• Our Mission

Two elementary students talking in class

4 Strategies for Sparking Critical Thinking in Young Students

Fostering investigative conversation in grades K–2 isn’t easy, but it can be a great vehicle to promote critical thinking.

In the middle of class, a kindergartner spotted an ant and asked the teacher, “Why do ants come into the classroom?” Fairly quickly, educational consultant Cecilia Cabrera Martirena writes , students started sharing their theories: Maybe the ants were cold, or looking for food, or lonely. 

Their teacher started a KWL chart to organize what students already knew, what they wanted to know, and, later, what they had learned. “As many of the learners didn’t read or write yet, the KWL was created with drawings and one or two words,” Cabrera Martirena writes. “Then, as a group, they decided how they could gather information to answer that first question, and some possible research routes were designed.” 

As early elementary teachers know, young learners are able to engage in critical thinking and participate in nuanced conversations, with appropriate supports. What can teachers do to foster these discussions? Elementary teacher Jennifer Orr considered a few ideas in an article for ASCD .

“An interesting question and the discussion that follows can open up paths of critical thinking for students at any age,” Orr says. “With a few thoughtful prompts and a lot of noticing and modeling, we as educators can help young students engage in these types of academic conversations in ways that deepen their learning and develop their critical thinking skills.”

While this may not be an “easy process,” Orr writes—for the kids or the teacher—the payoff is students who from a young age are able to communicate new ideas and questions; listen and truly hear the thoughts of others; respectfully agree, disagree, or build off of their peers’ opinions; and revise their thinking. 

4 Strategies for Kick-Starting Powerful Conversations

1. Encourage Friendly Debate: For many elementary-aged children, it doesn’t take much provoking for them to share their opinions, especially if they disagree with each other. Working with open-ended prompts that “engage their interest and pique their curiosity” is one key to sparking organic engagement, Orr writes. Look for prompts that allow them to take a stance, arguing for or against something they feel strongly about. 

For example, Orr says, you could try telling first graders that a square is a rectangle to start a debate. Early childhood educator Sarah Griffin proposes some great math talk questions that can yield similar results:

  • How many crayons can fit in a box?
  • Which takes more snow to build: one igloo or 20 snowballs?
  • Estimate how many tissues are in a box.
  • How many books can you fit in your backpack?
  • Which would take less time: cleaning your room or reading a book?
  • Which would you rather use to measure a Christmas tree: a roll of ribbon or a candy cane? Why?

Using pictures can inspire interesting math discussions as well, writes K–6 math coach Kristen Acosta . Explore counting, addition, and subtraction by introducing kids to pictures “that have missing pieces or spaces” or “pictures where the objects are scattered.” For example, try showing students a photo of a carton of eggs with a few eggs missing. Ask questions like, “what do you notice?” and “what do you wonder?” and see how opinions differ.

2. Put Your Students in the Question: Centering students’ viewpoints in a question or discussion prompt can foster deeper thinking, Orr writes. During a unit in which kids learned about ladybugs, she asked her third graders, “What are four living and four nonliving things you would need and want if you were designing your own ecosystem?” This not only required students to analyze the components of an ecosystem but also made the lesson personal by inviting them to dream one up from scratch.

Educator Todd Finley has a list of interesting writing prompts for different grades that can instead be used to kick off classroom discussions. Examples for early elementary students include: 

  • Which is better, giant muscles or incredible speed? Why?
  • What’s the most beautiful person, place, or thing you’ve ever seen? Share what makes that person, place, or thing so special. 
  • What TV or movie characters do you wish were real? Why? 
  • Describe a routine that you often or always do (in the morning, when you get home, Friday nights, before a game, etc.).
  • What are examples of things you want versus things you need? 

3. Open Several Doors: While some students take to classroom discussions like a duck to water, others may prefer to stay on dry land. Offering low-stakes opportunities for students to dip a toe into the conversation can be a great way to ensure that everyone in the room can be heard. Try introducing hand signals that indicate agreement, disagreement, and more. Since everyone can indicate their opinion silently, this supports students who are reluctant to speak, and can help get the conversation started. 

Similarly, elementary school teacher Raquel Linares uses participation cards —a set of different colored index cards, each labeled with a phrase like “I agree,” “I disagree,” or “I don’t know how to respond.” “We use them to assess students’ understanding, but we also use them to give students a voice,” Linares says. “We obviously cannot have 24 scholars speaking at the same time, but we want everyone to feel their ideas matter. Even if I am very shy and I don’t feel comfortable, my voice is still heard.” Once the students have held up the appropriate card, the discussion gets going.

4. Provide Discussion Sentence Starters: Young students often want to add their contribution without connecting it to what their peers have said, writes district-level literacy leader Gwen Blumberg . Keeping an ear out for what students are saying to each other is an important starting point when trying to “lift the level of talk” in your classroom. Are kids “putting thoughts into words and able to keep a conversation going?” she asks.

Introducing sentence starters like “I agree…” or “I feel differently…” can help demonstrate for students how they can connect what their classmate is saying to what they would like to say, which grows the conversation, Blumberg says. Phrases like “I’d like to add…” help students “build a bridge from someone else’s idea to their own.”

Additionally, “noticing and naming the positive things students are doing, both in their conversation skills and in the thinking they are demonstrating,” Orr writes, can shine a light for the class on what success looks like. Celebrating when students use these sentence stems correctly, for example, helps reinforce these behaviors.

“Students’ ability to clearly communicate with others in conversation is a critical literacy skill,” Blumberg writes, and teachers in grades K–2 can get students started on the path to developing this skill by harnessing their natural curiosity and modeling conversation moves.

Classroom Q&A

With larry ferlazzo.

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected]. Read more from this blog.

Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  • Share article

(This is the first post in a three-part series.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

What is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom?

This three-part series will explore what critical thinking is, if it can be specifically taught and, if so, how can teachers do so in their classrooms.

Today’s guests are Dara Laws Savage, Patrick Brown, Meg Riordan, Ph.D., and Dr. PJ Caposey. Dara, Patrick, and Meg were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom .

Current Events

Dara Laws Savage is an English teacher at the Early College High School at Delaware State University, where she serves as a teacher and instructional coach and lead mentor. Dara has been teaching for 25 years (career preparation, English, photography, yearbook, newspaper, and graphic design) and has presented nationally on project-based learning and technology integration:

There is so much going on right now and there is an overload of information for us to process. Did you ever stop to think how our students are processing current events? They see news feeds, hear news reports, and scan photos and posts, but are they truly thinking about what they are hearing and seeing?

I tell my students that my job is not to give them answers but to teach them how to think about what they read and hear. So what is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom? There are just as many definitions of critical thinking as there are people trying to define it. However, the Critical Think Consortium focuses on the tools to create a thinking-based classroom rather than a definition: “Shape the climate to support thinking, create opportunities for thinking, build capacity to think, provide guidance to inform thinking.” Using these four criteria and pairing them with current events, teachers easily create learning spaces that thrive on thinking and keep students engaged.

One successful technique I use is the FIRE Write. Students are given a quote, a paragraph, an excerpt, or a photo from the headlines. Students are asked to F ocus and respond to the selection for three minutes. Next, students are asked to I dentify a phrase or section of the photo and write for two minutes. Third, students are asked to R eframe their response around a specific word, phrase, or section within their previous selection. Finally, students E xchange their thoughts with a classmate. Within the exchange, students also talk about how the selection connects to what we are covering in class.

There was a controversial Pepsi ad in 2017 involving Kylie Jenner and a protest with a police presence. The imagery in the photo was strikingly similar to a photo that went viral with a young lady standing opposite a police line. Using that image from a current event engaged my students and gave them the opportunity to critically think about events of the time.

Here are the two photos and a student response:

F - Focus on both photos and respond for three minutes

In the first picture, you see a strong and courageous black female, bravely standing in front of two officers in protest. She is risking her life to do so. Iesha Evans is simply proving to the world she does NOT mean less because she is black … and yet officers are there to stop her. She did not step down. In the picture below, you see Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi. Maybe this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this was Pepsi’s weak, pathetic, and outrageous excuse of a commercial that belittles the whole movement of people fighting for their lives.

I - Identify a word or phrase, underline it, then write about it for two minutes

A white, privileged female in place of a fighting black woman was asking for trouble. A struggle we are continuously fighting every day, and they make a mockery of it. “I know what will work! Here Mr. Police Officer! Drink some Pepsi!” As if. Pepsi made a fool of themselves, and now their already dwindling fan base continues to ever shrink smaller.

