ACTIVITIES FOR DEVELOPING CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
Алиева А.К.
Карагандинский Государственный Технический Университет
г. Караганда, Казахстан
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and
skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating
information gathered from or generated by observation, experience, reflection,
reasoning or communication as a guide to belief and action [1].
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to
reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically
consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. They use the
intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable
them to analyze, assess and improve thinking.
By critical thinking, we refer to thought processes that are quick, accurate, and
assumption-free. (They are often creative as well.) Such processes help us view, with
a critical eye, the problems, decisions, and situations that require appropriate reaction
and action.
“Critical,” after all, is derived from the Greek word krisis, which means “to
separate.” When life presents us with turning points, when we are faced with
situations that require decisive action, when we need plans that will yield positive
consequences, then we also need critical thinking.
When crises arise in our personal or professional lives, we are often required
to respond quickly. The quick response, however, is always predicated on accurately
identifying the problem. Such attention to the input enhances the likelihood that
outputs will be positive. This focus on improved outcomes that are faster, better,
cheaper and of higher quality is what continuous improvement is all about [2].
Nowadays students will inherit a complex and rapidly changing world, a
world in which they’ll be required to absorb new ideas, examine and interpret
information, apply knowledge, and solve unconventional problems. To deal with the
information explosion of the twenty-first century, students will need to develop
systematic ways of thinking and reasoning. Critical-thinking skills will be essential.
What is critical thinking? It’s the ability to:
• solve problems
• make products that are valued in a particular culture
• be flexible, creative, and original
• think about thinking
• locate the appropriate route to a goal
• capture and transmit knowledge
• express views and feelings appropriately
Research indicates that critical thinking is neither inborn nor naturally
acquired. In fact, fewer than half of students today have the ability to reflect upon
their thinking and explain how they solved a problem.
Fortunately, critical thinking can be taught and learned. It helps to teach
students to reflect upon their own thinking processes and become more successful,
active learners. Here are some ways for the lessons to help students become more
effective thinkers:
1. Read each activity aloud or have a student read it aloud to the rest of the
group.
2. Allow students the time to think and respond.
3. Ask students questions to assess their understanding of the problem.
4. Welcome different strategies for solving the problem. Encourage divergent
thinking.
5. Observe students as they work in order monitor their problem-solving
skills.
6. Give helpful hints to those students who are having difficulty finding ways
to approach the problem.
7. Guide students to link the problem to others they have already solved.
8. Encourage students to check their work.
9. Help students to explore their thinking and identify the strategies that
worked—and those that didn’t.
10. Invite students to share their results.
The main task is to encourage students to see themselves as thinkers.
Participation of a teacher as an active learner will further reinforce the criticalthinking skills he or she teaches [3].
Critical thinking skills are essential to help students to develop into intelligent,
open-minded adults. Activities for developing these skills can be performed in any
classroom or at home, and they often encourage students to question aspects of their
own personalities and the opposing perspectives of others.
Did your students stand and gather in the middle of the room? Tell them that you will
ask a question that gives them a choice, and they will have to answer and explain why
their choice is true. Ask your students if they are a rock or a feather. Tell the rocks to
move to one side of the room and the feathers to move to the other side. Then, one by
one, ask each student to explain why he made his choice. By answering this question,
your students are forced to make definitive choices and examine the qualities that
support their decisions. You can repeat the exercise with other questions, such as
"Are you a river or a pond?" or "Are you a comedy or a drama?"
This activity will put a student's analytical skills to the test. Write a word or
phrase on the board. Then ask your students to write a list of all the words they can
think of that use only letters in that word. For example, if the word is "tomatoes,"
their words could include "too, toes" and "same." Have students repeat the exercise
with a different word, but while working in groups of two or three instead of
individually. Also, instead of writing words, you could bring actual objects into class,
such as a pair of tomatoes.
On the chalkboard, write "How is a peanut like me?" Give your students five
minutes to write a list of at least five ways they are similar to a peanut. Tell them not
to worry about being literal; their answers can be creative and figurative. For
example, a student might claim to be thick-skinned, or that he cracks under pressure,
just like a peanut. By answering this question, your students identify some of their
own personal characteristics and investigate the nature of those characteristics.
A major aspect of critical thinking is considering opposing viewpoints, and
this activity will require your students to do so. Write a list of controversial topics on
the board familiar to your class, such as school uniforms, standardized testing. Then
ask who agrees with each side of each topic. Pair students with opposing viewpoints
together. Then, assign each student to write a two-minute speech that argues for his
or her opponents side of the debate. They can't fake it or use a false argument to
support their own ideas; they must argue for the opposing side. Have each pair read
their speeches, and then ask them if they have a better understanding of why their
debates are so difficult to resolve.
Students can be taught to think critically using a mix of explicit instruction and
providing opportunities to practice skills within the context of content learning,
according to Pearson Learning. Despite this knowledge, researchers Lisa Marin and
Diane Halpern note that very little specific curriculum for explicit critical thinking
instruction is available for secondary students, and teacher preparation programs
rarely mention how to teach critical thinking. In fact, although most teachers identify
it as necessary, few can articulate a good definition of it, and far fewer can identify
strategies to teach it.
One of the goals of education is to facilitate a student’s ability to think clearly
about a wide range of topics encountered in academic settings as well as everyday
events. Daily issues arising from our increasing dependence on science and
technology as well as the pressures of competing social and cultural influences
require the use of data analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Critical thinkers use
these skills appropriately, without prompting, and usually with conscious intent, in a
variety of settings. That is, they are predisposed to think critically. When we think
critically, we are evaluating the outcomes of our thought processes - how good a
decision is or how well a problem is solved. Critical thinking also involves evaluating
the thinking process - the reasoning that went into the conclusion we've arrived at or
the kinds of factors considered in making a decision [4].
Bibliography
1. Diane F. Halpern, Thought & Knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking, Mahwah,
N.J.Publication, 2003.
2. Dr. Marlene Caroselli, 50 Activities for developing critical thinking skills, Massachudetts,
HRD Press, 2009.
3. Laurie Rozakis, 81 Fresh & fun critical thinking activities, U.S.A.,1998.
4. Diane F. Halpern, Critical thinking workshop for helping our students become better
thinkers, New York, NY: Psychology Press, 2013.