Teach your students a life-changing ability: critical thinking

Jan-Wolter Smit

Head of Education

Young people are used to living in a global world where information, no matter if accurate or not, circulates in the blink of an eye, and is rapidly spread through likes and shares. It is very important for them to develop solid critical thinking skills to keep a healthy mind, and not blindly believe everything they see on social media.

3 reasons why students profit from thinking critically

There are many benefits to thinking critically about the world around us, and everything we see, hear, and experience. Purely from an academic point of view, the benefits can be rounded up to 3 major benchmarks with positive implications for your students:

1. Academic success

Students who learn to apply critical thinking question the information they come across and look for the most valid arguments. After doing so, they become able to explore and word their own thoughts on the matter. The core of critical thinking is questioning facts and opinions instead of just accepting what we are told. In the long run, critical thinking creates independent thinkers who have the tools and the ability to also analyse their own work in order to create something new. They have very high potential.

2. Empathy

Students who learn to think critically get used to looking at a situation from different points of view. They start to understand how other people might come to form certain decisions. By doing so they amplify their insights into different types of people, becoming more understanding and open-minded. Open-minded people have more opportunities to learn from others, and to build on their strengths throughout their lives.

3. Creativity

Critical thinking nurtures creativity as it pushes us to ask “how?”, “why not?”, “what if?”, and other constructive questions. It encourages students to find different ways to approach information, by creating more complex brain connections. It brings them to a deeper understanding of the many faces of reality, and of how opinions are formed.

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Promote critical thinking in your classroom

Critical thinking can be defined as clear, rational, logical, and independent thinking.

It stimulates us to become mindful of the way we instinctively think about the world around us, and label things. Once we are aware of it, we can modify the way we think by analysing situations and/or events as rationally and objectively as possible. 

"It's important to recognise that critical thinking is not just something that takes place in the classroom or in the workplace, it's something that takes place — and should take place — in our daily lives," says William T. Gormley, a university professor, and author of several books.

As a teacher, you can teach and guide your students to become aware of their thinking process. Together, you can analyse a piece of news, or a picture linked to current events, and try to steer your students away from running to conclusions, or from reporting what they read on social media. Give them the tools to think rationally, logically, and independently. There is nothing more important you could teach them, no matter what subject/s you teach at school.