R - Reframe your thoughts by choosing a different word, then write about that for one minute

You don’t know privilege until it’s gone. You don’t know privilege while it’s there—but you can and will be made accountable and aware. Don’t use it for evil. You are not stupid. Use it to do something. Kendall could’ve NOT done the commercial. Kendall could’ve released another commercial standing behind a black woman. Anything!

Exchange - Remember to discuss how this connects to our school song project and our previous discussions?

This connects two ways - 1) We want to convey a strong message. Be powerful. Show who we are. And Pepsi definitely tried. … Which leads to the second connection. 2) Not mess up and offend anyone, as had the one alma mater had been linked to black minstrels. We want to be amazing, but we have to be smart and careful and make sure we include everyone who goes to our school and everyone who may go to our school.

As a final step, students read and annotate the full article and compare it to their initial response.

Using current events and critical-thinking strategies like FIRE writing helps create a learning space where thinking is the goal rather than a score on a multiple-choice assessment. Critical-thinking skills can cross over to any of students’ other courses and into life outside the classroom. After all, we as teachers want to help the whole student be successful, and critical thinking is an important part of navigating life after they leave our classrooms.



Patrick Brown is the executive director of STEM and CTE for the Fort Zumwalt school district in Missouri and an experienced educator and author :

Planning for critical thinking focuses on teaching the most crucial science concepts, practices, and logical-thinking skills as well as the best use of instructional time. One way to ensure that lessons maintain a focus on critical thinking is to focus on the instructional sequence used to teach.

Explore-before-explain teaching is all about promoting critical thinking for learners to better prepare students for the reality of their world. What having an explore-before-explain mindset means is that in our planning, we prioritize giving students firsthand experiences with data, allow students to construct evidence-based claims that focus on conceptual understanding, and challenge students to discuss and think about the why behind phenomena.

Just think of the critical thinking that has to occur for students to construct a scientific claim. 1) They need the opportunity to collect data, analyze it, and determine how to make sense of what the data may mean. 2) With data in hand, students can begin thinking about the validity and reliability of their experience and information collected. 3) They can consider what differences, if any, they might have if they completed the investigation again. 4) They can scrutinize outlying data points for they may be an artifact of a true difference that merits further exploration of a misstep in the procedure, measuring device, or measurement. All of these intellectual activities help them form more robust understanding and are evidence of their critical thinking.

In explore-before-explain teaching, all of these hard critical-thinking tasks come before teacher explanations of content. Whether we use discovery experiences, problem-based learning, and or inquiry-based activities, strategies that are geared toward helping students construct understanding promote critical thinking because students learn content by doing the practices valued in the field to generate knowledge.


An Issue of Equity

Meg Riordan, Ph.D., is the chief learning officer at The Possible Project, an out-of-school program that collaborates with youth to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and provides pathways to careers and long-term economic prosperity. She has been in the field of education for over 25 years as a middle and high school teacher, school coach, college professor, regional director of N.Y.C. Outward Bound Schools, and director of external research with EL Education:

Although critical thinking often defies straightforward definition, most in the education field agree it consists of several components: reasoning, problem-solving, and decisionmaking, plus analysis and evaluation of information, such that multiple sides of an issue can be explored. It also includes dispositions and “the willingness to apply critical-thinking principles, rather than fall back on existing unexamined beliefs, or simply believe what you’re told by authority figures.”

Despite variation in definitions, critical thinking is nonetheless promoted as an essential outcome of students’ learning—we want to see students and adults demonstrate it across all fields, professions, and in their personal lives. Yet there is simultaneously a rationing of opportunities in schools for students of color, students from under-resourced communities, and other historically marginalized groups to deeply learn and practice critical thinking.

For example, many of our most underserved students often spend class time filling out worksheets, promoting high compliance but low engagement, inquiry, critical thinking, or creation of new ideas. At a time in our world when college and careers are critical for participation in society and the global, knowledge-based economy, far too many students struggle within classrooms and schools that reinforce low-expectations and inequity.

If educators aim to prepare all students for an ever-evolving marketplace and develop skills that will be valued no matter what tomorrow’s jobs are, then we must move critical thinking to the forefront of classroom experiences. And educators must design learning to cultivate it.

So, what does that really look like?

Unpack and define critical thinking

To understand critical thinking, educators need to first unpack and define its components. What exactly are we looking for when we speak about reasoning or exploring multiple perspectives on an issue? How does problem-solving show up in English, math, science, art, or other disciplines—and how is it assessed? At Two Rivers, an EL Education school, the faculty identified five constructs of critical thinking, defined each, and created rubrics to generate a shared picture of quality for teachers and students. The rubrics were then adapted across grade levels to indicate students’ learning progressions.

At Avenues World School, critical thinking is one of the Avenues World Elements and is an enduring outcome embedded in students’ early experiences through 12th grade. For instance, a kindergarten student may be expected to “identify cause and effect in familiar contexts,” while an 8th grader should demonstrate the ability to “seek out sufficient evidence before accepting a claim as true,” “identify bias in claims and evidence,” and “reconsider strongly held points of view in light of new evidence.”

When faculty and students embrace a common vision of what critical thinking looks and sounds like and how it is assessed, educators can then explicitly design learning experiences that call for students to employ critical-thinking skills. This kind of work must occur across all schools and programs, especially those serving large numbers of students of color. As Linda Darling-Hammond asserts , “Schools that serve large numbers of students of color are least likely to offer the kind of curriculum needed to ... help students attain the [critical-thinking] skills needed in a knowledge work economy. ”

So, what can it look like to create those kinds of learning experiences?

Designing experiences for critical thinking

After defining a shared understanding of “what” critical thinking is and “how” it shows up across multiple disciplines and grade levels, it is essential to create learning experiences that impel students to cultivate, practice, and apply these skills. There are several levers that offer pathways for teachers to promote critical thinking in lessons:

1.Choose Compelling Topics: Keep it relevant

A key Common Core State Standard asks for students to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” That might not sound exciting or culturally relevant. But a learning experience designed for a 12th grade humanities class engaged learners in a compelling topic— policing in America —to analyze and evaluate multiple texts (including primary sources) and share the reasoning for their perspectives through discussion and writing. Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care about and connect with can ignite powerful learning experiences.

2. Make Local Connections: Keep it real

At The Possible Project , an out-of-school-time program designed to promote entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, students in a recent summer online program (modified from in-person due to COVID-19) explored the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and local BIPOC-owned businesses. They learned interviewing skills through a partnership with Everyday Boston , conducted virtual interviews with entrepreneurs, evaluated information from their interviews and local data, and examined their previously held beliefs. They created blog posts and videos to reflect on their learning and consider how their mindsets had changed as a result of the experience. In this way, we can design powerful community-based learning and invite students into productive struggle with multiple perspectives.

3. Create Authentic Projects: Keep it rigorous

At Big Picture Learning schools, students engage in internship-based learning experiences as a central part of their schooling. Their school-based adviser and internship-based mentor support them in developing real-world projects that promote deeper learning and critical-thinking skills. Such authentic experiences teach “young people to be thinkers, to be curious, to get from curiosity to creation … and it helps students design a learning experience that answers their questions, [providing an] opportunity to communicate it to a larger audience—a major indicator of postsecondary success.” Even in a remote environment, we can design projects that ask more of students than rote memorization and that spark critical thinking.

Our call to action is this: As educators, we need to make opportunities for critical thinking available not only to the affluent or those fortunate enough to be placed in advanced courses. The tools are available, let’s use them. Let’s interrogate our current curriculum and design learning experiences that engage all students in real, relevant, and rigorous experiences that require critical thinking and prepare them for promising postsecondary pathways.


Critical Thinking & Student Engagement

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, keynote speaker, consultant, and author of seven books who currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the award-winning Meridian CUSD 223 in northwest Illinois. You can find PJ on most social-media platforms as MCUSDSupe:

When I start my keynote on student engagement, I invite two people up on stage and give them each five paper balls to shoot at a garbage can also conveniently placed on stage. Contestant One shoots their shot, and the audience gives approval. Four out of 5 is a heckuva score. Then just before Contestant Two shoots, I blindfold them and start moving the garbage can back and forth. I usually try to ensure that they can at least make one of their shots. Nobody is successful in this unfair environment.

I thank them and send them back to their seats and then explain that this little activity was akin to student engagement. While we all know we want student engagement, we are shooting at different targets. More importantly, for teachers, it is near impossible for them to hit a target that is moving and that they cannot see.

