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12 concrete tips to get started in critical thinking education

“Education in critical thinking is not education in doubt, but in well-calibrated confidence, adjusted to the quality of the information available and to knowledge. Here are 12 concrete tips for teaching critical thinking in the classroom.

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The Scientific Council of the French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports has set itself the objective of producing practical indications for critical thinking education in primary, secondary and even secondary schools. higher education in its territory. In the end, 12 tips are presented.

The document " Educating in a critical mind - Theoretical bases and practical indications for teaching and training ”, produced by the Scientific Council of the Ministry of National Education, comprises more than a hundred pages. We went through it in order to find the essential.

A definition: skepticism is the ability to adjust one's level of confidence appropriately based on an assessment of the quality of supporting evidence and the reliability of sources.

According to the Scientific Council, “critical thinking education consists of providing students with knowledge and criteria that allow more advanced (sophisticated and context-appropriate) evaluation of content and sources of information. This in order to learn to better distinguish between opinions and knowledge, to identify credible statements, to recognize reliable sources. Education in critical thinking is not education in doubt, but in well-calibrated confidence, adjusted to the quality of the information available and to knowledge. ".

The criteria of critical thinking:

· Ability to assess the reliability of sources;

· Ability to assess the plausibility and relevance of content;

· Ability to assess the credibility of the same information content in terms of supporting evidence;

· Ability to correctly estimate the confidence that this same information or associated decisions deserve.

The 12 tips

1. Do not reduce critical thinking education to media and information literacy

Science, history, all the subjects and contents which make it possible to acquire solid knowledge are to be considered as places of education in the critical spirit.

Education in critical thinking is not education in the media and information.

2. Do not turn education in critical thinking into education in mistrust

Rather, focus on the importance of sorting out the sources of information by emphasizing the good sources rather than presenting the less good.

Exercising a critical mind does not mean criticizing everything.

3. Systematically include the objective of promoting the development of critical thinking in your courses and adopt appropriate methods

The development of critical thinking is a transversal skill that can be addressed in a large number of courses. It's not about creating courses ad hoc, but to exploit all possible opportunities, within all lessons and throughout the student's academic career.

Being critical isn't just good when you browse the web.

4. Make education in critical thinking a teaching that is assumed

The teacher can structure his course to introduce the criteria of critical thinking, considering them as objectives to be achieved (and, therefore, possibly to be evaluated). Introducing these criteria means bringing them to life through concrete activities, but also making them explicit for the pupil. At the end of a course, the latter must know what criteria he has worked on, why and what their practical utility is.

5. Make critical thinking education a transdisciplinary objective through multidisciplinary teaching

Teachers from the same school can collectively identify the times in the year when certain criteria will be worked on in different disciplines. Teachers can then present to students the connections between the concepts they are learning in the subjects, which will make more sense to them.

6. Make critical thinking education a sustainable and scalable goal

Evaluating the expertise of a source is not done the same way at 7 or 15 years old. Critical thinking education must be adapted to the age of the pupil and gradually increase in complexity in the content or situations presented.

7. Accept that the goal is to do better, not to never make mistakes

It is not a question of transforming the way of thinking, the reasoning, but of providing practical tools and knowledge. Critical thinking education is a long-term investment.

8. Train metacognitive skills

The teacher can use different teaching techniques to get the pupils to wonder about what they know or don't know, about what they think they have understood. This metacognitive attitude is often invoked to help students take control over their learning and better regulate themselves.

9. Do not give up knowledge

Being critical is a skill that goes beyond “thinking well”. Rather, it is about evaluating content and sources of information. This is why education in critical thinking cannot be dissociated from the acquisition of factual knowledge which is scientifically validated about the physical, biological, social, historical, etc. world.

10.  Invite to debate and argue, but taking precautions

It is interesting to create learning situations in which the students are led to debate and argue. However, placing the students in a position of debate is prepared and accompanied. The goal is not to get students to exchange freely and openly on all subjects, but to teach them to distinguish preferences, opinions, knowledge, facts and evidence from different levels.

11.  Do not limit yourself to "hot" themes

These discussion themes can reflect the students' membership in a social group and it is particularly difficult to get rid of certain “hot” received ideas. This could lead to counterproductive trade. It should also be remembered that it is better to have a solid knowledge of a topic in order to discuss it.

12.  Do not limit the teaching of critical thinking to the knowledge of cognitive biases and avoid lists of biases

The educational effort to be carried out does not consist in giving a list of all the categories of errors that the pupils can make, but rather in making them aware that certain disciplines or certain situations make them badly judge the quality of information. and that it is important to learn to better identify these cases.

The Scientific Council concludes his document by recalling the importance of training and professional development for teachers: "The initial and in-service training of teachers is a fundamental condition for education in critical thinking to become not only a widespread concern, but an educational reality. ".

In Quebec, the Quebec school training program has nine transversal skills, including Exercise critical judgment, which is the equivalent of what the French Ministry of Education calls critical thinking.

The RÉCIT national human development service offers several resources, including this dossier on critical thinking and an activity on critical judgment in the face of our discoveries on the Web.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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