logical and aim directed. The sort of thinking that involves solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions by using skills of thinking that are effective and thoughtful for the particular situation and kind of thinking task.

Another description of Critical thinking is that it is skilful, responsible thinking that is purposeful on deciding what to believe or do (Paul 1993).

Through us thinking critically we are able to ask suitable questions, and collect appropriate information.

Critical thinking is an ability that not everybody possesses. (Smith, 1995)

People that do not think critically often make biased assumptions and come to a conclusion far too early.

An individual that separates the truth from opinions exercises an important critical thinking skill. (Smith, 1995)

We are not born with the ability to think critically but we can develop this ability through teaching and learning.

Approaches to make critical thinking classroom

A challenge for teachers is on how we can make our students be critical thinkers in our classroom or how we can improve or promote the critical thinking skills amongst our students?

Before I start to discuss this issue let me briefly talk about the thinking process. Such mental process works through:

The organisation and sorting of the information. (Sharon 1998)

The formation of patterns of information

The logical assembling of information in mind.

Making conclusion (Sharon 1998)

In addition to that, the thinking process takes in consideration the past experience and the individuals assumptions to increase perspectives by continued questioning. (Clark-Birx, 1993) Therefore the thinking process includes determining the problem in several ways with many perspectives to find the solutions of these problems followed by investigations. (Sharon, 1998 , Clark-Birx, 1993)

The broadness and deepness of the thinking process is proportional to the development of knowledge and possibilities. (Clark-Birx, 1993)

The attitudes of the individuals towards critical thinking will also develop by effective critical thinking skills of them. There are many ways that can be found to be outlined in the literature on how to develop critical thinking skills. Such ways are for example: discussion in the class, reading research articles and journals that can improve the thinking critical skills of the students. (Sharon 1998)

As teachers and lectures particularly science teachers seek students to have critical thinking skills to help overcome any difficult parts they may encounter in the subject, however during the time of my teaching I had noticed that some students did not seem to be motivated enough to learn the chemistry topic I was teaching and they did not want to work in our workshop after the lectures or in the tutorials, they had not learned from their own mistakes and some of them wanted the teacher to carry out their given tasks completely while lacking their own efforts, some of them did not show any interest in learning, they talked to each other and disrupted the class, they did not use what they have learned and were also not interested in the grades they had received and did not care about learning.

Such properties of some students encourage me to seek a ways to improve the critical thinking skills of the students in the class and that can help them to become students who:

Are motivated to learn and want to work hard

Are independent learners

Apply the knowledge they have learnt

Correct their own mistakes

Think about learning and grades simultaneously

Basically Critical thinking skills involve the ability to:

Be aware of problems and to identify elements in a reasoned case and giving conclusions.

Analyse, apply and evaluate any data given and make a decision

Have opinions and be able to produce arguments

Deduce data

Apply any learned knowledge

Being able to think more than memorize

(Glaser 1941, p. 6)

Now which teaching method or approach can we use to encourage critical thinking skills among students in classroom?

Socratic questioning encourages critical thinking in students and it is an effective method that can be used in class discussions between the teacher and their students.

As teachers we need to use questions in different ways and allow students to propose appropriate solutions, which could be achieved through tutorials and worksheets involving a variety of levels suitable for the level of understanding of each student.

The use of quizzes often encourages more to participate rather than standard examination quizzes, as the language used in quizzes is often written with words that are more familiar to students, containing a lower amount of key words compared to examination questions as well as because of the fact that a quiz is usually administered in fifteen minutes or less compared to an examination which usually lasts about an hour or more.

A mock exam however is used to give an overview of the current level of knowledge and understanding of the students to be able to predict the grades of the final examinations the students will be taking and is so usually administered a short period of time before the final examination. I intend to allow students to use their resultant grade of a mock exam as well as their marked exam script to track their current progress and allow them to be able to see which areas of a topic of the course requires more revision and exam practice. Another method I intend to use, that can be induced in this process to enhance the critical thinking skills of students is to allow the students in the class, under guidance of the teacher, to mark each other’s mock exam and grade it, therefore enhancing the process of critical thinking.

I also intend to have open discussions with students in lectures to make them more interactive and allow students to express their opinions, arguments and any suggestions to solutions they might have to problems I have previously given them. Open discussions in this case also improve the critical thinking skills of students.

It is possible for the teacher to enhance the critical thinking skills of students through for example breaking down large questions into individual smaller ones that are answered one at a time, by encouraging students to explain things to each other, ensuring that no views by students are ignored, cut off or are dismissed in an unfair way by other students or rephrasing the teachers questions in many ways that are similar to each other. To be specific to science in this case, being critically teaching science is concerned less with students learning facts, procedures and definitions they have not understood than with students learning to think in a scientific way. One way described by Sass (1989) to achieve this is by asking his classes to recall two recent lectures/tutorials, where in one they were motivated was high and one where their motivation was low, each student would then make a list of their own including specific aspects of the lecture/tutorial that influenced their level of motivation in a particular way. I would intend to use the results of such questionnaire to improve the quality of my teaching and motivation towards the students.

Sass, E. J. "Motivation in the College Classroom: What Students Tell Us." Teaching of Psychology, 1989, 16(2), 86-88.

I have talked above about the use of questions during my lectures and this is a way to promote the critical thinking skills of the students, but another critical thinking skills that students need in the class, I intend to promote it for them in the future in my class, such as recognise problems, interpret the data.