Teaching Pedagogy Developing Critical Thinking

Developing Critical Thinking

Category : Teaching


Developing Critical Thinking




  • Understand why we need to be a critical thinker
  • Explore the approaches and strategies to become reflective practitioner
  • Elaborate upon the ways of developing critical thinking in learners
  • Engage with the process of developing effective critical thinking
  • Plan educational practices based on critical thinking

But if thought is to become the possession of many, not the privilege of the few, we must have done with fear. It is fear that holds men back - fear lest their cherished beliefs should prove delusions, fear lest the institutions by which they live should prove harmful, fear lest they themselves should prove less worthy of respect than they have supposed themselves to be.

 ?Bertrand Russell (Principles of Social Reconstruction)

You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.

     ?Mahatma Gandhi



Understanding about critical thinking processes and helping learners to become a critical thinker is a challenging task. It is a challenging task, but it is not a difficult process because it needs prolonged engagement with the problem. Therefore, developing critical thinking needs time, effort, and engagement. The statements given by Russell and Gandhi clearly describe critical thinking. It is about thinking regarding anything with analytical perspective, which also includes raising question to the existing structure or system or what so ever is prevailed and unfair. But largely, critical thinking is perceived as a process, which awakened the individual intellect. It is not a new concept, but it has a history of 2500-year old with its inter-disdplinary nature.

Critical thinking is a disciplined intellectual skilful thought processing, which helps to analyse, synthesize, and evaluate the past and present situation and also make inferences about further j action logically. It is a self-planned and self-disciplined way of thinking that uses high level of logical reasoning. All critical thinking must have rationality behind the arguments.



Human beings are distinct from animals not only by the characteristic of thinking but also by thinking critically and rationally. Critical thinking is not restricted to school alone, but it works globally. Hence, we should understand the meaning of critical thinking in-depth. When a child demands anything or acts for something or an adult works in an office to achieve something, critical thinking is needed. But it is important to know the kind of critical thinking that is required to be understood. It means critical thinking is associated with a kind of thinking that improves the quality of thinking while dealing with the problems.

Humans need a critical thinking to lead a rational life. It helps to take decision about the problems and conflicting situation. As mentioned earlier, it is needed by all, that is, from childhood to old age, to improve their quality of life and thinking. It is also noted that critical thinking is not required once but it can be used forever. It is purely situation and context based. The ability of critical thinking is transferable, because it is based on ability and not on any fact.

An interesting question here is whom we call a critical thinker? There are no fixed characteristics of a critical thinker and fixing these characteristics will also limit the meaning of critical thinking. Some concepts of critical thinking can be discussed. Persons who point out crucial questions and try to explore them with relevance to reach the solutions are known as reflective thinkers. In this process, thinking would be self-directed, self-monitored, and self-corrective.

It is also important to understand that critical thinking is not about critiquing, rather, it is about looking positives, negatives, possibilities and so on simultaneously to take a comprehensive understanding about the issue or concern. It can be defined in a simple manner, that is, person with the ability to think critically is called

critical thinking. It involves the following three aspects: openness and willingness to accept and analyse ideas, ability to work reasonably and logically, and knowledge and skills to apply logical methods on problems. With the help of these abilities and skills, a persistent effort is needed for critical thinking. Critical thinking must raise question from the existing solutions.

Largely, the idea of critical thinking can be understood in the following manner:

1.         It questions to the aims and the objectives

2.         It engages with the kinds of question to be asked

3.         It talks about legitimacy of the information and sources

4.         It enquires about the kind of logic and reasoning is used

5.         It deals with the concepts that make any concept usable



Critical Thinking and the Social Studies Teacher

Here, it is essential to discuss about the process of knowing and developing knowledge, which is not developed, because we have to remember a lot rather it happens; and as we raised questions we should do reasoning and deal the concept with our critical thinking and develop discourse that we are engaged with. However, it is also assured that we heard a lot about critical thinking, but we do not have a very good or sound definition or explanation of critical thinking. Then, how to move ahead to develop certain things is not substantially clear? Therefore, it is necessary to develop a framework (not rigid but explainable) about critical thinking processes, to  help learners to become effective disciplined thinkers, who have ability to negotiate the real-life complexities, and those are beyond the textbook and school life. A Social science teacher has to promote 'social science thinking' in learners, and therefore, a thought provoking person can be developed.