Within the world of education and particularly as educational leaders, we have failed to simplify what student engagement looks like, and it is impossible to define or articulate what student engagement looks like if we cannot clearly articulate what critical thinking is and looks like in a classroom. Because, simply, without critical thought, there is no engagement.

The good news here is that critical thought has been defined and placed into taxonomies for decades already. This is not something new and not something that needs to be redefined. I am a Bloom’s person, but there is nothing wrong with DOK or some of the other taxonomies, either. To be precise, I am a huge fan of Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework. I have used that as a core element of my practice for years, and it has shaped who I am as an instructional leader.

So, in order to explain critical thought, a teacher or a leader must familiarize themselves with these tried and true taxonomies. Easy, right? Yes, sort of. The issue is not understanding what critical thought is; it is the ability to integrate it into the classrooms. In order to do so, there are a four key steps every educator must take.

  • Integrating critical thought/rigor into a lesson does not happen by chance, it happens by design. Planning for critical thought and engagement is much different from planning for a traditional lesson. In order to plan for kids to think critically, you have to provide a base of knowledge and excellent prompts to allow them to explore their own thinking in order to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information.
  • SIDE NOTE – Bloom’s verbs are a great way to start when writing objectives, but true planning will take you deeper than this.


  • If the questions and prompts given in a classroom have correct answers or if the teacher ends up answering their own questions, the lesson will lack critical thought and rigor.
  • Script five questions forcing higher-order thought prior to every lesson. Experienced teachers may not feel they need this, but it helps to create an effective habit.
  • If lessons are rigorous and assessments are not, students will do well on their assessments, and that may not be an accurate representation of the knowledge and skills they have mastered. If lessons are easy and assessments are rigorous, the exact opposite will happen. When deciding to increase critical thought, it must happen in all three phases of the game: planning, instruction, and assessment.


  • To increase rigor, the teacher must DO LESS. This feels counterintuitive but is accurate. Rigorous lessons involving tons of critical thought must allow for students to work on their own, collaborate with peers, and connect their ideas. This cannot happen in a silent room except for the teacher talking. In order to increase rigor, decrease talk time and become comfortable with less control. Asking questions and giving prompts that lead to no true correct answer also means less control. This is a tough ask for some teachers. Explained differently, if you assign one assignment and get 30 very similar products, you have most likely assigned a low-rigor recipe. If you assign one assignment and get multiple varied products, then the students have had a chance to think deeply, and you have successfully integrated critical thought into your classroom.


Thanks to Dara, Patrick, Meg, and PJ for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected] . When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo .

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching .

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email (The RSS feed for this blog, and for all Ed Week articles, has been changed by the new redesign—new ones won’t be available until February). And if you missed any of the highlights from the first nine years of this blog, you can see a categorized list below.

  • This Year’s Most Popular Q&A Posts
  • Race & Racism in Schools
  • School Closures & the Coronavirus Crisis
  • Classroom-Management Advice
  • Best Ways to Begin the School Year
  • Best Ways to End the School Year
  • Student Motivation & Social-Emotional Learning
  • Implementing the Common Core
  • Facing Gender Challenges in Education
  • Teaching Social Studies
  • Cooperative & Collaborative Learning
  • Using Tech in the Classroom
  • Student Voices
  • Parent Engagement in Schools
  • Teaching English-Language Learners
  • Reading Instruction
  • Writing Instruction
  • Education Policy Issues
  • Differentiating Instruction
  • Math Instruction
  • Science Instruction
  • Advice for New Teachers
  • Author Interviews
  • Entering the Teaching Profession
  • The Inclusive Classroom
  • Learning & the Brain
  • Administrator Leadership
  • Teacher Leadership
  • Relationships in Schools
  • Professional Development
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Best of Classroom Q&A
  • Professional Collaboration
  • Classroom Organization
  • Mistakes in Education
  • Project-Based Learning

I am also creating a Twitter list including all contributors to this column .

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Sign Up for EdWeek Update

Edweek top school jobs.

Leverage Leadership 042024 1460767798

Sign Up & Sign In

module image 9


Teach Better

  • Meet the Team
  • Join the Team
  • Our Philosophy
  • Teach Better Mindset
  • Custom Professional Development
  • Livestream Shows & Videos
  • Administrator Mastermind
  • Academy Online Courses
  • EDUcreator Club+
  • Podcast Network
  • Speakers Network
  • EDUpreneur Mastermind
  • Free Downloads
  • Ambassador Program
  • Free Facebook Group
  • Professional Development
  • Request Training
  • Speakers Network Home
  • Keynote Speakers

Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

Matthew Joseph October 2, 2019 Blog , Engage Better , Lesson Plan Better , Personalize Student Learning Better

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

In This Post:

  • The importance of helping students increase critical thinking skills.
  • Ways to promote the essential skills needed to analyze and evaluate.
  • Strategies to incorporate critical thinking into your instruction.

We ask our teachers to be “future-ready” or say that we are teaching “for jobs that don’t exist yet.” These are powerful statements. At the same time, they give teachers the impression that we have to drastically change what we are doing .

So how do we plan education for an unknown job market or unknown needs?

My answer: We can’t predict the jobs, but whatever they are, students will need to think critically to do them. So, our job is to teach our students HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Helping Students Become Critical Thinkers

My answer is rooted in the call to empower our students to be critical thinkers. I believe that to be critical thinkers, educators need to provide students with the strategies they need. And we need to ask more than just surface-level questions.

Questions to students must motivate them to dig up background knowledge. They should inspire them to make connections to real-world scenarios. These make the learning more memorable and meaningful.

Critical thinking is a general term. I believe this term means that students effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate content or skills. In this process, they (the students) will discover and present convincing reasons in support of their answers or thinking.

You can look up critical thinking and get many definitions like this one from Wikipedia: “ Critical thinking consists of a mental process of analyzing or evaluating information, particularly statements or propositions that people have offered as true. ”

Essential Skills for Critical Thinking

In my current role as director of curriculum and instruction, I work to promote the use of 21st-century tools and, more importantly, thinking skills. Some essential skills that are the basis for critical thinking are:

  • Communication and Information skills
  • Thinking and Problem-Solving skills
  • Interpersonal and Self- Directional skills
  • Collaboration skills

These four bullets are skills students are going to need in any field and in all levels of education. Hence my answer to the question. We need to teach our students to think critically and for themselves.

One of the goals of education is to prepare students to learn through discovery . Providing opportunities to practice being critical thinkers will assist students in analyzing others’ thinking and examining the logic of others.

Understanding others is an essential skill in collaboration and in everyday life. Critical thinking will allow students to do more than just memorize knowledge.

Ask Questions

So how do we do this? One recommendation is for educators to work in-depth questioning strategies into a lesson launch.

Ask thoughtful questions to allow for answers with sound reasoning. Then, word conversations and communication to shape students’ thinking. Quick answers often result in very few words and no eye contact, which are skills we don’t want to promote.

When you are asking students questions and they provide a solution, try some of these to promote further thinking:

  • Could you elaborate further on that point?
  • Will you express that point in another way?
  • Can you give me an illustration?
  • Would you give me an example?
  • Will you you provide more details?
  • Could you be more specific?
  • Do we need to consider another point of view?
  • Is there another way to look at this question?

Utilizing critical thinking skills could be seen as a change in the paradigm of teaching and learning. Engagement in education will enhance the collaboration among teachers and students. It will also provide a way for students to succeed even if the school system had to start over.

[scroll down to keep reading]

Promoting critical thinking into all aspects of instruction.

Engagement, application, and collaboration are skills that withstand the test of time. I also promote the integration of critical thinking into every aspect of instruction.

In my experience, I’ve found a few ways to make this happen.

Begin lessons/units with a probing question: It shouldn’t be a question you can answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ These questions should inspire discovery learning and problem-solving.

Encourage Creativity: I have seen teachers prepare projects before they give it to their students many times. For example, designing snowmen or other “creative” projects. By doing the design work or by cutting all the circles out beforehand, it removes creativity options.

It may help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s material is already cut out, but then every student’s project looks the same. Students don’t have to think on their own or problem solve.

Not having everything “glue ready” in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all the supplies needed to create a snowman, and let them do it on their own.

Giving independence will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to create their own product with the supplies you give them. This might be an elementary example, but it’s one we can relate to any grade level or project.

Try not to jump to help too fast – let the students work through a productive struggle .

Build in opportunities for students to find connections in learning.  Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. The use of real-world scenarios will increase rigor, relevance, and critical thinking.

