It is important to teach critical thinking skills in all subjects – but these skills may come a bit more easily to science teachers. Critical thinking skills are closely linked to the analysis and evaluation of data – something that science teachers will have plenty of experience in. These are skills that will help pupils in the classroom, and also later in life as employers will be looking for these skills in graduates. And they are almost more important outside school and the workplace – in an era of fake news and information overload critical thinking helps us decipher fact from fiction.
But what are critical thinking skills? One definition is: reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on what to believe or do. Most definitions agree that the process of critical thought is generally considered to be:
- Active (not passive or reactive)
- Persistent and careful (e.g not jumping to conclusions)
- About reasoning, and evaluation reasoning.
Science lessons and STEM clubs are great environments for developing critical thinking skills, as experiments are an engaging way to test ideas, evaluate results and encourage critical and creative thought.
STEM Learning has a great FREE resource for incorporating critical thinking skills into your department’s curriculum, which you can download here.
If you are looking to implement change on a smaller (but still impactful) scale, here are some ideas to incorporate in the classroom:
- focus on inquiry teaching
- encourage questioning and use open-ended questions to challenge
- deal with controversies thereby encouraging discussion, debate and discourse
- bring students in to contact with real world problem solving;
- allow pupils to take risks, make connections and see relationships
- allow for quiet reflection; make the most of unexpected events
- allow pupils to ’take a lead’
- help pupils to develop criteria to make informed judgements
- help pupils value different ways of working
- give opportunities to explore ideas, keep options open and envisage what might be