As a critical thinker, we should understand that it is important to move from 'judgment to justice', where there is no way to judge people on the basis of their abilities, but it engages in the process of dealing as per their capability for improvement from justice point of view. The shifting from judgment to justice need reasoning, which may include the following:

1.         Knowing and understanding about the purpose

2.         Drafting or constructing questions

3.         Collecting data or relevant information

4.         Drawing inferences with reference to assumptions (if any)

5.         Understanding the finding

6.         Engaging with implication

The above-mentioned points also indicated that in critical thinking one can assess one's own thinking. Therefore, to become capable for critical thinking, a person has to work for clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, fair mindness, and so on. A Social science teacher has to include the following to provide spaces to learner to become a critical thinker:

         1.         Make it clear that learners are aware about the standards and aims to be achieved. Teacher must emphasize that there is no end point to objectives and standards, they are ever changing. Clear pointers of critical thinking are available to the learners.

          2.         Ask learners to think twice about the task that they performed. This will provide them scope to become reflective about their own practices and will engage learner in metacognitive abilities. They will be able to know about their own learning ways. Motivate them to ask question to themselves for their own practices such as was I correct? What else can be done? How can I change my way of understanding? And so on.

           3.         Learner must know that continues engagement will provide a better understanding about the concept. Critical thinking is not something which is already there in mind; rather, it has to be developed over period of time, while engaging with and problem and exploration of a concept.

           4.         Speak less in the class. It will facilitate learners to think and discuss. During discussion, they will be able to know and understand each other's perspective. This process will broaden their view about any concept, along with this; they will also learn to see their own view critically.

           5.         Your approach to teaching must be inquiry based, where learners will search answer of the posed question. During this process, they will engage themselves with the process of critical thinking. Inquiry-based teaching can be organized on individual bases or group basis. For the subject such as Social sciences, inquiry-based teaching and learning process is very significant.

            6.         Always provide space to write to the learners. Let them think and then pen down their thinking. Writing is a very good reflective practice, where learner can think about their own action. Actually, writing makes an idea in a concrete form. Writing will also develop their understanding about the discussed concept.

Largely, we have to understand that, we have to develop a critical society of learners, who think critically and work critically This society of learners will always keep improving as there is not end to critical thinking. However, it is hard to develop such learners' community, as there is none so far. Whenever we try to understand thinking process, we can find various kinds of prejudice, biasness, lies, manipulations, hypocrisy and so on across the world. Such characteristic in thinking lead us towards and fearful, sad, hopeless life, where, no space exists for criticality. On the other hand, it is also true,that human species have capability to think rationally and logically. Critical thinking is also governed by our self-thinking process and how we are able to relate with the social issue and concerns.

This process of thinking and self-thinking is not very obvious; one has to do deliberate effort to become a critical thinker. There are no fixed steps to become critical thinker and one can develop their own way. Initially, we all are unaware about the problem, where we even do not see problem as a problem. But soon one realized that everything is not very smooth and easy that he/she start thinking about the problem, such thinkers are called beginning thinker. Persons realize that the necessity of regular practice to understand and solve the problem to deeply elaborate upon the problem. After detail elaboration, person thinks all possible solutions of the problem, which him/her an advanced thinker. After looking for the possible solutions, one take action to solve the problem. Continuous engagement with such practice will make person skilful and insightful critical thinker. As has been discussed earlier, there is no one fixed way or strategies to become reflective and one can develop their own way to become critical. A few suggestive strategies are discussed later:


Do not waste time

We waste lots of time when we are free. We do gossiping or simply watch TV without any purpose. It is time-consuming to begin or choose the action towards the solution of any problem. This simply hinders the process of critical thinking. What can be suggested here? When one can think freely about one's own actions such as, when was my best day? When I failed to complete my objective and why? How can I improve myself, my strategies and so on to become a better and an efficient critical thinker? It is not necessary that all the time one will get the solution of the problem but it is sure that this process (asking question to one self) will develop a habit in a person to think critically in daily life.


