Cultivating Critical Thinking

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“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”—Albert

One of the traits of great minds and thinkers of all times is curiosity. Their minds explore
possibilities and probabilities. This is also a defining trait of highly effective leaders. If I have to
personalize things, I am what I am, and I will be all that I will be because I am constantly asking
these two questions, WHY, and WHY NOT?

Every step of our lives deals with decision-making. And, it is not always about Yes or No. There
are Maybe-s, Ifs, and But-s. If we have options, our minds need to be trained to think critically and
choose the best one.

During their learning phase, students are equipped with different life skills which will help them to
grow as an individual, not just academically, but also socially and often professionally.
Our education system has changed over time to include these essential skills in some way or the
other. Critical thinking is one area that must be inculcated into our progressive curriculum to
encourage young minds to apply it in the right way.

From managing time to preparing for exams, from understanding concepts to delivering
performance, everything has an element of critical thinking in it. Not all can be learned and
imbibed from textbooks. It is the real-life application that matters more.
Critical thinking deals with assessing all the aspects and prospects of a situation and taking
informed decisions.

It is very important for students to inculcate this as an important life skill from an early age. It
needs to be incorporated into the educational system and educators must be equipped to nurture
this skill in students. I will come to How, but many curious minds will ask Why.

Critical thinking:
–        Helps in better decision-making and problem-solving

–        Enhances creativity and innovation

–        Helps students to become active listeners

–        Ramps up their research skills and domain knowledge expertise

–        Stimulates curiosity

–        Improves presentation and language skills

–        Fosters life skills through reasoning

The aim of education should be teaching students how to think, and not what to think. And, simply
put, critical thinking is all about that. One of the biggest indicators of critical thinking is the ability to think independently.
As Napolean Hill rightly said, “You have a brain and mind of your own. Use it, and reach your own

As parents and educators, let’s find out how we can facilitate and integrate these in the classroom,
and otherwise too.
Urge them to ask questions: Whenever I interact with students, the first thing I tell them is – this
is a safe space. You won’t be judged for asking questions. For being wrong. For expressing even
the most bizarre of views. This helps them to feel at ease in an otherwise judgmental world where
each of us feel inhibited to be ourselves. Ask thoughtful questions during a lesson, and encourage
them to ask as well.

Probe with questions like:
·        Would you give me an example?
·        Will you provide more details?
·        Could you be more specific?

Work in groups: Cooperative learning and teamwork not only exposes students to different
thought processes but it expands their thinking abilities to know that a problem can be approached
in various ways. Group projects are a great way to harness critical thinking and brainstorming.
This also leads us to our next strategy.

Incorporate different viewpoints: Working with different viewpoints on the same topic gives
them the flexibility to explore, listen and express. They start understanding that there can be
multiple solutions and they must choose what is the optimum one. Moreover, this enhances their
active listening and concentration skills.

Connect ideas: Connecting the dots and relating to experiences has always helped us hone our
skills. Whenever we start thinking if it has ever happened to us to someone we know, it opens up a
plethora of thoughts. This facilitates critical thinking in many ways.

For example: If the educator asks, Do you take a bus to school every morning? What are the
challenges you face? What would be the probable solutions? What are the pros and cons of this?

This allows them to use their prior knowledge and judgments to come up with solutions and

Encourage them to take decisions: One of the best ways to approach the problem above is to
assess the odds and come up with a feasible solution. This is the most important output of critical
thinking which comes in the form of a rightful decision. Encourage students to make decisions and
back up their views with facts and arguments.

Encourage creativity: Finally comes one of the most important aspects of critical thinking –
creativity and innovation. Give students the time and opportunity to explore on their own. Their
independence will lead to amazing innovations.

For example: If the educator asks them to draw a tree, do not show them that it has to be done in
a simple way. If you keep everything ready, they will never get a chance to show their creativity.
Supporting the importance of critical thinking in students, Louis E. Newman, former dean of
academic advising at Stanford University and the author of Thinking Critically in College: The
Essential Handbook for Student Success mentioned in an interview, “When responding to
students’ questions in class, I could have said not only “That’s a great question,” which I’m sure I
did innumerable times, but added, “because you placed this observation in the context of
something we covered two weeks ago” or “because you are questioning whether the evidence that
the author provides really supports their position.”

With traditional concepts of education losing their value, it is time for a change. This a step
towards not just creating professionals out of students, but critical thinkers who can excel in any
field of life with determination. I believe critical thinking must not be left to chance – but be added
as a special class in every school. Think about this critically, and tell me if you agree!

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