How to promote critical thinking in students

How to promote critical thinking in students

Applying different methods and striking a balance in curriculum planning is key to promoting critical thinking, says Monita Sen.

Monita is the regional PYP (Primary Years Program) manager at International Baccalaureate Organisation’s Singapore branch.

“There are different taxonomies available freely for use and all of them have the commonality that they don’t stop at one type of learning or one type of thinking,” Monita says.

“All of them begin with the recalling of facts – that’s where rote learning or memorisation may come in – but the taxonomies are linked to assessment as well.”

Critical thinking is about making connections, applying what you are learning, and evaluating or creating something else out of it, Monita explains.

When coaching teachers, she promotes the use of taxonomies as it helps them to broaden out their lessons and ensure that students are using higher-order thinking skills to evaluate the knowledge acquired from classrooms.

As for her reference to rote learning, she believes that though it gets a bad reputation, the method can be applied to a larger lesson plan. The key is to strike the right balance in education.

“I think repetition is an important aspect of learning, rather than rote learning, which is just memorisation. Repetition is important for anyone to pick up a skill, knowledge or even a fact.

“The difference is if you have a curriculum that’s just about facts – that’s when you’re not going to promote any higher-order thinking.”

When planning a curriculum, she suggests considering the outcomes that schools want students to have – as long as students are at the centre of the planning, educators are on the right track.

Harvard’s Visible Thinking
Monita also believes the ability to transfer skills is a sign of critical thinking. One way to evaluate whether a skills transfer is successful is by using Harvard’s method of making thinking visible.

“Different processes take place when you’re just talking about something and representing it graphically,” she says.

“When students are asked to transfer their learning from one medium to another, that’s when you can see if they’ve understood a concept. Without understanding, you won’t be able to create something else out of the learning. It helps to scaffold students’ thinking, particularly for younger students.”

Direct teaching is a crucial part of promoting critical thinking, she shared. Educators need to direct students to use a certain skill so that they will have a repertoire of skills to draw on when they become independent learners.

Monita has over 18 years of experience in education and is passionate about differentiated, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning.

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