Deal with one problem in a day

It is a very good strategy to engage with critical thinking, where a person deals only one problem in day. This helps him or her to understand the problem in depth and reach to the possible solution. This will help to relate a person with the goal and objective of the problem. Dealing with many problems at a time will debar a person to understand either of the problems effectively. In the beginning, one need to take single problem for solution and define it clearly and precisely to the best of one's capability. Then, one has to see possible solutions hypothetically on the basis of past experiences. Then, collection of related information is required, which will help in elaborating about the problem and reach to the solution critically. Now, one has to analyse the collected

information and data to reach to the solution and take action towards it. Then, actions are evaluated and followed up. Follow-up always play an important role to become a better problem solver with criticality.


Self-talk to internalize the thinking

Give enough time to reflect about the action taken by you. The kind of decision you have taken, the kinds of process you have adopted and so on. Talk to yourself about your past action, assess them and then plan for future actions. This process surely helps to become aware about one's own actions and strategies. This internalization is also important to make it part of persons everyday life. It will make a person more precise, accurate, and critical. One has to do a deliberate effort to do self-talk about the action taken.


Maintain a written record

No doubt, writing reflective journal and diary facilitates the process of becoming a critical thinker. It is an easy but engaging process. One has to engage with it for longer time. One may choose to write the way he/she would like to write. There is no fixed pattern to write and it should not be because reflection may take any direction to understand the problem and this makes if a beautiful process. One may begin to simply describe the situation he/she was engaged with, then think and write his/her response the described situation, then analyse the situation and your response to the situation collectively and finally assess your entire process. Hence, the journey from describing situation to assessment provides a wider vision to the person.


Systematize your personality and its characteristics

Systematize your development as a critical thinker. Decide one characteristic at a time and work upon that such as honesty, confidence, autonomy, etc. This systematization will help to be precised and focused. When you see that you are master of one skill, move, or shift to another one. This gradually will make you a person of intellect. This entire process is not simple rather complex and difficult because it required long-term engagement to give direction to one's personality.


Do not be self-centric or egocentric

It is important for a person not to be egocentric and try to understand others' perspective, which will eventually make him a critical thinker. Centric to one's idea will neither leads towards solution nor towards critical thinking. Some time we do not realize that we are centric to our idea. In such a situation, we need to ask a few questions to ourselves such as, when I was not critical? When I refused other's idea just because I wanted to prove my idea? When I criticized a person without any reason? When 1 was irrational? When I tried to impose myself on other? In contrast to egocentric, a person needs to be de-centric, where he/she will provide enough space to listen and understand others' perspective. For a good critical reflector, it is necessary to be open minded, rational, and logical. Otherwise, centric to oneself will not provide enough space and opportunity to become a critical practitioner.


Change your way of perception

Our world is ever changing and we also change as per the need of the time. Therefore, we also have to change our perception that helps us to understand the world around us and make sense of it. We feel that our perception towards world or its problem is absolute but it is a misconception. Even if the problems are getting solved, still we need to change our vision and perception to see the variation in process or solution to the problem. It will also break the monotony in the thinking process and take us to the different level of thinking processes. The changed perception will also change our strategies to deal with the problem and we can find of more solution to a problem. This also widens our vision towards issues, challenges, and concerns of our life.

Along with these strategies many more can be thought and developed such as controlling emotions, understanding one's position in a group and so on. The larger idea is to get engage with the situation for longer time to become a good critical thinker.

What we understood by critical thinking by now is that critical thinking can be known the abilities that one has developed over a period of time to perceive, collect information, analyse that information and develop one's view. It can also be said that critical thinking is process of reflective thinking that help to take decision about anything. We also come to know that critical thinking helps to

1.         become able to ask question and review available information

2.         solve the difficulties and problems

3.         think and find long term solutions of the problems than immediate solution

4.         understand any concept in a broad sense with all possible dimension or perspective

5.         establish relation with theory and practice and

6.         Reflect upon one's own work and thinking processes

Critical thinking also helps in forming one's opinion by evaluating available options and asking verity of questions.