A few other techniques to encourage critical thinking are:

  • Use analogies
  • Promote interaction among students
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Allow reflection time
  • Use real-life problems
  • Allow for thinking practice

Critical thinking prepares students to think for themselves for the rest of their lives. I also believe critical thinkers are less likely to go along with the crowd because they think for themselves.

About Matthew X. Joseph, Ed.D.

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph has been a school and district leader in many capacities in public education over his 25 years in the field. Experiences such as the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation in Milford Public Schools (MA), elementary school principal in Natick, MA and Attleboro, MA, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist have provided Matt incredible insights on how to best support teaching and learning. This experience has led to nationally publishing articles and opportunities to speak at multiple state and national events. He is the author of Power of Us: Creating Collaborative Schools and co-author of Modern Mentoring , Reimagining Teacher Mentorship (Due out, fall 2019). His master’s degree is in special education and his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Boston College.

Visit Matthew’s Blog

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

Developing Critical Thinking

  • Posted January 10, 2018
  • By Iman Rastegari

Critical Thinking

In a time where deliberately false information is continually introduced into public discourse, and quickly spread through social media shares and likes, it is more important than ever for young people to develop their critical thinking. That skill, says Georgetown professor William T. Gormley, consists of three elements: a capacity to spot weakness in other arguments, a passion for good evidence, and a capacity to reflect on your own views and values with an eye to possibly change them. But are educators making the development of these skills a priority?

"Some teachers embrace critical thinking pedagogy with enthusiasm and they make it a high priority in their classrooms; other teachers do not," says Gormley, author of the recent Harvard Education Press release The Critical Advantage: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in School . "So if you are to assess the extent of critical-thinking instruction in U.S. classrooms, you’d find some very wide variations." Which is unfortunate, he says, since developing critical-thinking skills is vital not only to students' readiness for college and career, but to their civic readiness, as well.

"It's important to recognize that critical thinking is not just something that takes place in the classroom or in the workplace, it's something that takes place — and should take place — in our daily lives," says Gormley.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Gormley looks at the value of teaching critical thinking, and explores how it can be an important solution to some of the problems that we face, including "fake news."

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iT unes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.

EdCast logo

An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

Related Articles

HGSE shield on blue background

Roots of the School Gardening Movement

Student-centered learning, reading and the common core.

Koru Family Psychology, Calgary Therapy

Home » Blog » Empowering Young Minds: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Children and Teens

Empowering Young Minds: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Children and Teens

  • By Caroline Buzanko
  • ADHD , Anxiety , Confidence , Parenting , Problem-solving , Resilience , School Success , Skill Building , Skill development

Developing critical thinking skills is essential for life

In a rapidly evolving world, the skills required for success go beyond memorizing facts and following instructions. One of the most vital skills we can nurture is critical thinking. Developing critical thinking skills is essential to empower children and teenagers to analyze information, think independently, and make informed decisions. In today’s information-driven world, it is essential for young minds to develop the ability to navigate through vast amounts of data, distinguish between fact and opinion, and form their own judgments.

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information, ideas, or situations to form reasoned judgments or make informed decisions. It involves questioning assumptions, considering multiple perspectives, and using evidence to support conclusions. The modern world is saturated with information from various sources, and the ability to navigate this sea of information requires more than just passive absorption – it demands critical thinking.

By understanding the power of critical thinking and implementing effective techniques, we can equip the younger generation with a strong foundation for success in both their personal and academic lives.

Why Developing Critical Thinking is Important

Critical thinking is more than a cognitive skill; it is a mindset that encourages curiosity, open-mindedness, and the willingness to question assumptions. Children and teenagers who possess strong critical thinking skills are better equipped to solve problems, adapt to new situations, and communicate effectively. Here are some key reasons why developing critical thinking skills is crucial for children and teens:

Analytical Thinking

Critical thinking enables young minds to analyze complex information, break it down into manageable components, and draw well-reasoned conclusions. This skill is fundamental in academic subjects, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Problem-Solving Abilities

By encouraging critical thinking, we equip children and teens to tackle challenges with creativity and resourcefulness. They learn to approach problems from various angles, considering multiple solutions before arriving at the most effective one. Critical thinkers are adept at breaking down complex problems into manageable components. They can identify patterns, make connections, approach problems from various angles, and devise creative solutions that might not be immediately apparent.

Effective Decision-Making

 Life is rife with decisions – some trivial, others life-altering. Critical thinkers are less influenced by biases and emotions than others. They can make informed decisions by considering all available information, potential consequences, and personal values, leading to thoughtful and rational choices.

Resilience and Adaptability

Critical thinking nurtures resilience by teaching young minds to embrace setbacks as learning opportunities. They become more adaptable to change and view failures as stepping stones to success.

Strong Communication Skills

The ability to convey ideas clearly and logically is a hallmark of critical thinking. When children and teens can critically evaluate information, they can articulate their thoughts clearly, engage in meaningful discussions, and persuasively present their viewpoints. This skill is essential for effective communication and expressing ideas with confidence.

Emotion Regulation

Critical thinking skills enable individuals to objectively analyze and evaluate emotional responses, helping them to distinguish between rational and irrational beliefs or triggers. This cognitive process aids in implementing effective emotion regulation strategies, leading to more adaptive coping mechanisms and emotional well-being.

Resilience to Misinformation

In the digital age, misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire. Critical thinking equips children and teens with the tools to discern credible sources from unreliable ones, reducing the risk of falling victim to misinformation.

Lifelong Learning

Critical thinking is not limited to the classroom. Those who cultivate this skill are more likely to be curious and open-minded, leading to a habit of continuous learning throughout their lives.

Strategies to Foster Critical Thinking

Here are just a few ways to start with developing critical thinking skills for children and teens:

Encourage Open-Ended Discussions

Engage in meaningful conversations. Instead of providing immediate answers, ask thought-provoking questions that stimulate their critical thinking. Encourage them to share their perspectives, challenge assumptions, and explore various viewpoints.

Use open-ended questions to deeply think about their thoughts and assumptions.  For instance, if your child expresses an opinion about a book they read, ask questions like, “What made you feel that way?” or “What is another way to interpret that part?” This encourages them to analyze their thoughts and consider alternative perspectives.

Promote a Growth Mindset

Emphasize that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. A growth mindset fosters a willingness to take on challenges, embrace learning opportunities, and persist through obstacles. Celebrate the mistake of the day where everyone chats about their mistake of the day and what they learned from it.

Engage in Real-World Problem-Solving

Provide opportunities for children and teens to solve real-world problems. Engaging in debates, project-based learning, or community service allows them to apply critical thinking skills in practical situations, making learning more meaningful and impactful.

You could have them help with things like planning a family vacation within a budget. They need to consider transportation costs, accommodation options, activities, and food expenses. Encourage them to research, compare prices, and make informed decisions. This exercise develops their ability to analyze information, prioritize, and find creative solutions within constraints.

You can also present children and teens with age-appropriate challenges that require creative solutions. For example, provide your child with building blocks and ask them to create a structure that can hold the most weight. Encourage them to experiment with different designs and materials, fostering critical thinking through trial and error.

Expose Them to Diverse Perspectives

Encourage children and teens to explore diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences through literature, media, and discussions. Exposure to various viewpoints fosters open-mindedness and empathy, crucial attributes of critical thinking. Discussing various perspectives encourages empathy and helps children understand that there can be multiple valid viewpoints.

For example, choose a topic that has various viewpoints, such as climate change. Have a family discussion where each member presents a different perspective. This encourages critical thinking as they need to consider and evaluate each viewpoint.

You could also choose a different country or culture to explore each month. Research the chosen culture’s history, traditions, and customs as a family. Discuss how these factors might shape people’s perspectives and values. This activity encourages critical thinking by highlighting how individuals’ backgrounds influence their viewpoints and the importance of understanding diverse perspectives.

Nurture Curiosity for Learning

Curiosity is the driving force behind critical thinking. Foster an environment where questions are welcomed, and curiosity is celebrated. Encourage young minds to ask questions like “Why” and “How,” explore new topics, and seek answers through research and investigation. Curious learners are more likely to engage deeply with the subject matter and develop stronger critical thinking abilities.

For example, if your child notices a bird building a nest outside the window and asks why the bird is doing that, don’t respond immediately. Instead, say, “That’s a great observation! Why do you think the bird is building a nest?” and discuss different ideas. Then, you can go research and find out together.

