We tend to toss critical thinking around like it is a new content area, as though we are teaching that now instead of Latin. It is a savory filler in the ridiculously long list of things a teacher will cover in 180 days, but it is only an ethereal substance.
Critical thinking is not a set of skills that can be deployed at any time, in any context. It is a type of thought that even 3-year-olds can engage in, and even trained scientists can fail in.
- It is the ability to use and apply all of your knowledge to a situation.
- It is the ability to deploy the right type of thinking at the right time.
According to cognitive scientists’, “critical thinking is seeing multiple sides of an issue; looking for evidence questioning and reasoning dispassionately.”
However, without all the background knowledge and understanding that is the content, critical thinking is not possible. Deep thoughts come from the ability to use multiple points of information to approach an issue; we might have been better off labeling it integrated thinking.
Most of our work in Elementary is in building that content and developing the tools for students to build their own content rather than having them analyze that content.
But I do wonder if there are more ways for us to integrate those abilities (looking at perspectives, multiple forms and sources of information, questioning ourselves and reasoning) into our lessons. I know a couple, but I want to find more.