Developing critical thinking

Developing Critical, Creative, and Dialogical Thinking

An English teacher encourages critical thinking about a text by asking students to respond in writing to a question she poses. After ten minutes or so, students pass what they have written to another student, who seeks to identify what is powerful or interesting in what the student is reading on that paper. The papers continue to rotate, and eventually the instructor asks students to share what they regard as the most compelling ideas. Then she uses these ideas to build a class discussion involving further inquiry about the text.

Do you engage students in learning that involves being aware of and improving one’s thinking process? Do your learning outcomes involve students criticizing information, evaluating arguments and evidence, or reasoning to arrive at conclusions? Does their learning involve creative thinking by actually producing unusual but relevant new ideas? Does it involve appreciating what other people think? These are learning outcomes that help students develop critical and creative thinking, are well served by learning through inquiry-based methods.

Intended Learning Outcomes
What students learn
Way of Learning
Origins and theory
Common Methods
What the teacher provides
Developing critical, creative, and dialogical thinking
Improved thinking and reasoning processes
Learning through inquiry
Logic, critical and creative thinking theory, classical philosophy
Question-driven inquiries

Teachers who want to use learning through inquiry effectively do the following:

  • Know about the thinking process—the elements, rules, and fallacies—and use that knowledge to guide inquiry.
  • Provide opportunities for students to actually do thinking.
  • Create a safe environment to practice thinking, setting ground rules if necessary.
  • Use questions strategically and avoid recitation.
  • Allow students time to think during inquiry.
  • Ask meaningful open-ended questions and anticipate possible responses.
  • Actively manage and facilitate the discussion, keeping students on track while encouraging multiple perspectives.
  • Use formative assessment methods to make student thinking visible and observable.
  • When necessary, use summative assessment to measure reflective thinking in a way that does not interfere with experimentation and creativity.

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