You could also set up experiments, like watering identical plants with various liquids (water, juice, milk, etc.). Ask them to predict and explain their expectations. As they observe and record the results over time, they engage in critical thinking by comparing data and drawing conclusions based on evidence.

Encourage Self-Reflection

Encourage your child to reflect on their day, including on their thoughts and actions. Ask them to consider what they have learned from a particular experience, what they could have done differently, and how they can apply their learnings to future situations. What challenges did they face? What did they learn? What could they have done differently? What can they do in the future? Regularly engaging in self-reflection helps them analyze their experiences, identify patterns, and consider strategies for improvement.

For instance, after a family outing, gather everyone and ask each member to share one thing they learned or found interesting. Then, ask them to reflect on why that was important to them, promoting analytical thinking.

Provide Opportunities for Collaborative Learning

Engage children and teens in group activities that require cooperation and teamwork. Collaborative learning allows them to consider different perspectives, exchange ideas, and build on each other’s strengths, enhancing their critical thinking abilities.

For example, organize a family project that requires teamwork. Choose a project, such as building a birdhouse or planning a themed dinner. Assign different roles and encourage each family member to contribute ideas and solutions. This exercise promotes critical thinking as they discuss and evaluate each other’s suggestions, negotiate compromises, and work towards a common goal.

Teach Information Evaluation

In the digital age, it is crucial to teach children and teens how to evaluate the reliability and credibility of information. Teach them to assess sources, look for evidence, and differentiate between fact and opinion.

For example, show your teen a news article from a reliable source and another from a less credible source. Discuss the differences between them, including the language used, the evidence presented, and potential biases. This helps them recognize the importance of reliable information.

You could do something structured, like research a historical figure online. Guide your child through the process of evaluating online sources. Ask them to consider the author’s credentials, the publication’s reputation, and the presence of biased language. This exercise equips them with skills to critically assess the reliability of the information they encounter online.

Discuss Values and Ethics

Engage children in discussions about ethical dilemmas. Encourage them to weigh different options and consider the ethical implications of their choices. This not only enhances critical thinking but also strengthens their moral compass.

For example, if your child faces a dilemma where they saw a classmate cheating on a test, engage in a conversation about honesty, the consequences of cheating, and what they believe is the right thing to do. This encourages them to weigh different options and consider ethical implications.

Developing critical thinking skills is a journey that requires continuous engagement and thoughtful guidance. These skills are not just nice to have; they’re a necessity. These skills empower our young generation to become lifelong learners and responsible decision-makers. These skills will help them navigate through life’s challenges with confidence. By fostering an environment that encourages curiosity, diverse perspectives, and reflective thinking, you’re providing them with invaluable tools to navigate a rapidly changing world filled with complexities, uncertainties, and opportunities.

Interested in learning about the importance of critical thinking and emotion regulation? Check out Dr. Buzanko’s podcast episode on Overpowering Emotions to see how you can help children and teens harness the power of critical thinking for emotional balance!

Need help? Reach out to any one of our experts at Koru today.

Koru Family Psychology, Calgary Therapy

Koru Family Psychology is a family first practice focused on growth, strength and new beginnings. We provide a variety of psychological services to empower families to reclaim their confidence to effectively navigate life’s challenges and to enrich their quality of life. 

Connect With Us

In the news.

Caroline on Global News: Understanding the Teenage Brain

Caroline on Global News: Where’s the teen urgency?

Caroline on Global News: Supporting Siblings of Children with Disabilities

Caroline on Global News: How to address sibling rivalries involving special needs kids

Interested in a career with Koru? Click here to check out current opportunities.

For Employers

Bright horizons family solutions, bright horizons edassist solutions, bright horizons workforce consulting, featured industry: healthcare, find a center.

Pinned Navigation Logo

Locate our child care centers, preschools, and schools near you

Need to make a reservation to use your Bright Horizons Back-Up Care?

I'm interested in

Developing critical thinking skills in kids.

Problem solving activities for developing critical thinking skills in kids

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Learning to think critically may be one of the most important skills that today's children will need for the future. In today’s rapidly changing world, children need to be able to do much more than repeat a list of facts; they need to be critical thinkers who can make sense of information, analyze, compare, contrast, make inferences, and generate higher order thinking skills. 

Building Your Child's Critical Thinking Skills

Building critical thinking skills happens through day-to-day interactions as you talk with your child, ask open-ended questions, and allow your child to experiment and solve problems.  Here are some tips and ideas to help children build a foundation for critical thinking: 

  • Provide opportunities for play .   Building with blocks, acting out roles with friends, or playing board games all build children’s critical thinking. 
  • Pause and wait.  Offering your child ample time to think, attempt a task, or generate a response is critical. This gives your child a chance to reflect on her response and perhaps refine, rather than responding with their very first gut reaction.
  • Don't intervene immediately.   Kids need challenges to grow. Wait and watch before you jump in to solve a problem.
  • Ask open-ended questions.  Rather than automatically giving answers to the questions your child raises, help them think critically by asking questions in return: "What ideas do you have? What do you think is happening here?" Respect their responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, "That is interesting. Tell me why you think that."
  • Help children develop hypotheses.  Taking a moment to form hypotheses during play  is a critical thinking exercise that helps develop skills. Try asking your child, "If we do this, what do you think will happen?" or "Let's predict what we think will happen next."
  • Encourage thinking in new and different ways.  By allowing children to think differently, you're helping them hone their creative  problem solving skills. Ask questions like, "What other ideas could we try?" or encourage your child to generate options by saying, "Let’s think of all the possible solutions."

Of course, there are situations where you as a parent need to step in. At these times, it is helpful to model your own critical thinking. As you work through a decision making process, verbalize what is happening inside your mind. Children learn from observing how you think. Taking time to allow your child to navigate problems is integral to developing your child's critical thinking skills in the long run. 

Bright Horizons

Recommended for you

Girl smiling while developing a time capsule at childcare center

  • preparing for kindergarten
  • language development

Family cooking together as a screen-free activity

  • Working Parents
  • digital age parenting

Piggy bank with coins spilling out

  • Student Loans

We have a library of resources for you about all kinds of topics like this!

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

MSU Extension Child & Family Development

The importance of critical thinking for young children.

Kylie Rymanowicz, Michigan State University Extension - May 03, 2016

share this on facebook

Critical thinking is essential life skill. Learn why it is so important and how you can help children learn and practice these skills.

It is important to teach children critical thinking skills.

We use critical thinking skills every day. They help us to make good decisions, understand the consequences of our actions and solve problems. These incredibly important skills are used in everything from putting together puzzles to mapping out the best route to work. It’s the process of using focus and self-control to solve problems and set and follow through on goals. It utilizes other important life skills like making connections , perspective taking and communicating . Basically, critical thinking helps us make good, sound decisions.

Critical thinking

In her book, “Mind in the Making: The seven essential life skills every child needs,” author Ellen Galinsky explains the importance of teaching children critical thinking skills. A child’s natural curiosity helps lay the foundation for critical thinking. Critical thinking requires us to take in information, analyze it and make judgements about it, and that type of active engagement requires imagination and inquisitiveness. As children take in new information, they fill up a library of sorts within their brain. They have to think about how the new information fits in with what they already know, or if it changes any information we already hold to be true.

Supporting the development of critical thinking

Michigan State University Extension has some tips on helping your child learn and practice critical thinking.

  • Encourage pursuits of curiosity . The dreaded “why” phase. Help them form and test theories, experiment and try to understand how the world works. Encourage children to explore, ask questions, test their theories, think critically about results and think about changes they could make or things they could do differently.
  • Learn from others. Help children think more deeply about things by instilling a love for learning and a desire to understand how things work. Seek out the answers to all of your children’s “why” questions using books, the internet, friends, family or other experts.
  • Help children evaluate information. We are often given lots of information at a time, and it is important we evaluate that information to determine if it is true, important and whether or not we should believe it. Help children learn these skills by teaching them to evaluate new information. Have them think about where or who the information is coming from, how it relates to what they already know and why it is or is not important.
  • Promote children’s interests. When children are deeply vested in a topic or pursuit, they are more engaged and willing to experiment. The process of expanding their knowledge brings about a lot of opportunities for critical thinking, so to encourage this action helps your child invest in their interests. Whether it is learning about trucks and vehicles or a keen interest in insects, help your child follow their passion.
  • Teach problem-solving skills. When dealing with problems or conflicts, it is necessary to use critical thinking skills to understand the problem and come up with possible solutions, so teach them the steps of problem-solving and they will use critical thinking in the process of finding solutions to problems.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension . For more information, visit https://extension.msu.edu . To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit https://extension.msu.edu/newsletters . To contact an expert in your area, visit https://extension.msu.edu/experts , or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Did you find this article useful?