There are various level of critical learning that can be understood as knowledge - it relates with remembering and understanding, comprehension - it relates with elaboration of the knowledge or information, application - implementation of knowledge in different situations, analysing breaking down a big information in meaningful small categories, synthesis - understanding or perceiving knowledge in a new dimension different from earlier and finally evaluation ? taking decision about the knowledge either in part or whole or both. (Boolm, B. 1956)

Previously discussed process is somehow used by all critical thinkers whether our way of doing it would be different. But another question that seems to be very important is why critical thinking is necessary or important? In the following section, we will discuss about it.



There is no doubt that critical thinking is important in our life. It provides a wider perspective about any concept. It helps             us to resolve problem in a more logical way by understanding best possible alternatives available. One also needs to understand that critical thinking is not only important in academic life rather in everyday life also. Specifically, in Social science, it helps to understand the subject better, helps in dealing effectively with controversial subjects and topic, and also helps to take crucial decision effectively. Social science students have to deal with social issues, which have more than one dimension, in such a situation critical thinking facilitates to take decision.

Imagine a classroom where everyone is busy individually or in group to solve the various problems while engaging available facilities, evidences, data, books, etc. They are thinking and discussing about the problems faced by therm. In such an environment, critical thinking need to be foster and facilitated by teachers. A teacher can help learner to be critical from various approaches such as inquiry, questioning, problem solving, and collaborative or group work.

Inquiry is a very effective strategy to promote critical thinking in learners. In inquiry, learner explores and inquires about any concept and issues or problem. In inquiry, a depth analysis is required which is based on investigation and search. Here, learners are able to establish new relations in already existed knowledge. It will facilitate this process of critical thinking in learners. It is important to understand that in the process of inquiry learner is engaged continuously with the prime question of inquiry. Inquirer comes to know various kinds of information available in the field to unfold secretes of the investigated field. Continuous engagement with inquiry will develop

an attitude in leaner to perceive all the problem and challenges from the perspective inquiry that gradually fosters the ability of critical thinking.

Guided questioning is an excellent way for promoting critical thinking. Such questions develop curiosity in learner to search solution independently. This process does not end with question asked by teachers; rather, it take it further to learner's question and search for their answer by themselves. Planned questioning promote critical thinking, where learner themselves become able not only to answer the question, rather developing and constructing questions also.

Teacher need to provide spaces and opportunities for problem solving that helps to learner in developing critical thinking. The most important feature of problem solving is not to tell answer to the learner; rather, it engages them in solving problem themselves. Such engagement provides opportunities to actively search for the solutions by the learners themselves. It is important to keep in mind.tha.t problem solving can also be used as per the ability and nature of child. It means that it may be used with individual or in group. When learner searches for the solution, they will gradually become critical thinker.

Critical thinking best develop when learner has opportunities to exchange ideas with others in a collaborative learning environment. This exchange provides them space to understand other's perspective and reflect upon his/her own perspective. This process also helps them to learn collegiality, which enhances one's understanding about any issue and concept. For collaborative teaching, teacher may forms various group based on particular ability, mixed abilities, need, and concept. Such grouping should not be permanent rather these must be changed time to time for better exploration by learners. It will be a good step at this point of time to discuss the process of effective problem solving with good critical thinking.



Step 1: Locate the problem, collect relevant information and doubts (Easy and lower level of complexity in thinking)

A. Recognize the problem and accept the causes for continuing doubts on absolute answer of the


            B. Recognize the needful data and information and doubts reside in the information Accept and elaborate precincts of solutions.


