Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce.
In response to rapid technological change, today’s citizens must be critical thinkers in order to compare evidence, evaluate competing claims, and make sensible decisions. The solutions to international problems, such as global warming, require highly developed critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. For individuals and society, the ability to think critically and solve problems effectively is crucial for success.
Today’s educators want to encourage students to use higher order thinking skills and critically evaluate content. Standards across the country reflect a new focus on critical thinking and problem solving. These strategies encourage deep thinking and critical analysis.
Strategies for Critical Thinkers:
Harvesting – After a learning activity in class, ask students to reflect on “what” they learned, “so what” (why is it important and what are the implications), and “now what” (how to apply it or do things differently).
Most Important Word – During a reading assignment, the students identify what they think are the “most important words”. The teacher gives some examples of some important words. Students can work in groups to identify others. Ask why did you pick these words?
Think Break – Ask a rhetorical question, and then allow 20 seconds for students to think about the problem before you go on to explain. This technique encourages students to take part in the problem-solving process even when discussion isn’t feasible. Having students write something down helps ensure that they will in fact work on the problem.
Four Corners – Put up a different topic in each corner of the room and ask students to pick one, write their ideas about it down, then head to “their” corner and discuss opinions with others who also chose this topic. In the corner meeting places students may discuss why they think or believe the way they do.
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) – In PBL, the teacher poses an authentic (real-world) problem. Students learn particular content and skills as they work cooperatively to solve the problem. Students can also follow their interests with their own inquiry-based problems.
Socratic Circles – A Socratic circle gives students a method for formal discussion of a topic or text in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Students must listen carefully to the comments of others, think critically, and articulate their own thoughts. The process encourages divergent thinking instead of a single correct answer or solution.
All of these strategies and many more enable students to grow in essential 21st century skills while engaging in content learning. Try them out!