Early childhood development resources for early childhood professionals.

new - method size: 3 - Random key: 0, method: tagSpecific - key: 0

You Might Also Be Interested In

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

MI Parenting Resource

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

Bees, Building Early Emotional Skills, for Early Childhood Professionals

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

Self-paced Positive Discipline Online Course

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

AC3 Podcast episode 3

Published on June 30, 2021


Published on December 17, 2021

  • approaches to learning
  • child & family development
  • cognition and general knowledge
  • early childhood development
  • life skills
  • msu extension
  • rest time refreshers
  • approaches to learning,
  • child & family development,
  • cognition and general knowledge,
  • early childhood development,
  • life skills,
  • msu extension,

Enhancing Students’ Critical Thinking Skills: Strategies for Educators

In today’s rapidly changing world, students must develop skills beyond memorization and rote learning. Critical thinking is one of the essential skills that educators can use to help their students grow. Critical thinking is analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information to make informed decisions and solve problems. It is a crucial skill for success in academic life and beyond.

In this article, we will explore practical strategies for educators to teach critical thinking skills to students. We will discuss the importance of critical thinking, its challenges, and practical tips for creating a learning environment that fosters critical thinking.


Why Critical Thinking Skills Are Important

Critical thinking is not just a desirable but essential skill for success in the 21st century. In today’s world, information is abundant, and access to it is widespread. However, not all information is reliable or accurate. Students must be able to distinguish between credible and fake news, identify bias, and think critically about complex issues.

In addition, critical thinking is essential for academic success. Students who can analyze and synthesize information are likelier to excel in their studies. They can also better understand and evaluate the ideas and arguments of others.

Challenges of Teaching Critical Thinking

Teaching critical thinking is a challenging task. Many students are used to rote learning, where memorization is more essential than understanding. They may also need the skills necessary to analyze and evaluate information critically.

In addition, educators may face several challenges when teaching critical thinking skills. For example, they may need more training, time, or resources. They may also need clarification about designing and implementing practical critical thinking activities.

Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking

Despite these challenges, educators can effectively teach critical thinking skills by following a few best practices. Here are some practical strategies for enhancing students’ necessary thinking skills:

  • Start with clear learning objectives: Identify the critical thinking skills that you want your students to develop, and create clear learning objectives that align with those skills.
  • Use active learning techniques: Incorporate active learning techniques into your teaching, such as group discussions, debates, and problem-solving activities. These methods help students develop critical thinking skills by engaging them in learning.
  • Provide opportunities for reflection: Encourage students to reflect on their learning by asking open-ended questions that require analysis and synthesis of information. Reflection can help students identify their biases, assumptions, and gaps in knowledge.
  • Promote metacognition: Teach students their learning processes, strengths, weaknesses, and how to self-assess their critical thinking abilities.
  • Use technology: Use technology to enhance critical thinking skills, such as online simulations, games, and multimedia resources that require analysis and evaluation of information.
  • Model critical thinking: Show students how to think critically by modeling critical thinking in your teaching practice. This can include asking open-ended questions, challenging assumptions, and encouraging students to seek evidence to support their arguments.

Creating a Learning Environment that Fosters Critical Thinking

In addition to these strategies, educators can create a learning environment that fosters critical thinking. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage a growth mindset: Teach students that intelligence and critical thinking skills can be developed through practice and effort rather than fixed traits.
  • Create a safe learning environment: Encourage students to express their thoughts and ideas without fear of judgment or ridicule. Encourage respectful and open dialogue.
  • Build community: Promote community in the classroom, where students feel valued and included.
  • Provide feedback: Offer constructive feedback that helps students improve their critical thinking skills.
  • Connect learning to real-life situations: Help students understand how critical thinking skills can be applied to real-life situations, such as in their future careers.

Critical thinking is a crucial skill for success in academic life and beyond. Educators can effectively teach necessary thinking skills by using effective strategies and creating a learning environment that fosters critical thinking. By doing so, they can help students develop the skills they need to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of the 21st century.

Can't Find What You'RE Looking For?

We are here to help - please use the search box below.

Leave a Comment Cancel reply



Developing Computational Thinking with Educational Technologies for Young Learners

  • Original Paper
  • Published: 30 April 2018
  • Volume 62 , pages 563–573, ( 2018 )

Cite this article

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  • Yu-Hui Ching   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-6382-9903 1 ,
  • Yu-Chang Hsu 1 &
  • Sally Baldwin 1  

5489 Accesses

95 Citations

13 Altmetric

Explore all metrics

The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the opportunities for developing computational thinking in young learners. It includes a review of empirical studies on the educational technologies used to develop computational thinking in young learners, and analyses and descriptions of a selection of commercially available technologies for developing computational thinking in young learners. The challenges and implications of using these technologies also are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price includes VAT (Russian Federation)

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Rent this article via DeepDyve

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

Computational thinking in compulsory education: Towards an agenda for research and practice

Computational thinking in education: past and present.

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

An Emerging Technology Report on Computational Toys in Early Childhood

Benitti, F. B. V. (2012). Exploring the educational potential of robotics in schools: A systematic Review. Computers & Education, 58 , 978–988.

Article   Google Scholar  

Bers, M. (2008). Blocks to robots: Learning with technology in the early childhood classroom . New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Google Scholar  

Bers, M. U., Flannery, L. P., Kazakoff, E. R., & Sullivan, A. (2014). Computational thinking and tinkering: Exploration of an early childhood robotics curriculum. Computers & Education, 72 , 145–157.

Bers, M., Ponte, I., Juelich, K., Viera, A., & Schenker, J. (2002). Teachers as designers: Integrating robotics in early childhood education [Electronic version]. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 2002 (1), 123–145.

Brennan, K., & Resnick, M. (2012). New frameworks for studying and assessing the development of computational thinking. Paper presented at Annual American Educational Research Association meeting . BC, Canada: Vancouver.

Burke, Q., & Kafai, Y. B. (2013). A decade of game-making for learning: From tools to communities. In H. Agius & M. C. Angelides (Eds.), The handbook on digital games (pp. 689–709). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-IEEE Press.

Child Trends. (2015). Home computer access and Internet use. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/indicators/home-computer-access/ .

Elkin, M., Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2014). Implementing a robotics curriculum in an early childhood Montessori classroom [Electronic version]. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 13 , 153–169. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol13/JITEv13IIPvp153-169Elkin882.pdf .

Falloon, G. W. (2015). What’s the difference? Learning collaboratively using iPads in conventional classrooms. Computers & Education, 84 , 62–77.

Falloon, G. W. (2016). An analysis of young students’ thinking when completing basic coding tasks using Scratch Jnr. on the iPad. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32 , 576–593.

Fessakis, G., Gouli, E., & Mavroudi, E. (2013). Problem solving by 5–6 years old kindergarten children in a computer programming environment: A case study. Computers & Education, 63 , 87–97.

Flannery, L. P., & Bers, M. U. (2013). Let’s dance the “robot hokey-pokey!” Children’s programming approaches and achievement throughout early cognitive development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46 (1), 81–101.

Gordon, M., Ackermann, E., & Breazeal, C. (2015, March). Social robot toolkit: Tangible programming for young children. In Proceedings of the Tenth Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction Extended Abstracts (pp. 67–68). New York, NY: ACM.

Grover, S., & Pea, R. (2013). Computational thinking in K-12, a review of the state of the field [Electronic version]. Educational Researcher, 42 (1), 38–43.

Hayes, E. R., & Games, I. A. (2008). Making computer games and design thinking: A review of current software and strategies. Games and Culture, 3 , 309–322.

Horn, M. S., AlSulaiman, S., & Koh, J. (2013, June). Translating Roberto to Omar: Computational literacy, stickerbooks, and cultural forms. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 120–127). New York, NY: ACM.

Chapter   Google Scholar  

Horn, M. S., Crouser, R. J., & Bers, M. U. (2012). Tangible interaction and learning: The case for a hybrid approach [Electronic version]. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 16 (4), 379–389.

Israel, M., Pearson, J. N., Tapia, T., Wherfel, Q. M., & Reese, G. (2015). Supporting all learners in school-wide computational thinking: A cross-case qualitative analysis. Computers & Education, 82 , 263–279.

