Foster Critical Thinking Skills in the Classroom With an M.Ed. in Elementary Education Degree

According to award-winning middle school teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron, critical thinking occurs “when the brain is active, making connections to the material and applying original thought to the concept.” In addition to being an integral part of an individual’s ability to grow or learn, individuals can utilize critical thinking skills in every facet of life.

Three Classroom Activities That Promote Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is universally valued highly, but some educators lack the understanding to actively teach their students how to develop this ability. The Master of Education in Elementary Education online program at Worcester State University (WSU) can equip teachers with the necessary skills to foster critical thinking in their classrooms. The following suggestions are basic yet effective strategies for helping students become critical thinkers:

  1. Use scenario-based exercises to improve problem-solving.  

Scenario-based assessments are becoming more popular in academia, and companies are increasingly turning to scenario-based interview questions to help them make more informed hiring decisions. Considering this, it only makes sense for teachers to utilize scenarios or role-playing in the classroom. An article on teaching kids critical thinking skills published by We Are Teachers suggests employing scenario-based learning in the following ways:

  • Create a hypothetical or imaginary scenario that requires students to solve a problem.
  • Task students with identifying the underlying problem.
  • Ask students to rephrase the problem as a question.
  • Guide students through a brainstorming session to determine potential solutions to the problem.
  • Assign students to small groups where they will create unique action plans based on their hypothesized solution.
  1. Model critical thinking skills.

According to an EducationWeek article titled “Integrating Critical Thinking Into the Classroom,” teachers “cannot expect students to develop critical-thinking skills if we aren’t modeling those thinking skills for them.” It is a “show vs. tell” scenario: stressing the importance of critical thinking, or evaluating a student’s ability to do so is futile if educators do not model effective critical thinking techniques. Teachers should consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Share insight into your cognitive, imaginative, creative, or thinking process.
  • Discuss your thoughts about the activities students are undertaking or even the current events dominating headlines.
  • Conduct recap sessions to review the problem-solving, or critical thinking process, involved in completing more significant assignments.
  1. Utilize a KWLH chart.

An Edutopia article titled “Getting Critical About Critical Thinking” suggests that teachers encourage students to reflect on their cognitive processes. Paying close attention to how they arrived at a particular solution is equally as important as the solution itself because it allows students to “explore what they think about their thinking and how they got there.” Asking the following questions after solving a problem is key to students’ development:

  • What did you know?
  • What did you want to know?
  • What did you end up learning?
  • How did you learn it?

Employ Your Critical Thinking Instruction Skills Outside the Classroom

Teaching individuals how to become critical thinkers carries tremendous value outside the classroom. Graduates of a program like WSU’s M.Ed. in Education in Elementary Education online program can prepare individuals for well-paying positions outside the classroom, too, such as:

Top-notch critical thinking skills are essential to academic and professional success in nearly any career field. Therefore, educators should emphasize instruction strategies that allow students to effectively develop their critical thinking abilities in the classroom. The M.Ed. in Elementary Education online program at WSU can help teachers acquire the instruction skills they need to help their students reach the pinnacle of personal and professional success.

Learn more about Worcester State University’s Master of Education in Elementary Education online program.

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