Step 2: Look at the interpretation and relations and association (Medium level of complexity in thinking)

C. Information interpretation:

            (1) Recognize and control for own biases. Keep away from one's biased perspective, idea and concepts

            (2) Explain hypothesis and logic related with various perspectives

(3) Interpreting data or information from multiple perspectives

D. Orderly organization of information to deal with problem effectively


Step 3: Provide important to the alternatives and provide conclusion (High level of complexity in thinking)

E. After deep analysis, construct or develop framework, or guidelines to select better solution out the  

     available options

F. Communicate or converse appropriately


Step 4: Incorporation, observe, and develop effective strategies to deal with the problem. (Highest level of complexity in thinking)

H. Incorporate different skills to develop new information and using it to observe and monitor and do

     needful changes

G. Accept and elaborate precincts of solutions.


PLANNING EDUCATIONAL PRACTICES                             

We know that every learner has unique abilities, need, and characteristic. Teacher's role is to facilitate the learners thinking process, and hence, their difficulty in learning can be minimized. Once teacher become aware about learners' capabilities, he/she can organize various kinds of activities, such as workshop, field visit, seminar, symposia, etc., to promote critical thinking among learners. If teacher understand the learners ability and skill, problem will provide them task those are within their reach and work will not be too complex with reference to their abilities. It also does not mean that if student will not be able to complete the work teacher will reduce the complexity of the task; rather teacher has to understand the skill development pattern of the child to facilitate the critical thinking process. It is evident that why students are not able to deal effectively with complex critical thinking skill? It is because of their educational experience and their engagement with unplanned and less skill full educational practices. Such experiences do not provide appropriate support to the learner to become critical thinker. Educationist such as Dewey believes that present critical thinking depends on the past experiences. Critical thinking develops in a spiral process where one step leads to another and every new experience add on to the already existed experiences.

Appropriate challenges need to be provided to the learner to develop skills to deal with controversial issues. There is possibility that learner will not be to engaged with complex problem, and then, teacher should break down the problem up to the level of learner's ability, and hence, learner can engage in the process of solving the problem. Gradually, learner has to move towards self- scaffolding, where they themselves search the kind of support they need.

Here, we can talk about three basic ways a teacher should know to facilitate learners. They are as follows:

1. A progressive problem-solving process

2. A comprehensive rubric for evaluation

3. Dynamic and increasing complex thinking skill


A teacher may use these tools or ways in variety of ways. Few are given below:


Collecting Fundamental Information

Initially try to know the present abilities and skills of learners. Allow learners to construct questions themselves and solve them. On the basis of their present situation, plan future actions for the learners. Whatsoever, information you think are needed and crucial to know about learners' ability collect to develop your understanding about how children learn and engage themselves to deal with any problem solving or critical thinking.

 Systematic and Gradual Change in the Curriculum as per Need of the Learners

Do not impose on learner and let them absorb the changes. Sudden change in pedagogy and curriculum will not help the learner. Therefore, a gradual change should be favoured by teacher. Teacher also needs to keep in mind the need of the learner. This gradual shift will allow learners to deal with increasing complexity of the engaged work. Gradually, students will be able to deal with more complex engagements.


Locate the'Problem Areas of Learners

Before planning and proving any task to the learners, it is important to know the weaknesses of the child. Teacher must know the problem area of critical thinking a learner may have. Teacher make list of the skill a child has masters or need to be mastered.


Initiate Discussion with Learners about the Effective Thinking Skills

Once, teacher become aware about the weakness and strengths of the learners, s/he will be able to provide a better space and opportunities to the leaner to develop critical thinking. Teacher at this point of time can share with learners various ways of developing critical thinking, such as reflective writing, discussing with peer, self-reflection, and so on. Teacher role become crucial here, as s/he has to scaffolds them in developing their critical thinking.


Shift from Old to New Way of Thinking Processes

It is important to understand that a learner has to move from old way of thinking to new way of thinking. It is possible the old way is facilitating the process, but, shifting to a new way will surely give a new perspective about the problem. Let learners set realistic goal to achieve, let them work from simple to complex, let them have sufficient time to deal with the problems, keep motivating them in various ways. Shifting old to new way itself have enough strength to put the learner on he path or critical thinking.


Self-monitoring Process

To develop self-depended on critical thinking, it is important the learner must know and engage with self-monitoring process. This will help learners to evaluate themselves and their tasks. They will also become capable to evaluate the decisions taken by them. Self-monitoring can also be understood in form of keeping a check on one's thinking, actions, and follow-ups.


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