ISTE & CSTA (2011). Operational definition of computational thinking for K-12 education. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/docs/ct-documents/computational-thinking-operational-definition-flyer.pdf?sfvrsn=2 .

Kabali, H. K., Irigoyen, M. M., Nunez-Davis, R., Budacki, J. G., Mohanty, S. H., Leister, K. P., & Bonner, R. L. (2015). Exposure and use of mobile media devices by young children [Electronic version]. Pediatrics, 136 (6), 1044–1050.

Kafai, Y. B., & Burke, Q. (2014). Connected code: Why children need to learn programming . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kafai, Y. B., & Burke, Q. (2015). Constructionist gaming: Understanding the benefits of making games for learning. Educational Psychologist, 50 (4), 313–334. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2015.1124022 .

Kafai, Y. B., & Peppler, K. A. (2011). Youth, technology, and DIY: Developing participatory competencies in creative media production. Review of Research in Education, 35 (1), 89–119. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X10383211 .

Kalelioglu, F. (2015). A new way of teaching programming skills to K-12 students: Code.org. Computers in Human Behavior, 52 , 200–210.

Kazakoff, E. R., Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2013). The effect of a classroom-based intensive robotics and programming workshop on sequencing ability in early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal, 41 (4), 245–255.

Lu, J. J., & Fletcher, G. H. (2009). Thinking about computational thinking. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 41 (1), 260–264.

Madill, H., Campbell, R. G., Cullen, D. M., Armour, M. A., Einsiedel, A. A., Ciccocioppo, A. L....Coffin, W. L. (2007). Developing career commitment in STEM-related fields: Myth versus reality. In R. J. Burke, M. C. Mattis, & E. Elgar (Eds.), Women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Upping the numbers (pp. 210–244). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Markert, L. R. (1996). Gender related to success in science and technology [Electronic version]. The Journal of Technology Studies, 22 (2), 21–29.

Martinez, C., Gomez, M. J., & Benotti, L. (2015). A comparison of preschool and elementary school children learning computer science concepts through a multilanguage robot programming platform. In Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (pp. 159–164). New York, NY: ACM.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE). (2016). Massachusetts digital literacy and computer science (DLCS) curriculum framework . Malden, MA: Author Retrieved from http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/dlcs.pdf .

Metz, S. S. (2007). Attracting the engineering of 2020 today. In R. Burke & M. Mattis (Eds.), Women and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Upping the numbers (pp. 184–209). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Morgado, L., Cruz, M., & Kahn, K. (2010). Preschool cookbook of computer programming topics. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26 (3), 309–326.

Nash, J. (2017). Coding in the classroom with real-world learning. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=980&category=Innovator-solutions&article=Coding+in+the+classroom+with+real-world+learning .

National Research Council. (2010). Report of a workshop on the scope and nature of computational thinking . Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas . New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc..

Perlman, R. (1974). TORTIS (Toddler's Own Recursive Turtle Interpreter System) . Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology A.I. Laboratory Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED118366.pdf .

Petre, M., & Price, B. (2004). Using robotics to motivate “back door” learning [Electronic version]. Education and Information Technologies, 9 (2), 147–158.

Repenning, A., Basawapatna, A. R., & Escherle, N. A. (2017). Principles of computational thinking tools. In P. J. Rich & C. B. Hodges (Eds.), Emerging research, practice, and policy on computational thinking, educational communications, and technology: Issues and innovations (pp. 291–305). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Resnick, M. (2002). Rethinking learning in the digital age. In G. Kirkman (Ed.), The global information technology report: Readiness for the networked world (pp. 32–37). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Resnick, M. (2006). Computer as paintbrush: Technology, play, and the creative society. In D. Singer, R. Golikoff, & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth (pp. 192–208). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Resnick, M. (2013). Learn to code, code to learn. In EdSurge Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2013-05-08-learn-to-code-code-to-learn .

Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy-Hernandez, A., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Millner, A., Rosenbaum, E., Silver, J., Silverman, B., & Kafai, Y. (2009). Scratch: Programming for all. Communications of the ACM, 52 (11), 60–67 Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/Scratch-CACM-final.pdf .

Saez-Lopez, J., Roman-Gonzaez, M., & Vazquez-Cano, E. (2016). Visual programming languages integrated across the curriculum in elementary school: A two-year case study using “Scratch” in five schools. Computers & Education, 97 , 129–141.

Sanford, K., & Madill, L. (2007). Understanding the power of new literacies through video game play and design. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue Canadienne de l'éducation, 30 (2), 432–455.

Shifrin, D., Brown, A., Hill, D., Jana, L., & Flinn, S. K. (2015). Growing up digital: Media research symposium. American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 , 1–7.

Smith, M. (2016). Computer science for all . Washington, DC: Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/30/computer-science-all .

Sullivan, A., & Bers, M. U. (2016). Robotics in the early childhood classroom: Learning outcomes from an 8-week robotics curriculum in pre-kindergarten through second grade [Electronic version]. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 26 (1), 3–20.

Sullivan, A., Elkin, M., & Bers, M. U. (2015, June). KIBO robot demo: Engaging young children in programming and engineering. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 418–421). New York, NY: ACM.

Sykora, C. (2014). Computational thinking for all. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=152 .

Toy Industry Association, Inc. (2016, February 14). Top toy trends of 2016 announced by Toy Industry Association (TIA), the official voice of the Toy Fair. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.toyassociation.org/PressRoom2/News/2016_News/Top_Toy_Trends_of_2016_Announced_by_Toy_Industry_Association__TIA____the_Official_Voice_of_Toy_Fair.aspx#.WNPzoxiZNsN .

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49 (3), 33–35.

Wyeth, P. (2008). How young children learn to program with sensor, action, and logic blocks [Electronic version]. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 17 (4), 517–550.

Wyeth, P., & Wyeth, G. F. (2001). Electronic blocks: Tangible programming elements for preschoolers. In M. Hilrose (Ed.), IFIP TC13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 496–503). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: IOC Press.

Download references

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Department of Educational Technology, Boise State University, 1910 University Dr, Boise, Idaho, 83725-1747, USA

Yu-Hui Ching, Yu-Chang Hsu & Sally Baldwin

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yu-Hui Ching .

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest.

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Ching, YH., Hsu, YC. & Baldwin, S. Developing Computational Thinking with Educational Technologies for Young Learners. TechTrends 62 , 563–573 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0292-7

Download citation

Published : 30 April 2018

Issue Date : November 2018

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0292-7

Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Computational thinking
  • Educational technology
  • Problem solving
  • Programming
  • Young learners
  • Find a journal
  • Publish with us
  • Track your research

Suggestions or feedback?

MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Machine learning
  • Social justice
  • Black holes
  • Classes and programs


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Architecture
  • Political Science
  • Mechanical Engineering

Centers, Labs, & Programs

  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)
  • Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
  • Lincoln Laboratory
  • School of Architecture + Planning
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Science
  • MIT Schwarzman College of Computing

MIT faculty, instructors, students experiment with generative AI in teaching and learning

Press contact :.

Joe Diaz, Rachael Harkavy, Joyce Yuan, Lancelot Blanchard, and Grace Song are all seated in a row in front of an audience, smiling and listening intently to someone out of the frame.

Previous image Next image

How can MIT’s community leverage generative AI to support learning and work on campus and beyond?

At MIT’s Festival of Learning 2024, faculty and instructors, students, staff, and alumni exchanged perspectives about the digital tools and innovations they’re experimenting with in the classroom. Panelists agreed that generative AI should be used to scaffold — not replace — learning experiences.

This annual event, co-sponsored by MIT Open Learning and the Office of the Vice Chancellor, celebrates teaching and learning innovations. When introducing new teaching and learning technologies, panelists stressed the importance of iteration and teaching students how to develop critical thinking skills while leveraging technologies like generative AI.

“The Festival of Learning brings the MIT community together to explore and celebrate what we do every day in the classroom,” said Christopher Capozzola, senior associate dean for open learning. “This year's deep dive into generative AI was reflective and practical — yet another remarkable instance of ‘mind and hand’ here at the Institute.”   

Video thumbnail

Incorporating generative AI into learning experiences 

MIT faculty and instructors aren’t just willing to experiment with generative AI — some believe it’s a necessary tool to prepare students to be competitive in the workforce. “In a future state, we will know how to teach skills with generative AI, but we need to be making iterative steps to get there instead of waiting around,” said Melissa Webster, lecturer in managerial communication at MIT Sloan School of Management. 

