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5 Strategies to Improve Critical Thinking in Classrooms

In the Edutopia article “Getting Critical about Critical Thinking,” Heather Wolpert-Gawron explores five pedagogical practices teachers can adopt to improve students’ critical thinking skills.  Check them out in the excerpt from her article below:

  1. Adopt a PBL philosophy. Project-based learning differs from mere projects because it triggers more critical thinking. Rather than write a report on a state, why not found the 51st state? Rather than read about the effects of nutrients in soil, why not grow a garden and see those effects in action? Check out these resources for getting started with project-based learning.
  2. Explore the world in a subject-area scavenger hunt. Ask students to find examples of your content in the world outside of school. Ask them to bring in those examples and teach others how they apply to the current topic of study.
  3. Utilize habits of mind. Asking students to think critically is not enough; we have to teach them how. Guide your students in visualizations, help them make connections, and teach them about persistence and taking risks in order to solve difficult challenges. Find suggestions for doing this in “Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind.”
  4. Require reflection. The KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart is a good start, but add an H for “How” to it, making a KWLH chart. Ask students how they learned something. Teach your students to recognize their own “eureka!” moments. Present them with metacognitive questions so they can routinely explore what they think about their thinking and how they got there.
  5. Teach students to question. Push students to develop questions beyond those that can be answered through a Google search. Help them develop questions that guide their research, that challenge with evidence, and that indicate their own understanding. Consider having them use question stems developed around the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

About Heather Mullins

Heather Mullins is the Chief Academic Officer in Newton-Conover City Schools. She is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow who spent 12 years as a high school English Teacher. She received her B.S.Ed. in Secondary English Education from Western Carolina University. Heather completed her National Board Certification in Adolescent Young Adult English Language Arts in 2002. She holds an M.Ed. in Academically and Intellectually Gifted from UNC-Charlotte. Heather has served as a Curriculum Specialist in Hickory City Schools, an adjunct professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and a Professional Development Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She completed her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership through Western Carolina University. Heather is one of the co-founders of #NCed Chat, North Carolina’s first Twitter chat for teachers. She is passionate about innovative practices, instructional technology, student ownership of learning, and supporting teachers. Heather serves on the advisory board for the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan, North Carolina School for the Deaf and Catawba Science Center. She is a recipient of the 2015 NCMLE Central Office Administrator to Watch Award. She also received the 2016 Don Chalker Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership. Heather is the proud mother of one son, Jackson.

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