Cultivating Critical Thinking (with Helpful Rubrics)

Decorative: A word cloud on the theme "critical thinking"


"Critical Thinking: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education" (post) outlines the following:

  • 10 reasons to promote student critical in the classroom
  • 10 ways to facilitate such thinking
  • 10 "I can" statements to clarify specific aspects of the critical-thinking process for students.
  • 7 seven resources to help with assessment and facilitation of critical thinking

1. Ten Benefits of Encouraging Critical Thinking in the Classroom

  • "Allows for necessary inquiry that makes learning exciting."
  • "Provides a method to go beyond memorization to promote understanding."
  • "Allows students to visualize thoughts, concepts, theories, models & possibilities."
  • "Encourages a classroom culture of collaboration that promotes deeper thinking."
  • "Builds skills of problem-solving, making implications, & determining consequences."
  • "Facilitates goal setting, promotion of process, and perseverance to achieve."
  • "Encourages point of view while developing persuasive skills."
  • "Guides interpretation while developing a skill to infer and draw conclusions."

2. Ten Ways to Facilitate Student Critical Thinking

a. "Design Critical-Thinking Activities." 

b. "Provide time for students to collaborate."

  • "Sometimes this might mean slow down to increase the learning."

c. "Provide students with a critical thinking rubric."

  • "Have them look at the rubric before a critical thinking activity, and once again when they are finished."

d. "Make assessment of critical thinking an ongoing effort."

  • "While [instructors] can assess, have students assess themselves."

e. "Concentrate on specific indicators in a rubric."

  •  Focus on specifics such as "provides inquiry, answers questions, builds an argument, etc."
  • "Concentrate on just one indicator while doing a lesson."
  • "There can even be an exit ticket reflection" to assess the success of the session.

f. "Integrate the idea of critical thinking in any lesson."

  • "Do not teach this skill in isolation."
  • Connect critical thinking "with a lesson, stem activity, project built, etc."

g. "Post a critical thinking poster in the room [or on your D2L site]."

  • This "could be a copy of a rubric or even a list of 'I Can Statements' [see 3 below]" or Bloom's Taxonomy with related verbs to help students understand the kind of intellectual action required at each level of thinking.
  • "Point it out before a critical-thinking activity."

h. "Make critical thinking part of your formative and summative assessment."

  • "Move around the room, talk to groups and students, stop the whole group to make adjustments."

i. "Point out critical thinking found in the content standards."

  • "Be aware that content standards often have words like infer, debate, conclude, solve, prioritize, compare and contrast, hypothesize, and research."
  • "Show your students Bloom’s Taxonomy and post in [it] the room [or on D2L]." to challenge students to higher-level thought. 

j. "Plan for a school-wide [or department-wide] emphasis."

  • "A culture that builds critical thinking is usually bigger than one classroom."
  • "Develop school-wide [or department-wide] vocabulary, posters, and initiatives."

3. Ten "I Can" Statements for Critical Thinking

  • "I can not only answer questions but can also think of new questions to ask."
  • "I can take time to see what I am thinking to promote even better understanding."
  • "I can attempt to see other peoples’ thinking while explaining my own."
  • "I can look at a problem and determine [the] needed steps to find a solution."
  • "I can use proper collaboration skills to work with others productively to build solutions."
  • "I can set a goal, design a plan, and persevere to accomplish the goal."
  • "I can map out strategies and processes that show the action involved in a task."
  • "I can define and show my understanding of a concept, model, theory, or process."
  • "I can take time to reflect and productively critique my work and the work of others."
  • "I can understand, observe, draw inferences, hypothesize and see implications."

4. Seven Resources

  • PBLWorks – "The number one place for PBL [project-based learning] in the world is at PBLWorks" -- and free. 
  • Microsoft Innovative Learning – "Critical thinking rubrics you can use tomorrow for any grade level": scroll down to the Grades 9-12 rubric and adapt as necessary to your course. 
  • Education Week – "[S]ome great reasoning and some interesting links that provide a glimpse of critical thinking in the classroom."
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