Some educators are revisiting their courses’ learning goals and redesigning assignments so students can achieve the desired outcomes in a world with AI. Webster, for example, previously paired written and oral assignments so students would develop ways of thinking. But, she saw an opportunity for teaching experimentation with generative AI. If students are using tools such as ChatGPT to help produce writing, Webster asked, “how do we still get the thinking part in there?”

One of the new assignments Webster developed asked students to generate cover letters through ChatGPT and critique the results from the perspective of future hiring managers. Beyond learning how to refine generative AI prompts to produce better outputs, Webster shared that “students are thinking more about their thinking.” Reviewing their ChatGPT-generated cover letter helped students determine what to say and how to say it, supporting their development of higher-level strategic skills like persuasion and understanding audiences.

Takako Aikawa, senior lecturer at the MIT Global Studies and Languages Section, redesigned a vocabulary exercise to ensure students developed a deeper understanding of the Japanese language, rather than just right or wrong answers. Students compared short sentences written by themselves and by ChatGPT and developed broader vocabulary and grammar patterns beyond the textbook. “This type of activity enhances not only their linguistic skills but stimulates their metacognitive or analytical thinking,” said Aikawa. “They have to think in Japanese for these exercises.”

While these panelists and other Institute faculty and instructors are redesigning their assignments, many MIT undergraduate and graduate students across different academic departments are leveraging generative AI for efficiency: creating presentations, summarizing notes, and quickly retrieving specific ideas from long documents. But this technology can also creatively personalize learning experiences. Its ability to communicate information in different ways allows students with different backgrounds and abilities to adapt course material in a way that’s specific to their particular context. 

Generative AI, for example, can help with student-centered learning at the K-12 level. Joe Diaz, program manager and STEAM educator for MIT pK-12 at Open Learning, encouraged educators to foster learning experiences where the student can take ownership. “Take something that kids care about and they’re passionate about, and they can discern where [generative AI] might not be correct or trustworthy,” said Diaz.

Panelists encouraged educators to think about generative AI in ways that move beyond a course policy statement. When incorporating generative AI into assignments, the key is to be clear about learning goals and open to sharing examples of how generative AI could be used in ways that align with those goals. 

The importance of critical thinking

Although generative AI can have positive impacts on educational experiences, users need to understand why large language models might produce incorrect or biased results. Faculty, instructors, and student panelists emphasized that it’s critical to contextualize how generative AI works. “[Instructors] try to explain what goes on in the back end and that really does help my understanding when reading the answers that I’m getting from ChatGPT or Copilot,” said Joyce Yuan, a senior in computer science. 

Jesse Thaler, professor of physics and director of the National Science Foundation Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions, warned about trusting a probabilistic tool to give definitive answers without uncertainty bands. “The interface and the output needs to be of a form that there are these pieces that you can verify or things that you can cross-check,” Thaler said.

When introducing tools like calculators or generative AI, the faculty and instructors on the panel said it’s essential for students to develop critical thinking skills in those particular academic and professional contexts. Computer science courses, for example, could permit students to use ChatGPT for help with their homework if the problem sets are broad enough that generative AI tools wouldn’t capture the full answer. However, introductory students who haven’t developed the understanding of programming concepts need to be able to discern whether the information ChatGPT generated was accurate or not.

Ana Bell, senior lecturer of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and MITx digital learning scientist, dedicated one class toward the end of the semester of Course 6.100L (Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python) to teach students how to use ChatGPT for programming questions. She wanted students to understand why setting up generative AI tools with the context for programming problems, inputting as many details as possible, will help achieve the best possible results. “Even after it gives you a response back, you have to be critical about that response,” said Bell. By waiting to introduce ChatGPT until this stage, students were able to look at generative AI’s answers critically because they had spent the semester developing the skills to be able to identify whether problem sets were incorrect or might not work for every case. 

A scaffold for learning experiences

The bottom line from the panelists during the Festival of Learning was that generative AI should provide scaffolding for engaging learning experiences where students can still achieve desired learning goals. The MIT undergraduate and graduate student panelists found it invaluable when educators set expectations for the course about when and how it’s appropriate to use AI tools. Informing students of the learning goals allows them to understand whether generative AI will help or hinder their learning. Student panelists asked for trust that they would use generative AI as a starting point, or treat it like a brainstorming session with a friend for a group project. Faculty and instructor panelists said they will continue iterating their lesson plans to best support student learning and critical thinking. 

Panelists from both sides of the classroom discussed the importance of generative AI users being responsible for the content they produce and avoiding automation bias — trusting the technology’s response implicitly without thinking critically about why it produced that answer and whether it’s accurate. But since generative AI is built by people making design decisions, Thaler told students, “You have power to change the behavior of those tools.”

Share this news article on:

Related links.

  • MIT Open Learning Residential Education team
  • Video: "2024 Festival of Learning: Opening Remarks and Panel Discussion with MIT Faculty and Instructors"
  • Video: "Generative AI in School and Work: A Panel Discussion with MIT Students and Alumni and Closing Remarks"
  • MIT Open Learning
  • Office of the Vice Chancellor

Related Topics

  • Special events and guest speakers
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Education, teaching, academics
  • K-12 education
  • Office of Open Learning
  • Vice Chancellor
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Online learning
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E)
  • Labor and jobs
  • Technology and society
  • Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs)
  • MIT Sloan School of Management
  • School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences

Related Articles

Five children wearing purple shirts stand against a wall displaying the words “Geodesic Greenhouse.” Two geodesic models are on a table in front of them.

A revolutionary, bold educational endeavor for Belize

Male instructor teaches in front of a blackboard that contains a series of terms including "plasma ion source," and "collision reaction cell."  He is holding a small round lightbulb in one hand and a long fluorescent lightbulb in the other.

How free online courses from MIT can “transform the future of the world”

Martin Bazant and Joey Gu are seen through a clear writing board covered with mathematical equations.

“A whole world of potential learners and potential knowledge to gain”

Photo of Bror Saxberg speaking in front of a blackboard and gesturing with his hands.

Festival of Learning 2023 underscores importance of well-designed learning environments

MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD '80, the symposium chair, delivered the event's opening remarks.

Innovation in the classroom

Previous item Next item

More MIT News

A colorized microscopic view shows the cone-shaped microneedles laid on out a grid, in yellow, on a purple surface.

New treatment could reverse hair loss caused by an autoimmune skin disease

Read full story →

A colorful Japanese train moves through a snowy landscape near the ocean in Noto.

Study: Heavy snowfall and rain may contribute to some earthquakes

Pat Pataranutaporn and D. Pillis stand in an indoor lobby

How AI might shape LGBTQIA+ advocacy

Side-by-side headshots of Jonathan Bessette and Akash Ball

Two MIT PhD students awarded J-WAFS fellowships for their research on water

Underwater photo of a large sperm whale diving with two small baby whales near her

Exploring the mysterious alphabet of sperm whales

Against a photo of a bridge over some water, the words "Pathways to Invention" and "Are inventors born or made?" appears along headshot photos of two women and a man. 8 small film laurels also appear

“Pathways to Invention” documentary debuts on PBS, streaming

  • More news on MIT News homepage →

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA, USA

  • Map (opens in new window)
  • Events (opens in new window)
  • People (opens in new window)
  • Careers (opens in new window)
  • Accessibility
  • Social Media Hub
  • MIT on Facebook
  • MIT on YouTube
  • MIT on Instagram

Five tips for improving critical thinking in your classroom

' src=

Critical thinking abilities are essential skills for students to develop. Here are five tips for improving critical thinking skills in your classroom:

1. Teach Students How to Think Critically

Teaching students how to think critically involves helping them understand the difference between facts and opinions. Facts are true statements that can be proven using evidence. Opinions are beliefs based on personal experiences, feelings, values, and preferences.

Students often confuse facts with opinions. For example, “I am going to the store to buy milk.” This statement contains no opinion. It is simply stating a fact. On the other hand, “Milk tastes good.” This statement expresses an opinion.

When teaching students how to think critically, focus on helping them distinguish between facts and opinions. Helping students learn how to think critically will improve their ability to analyze information and solve problems.

2. Encourage Critical Thinking

Encouraging students to think critically means encouraging them to question everything. If you ask students questions such as “Why did you write that?,” “What makes you say that?,” or “How would you prove that?,” you encourage them to think critically.

Asking questions helps students become better thinkers. Questions allow students to explore issues and come up with answers themselves. Asking questions encourages students to think deeply and analytically.

3. Use Real World Examples

Real world examples are helpful for teaching students how to think. Using real world examples allows students to apply concepts to situations outside of school.

For example, if you teach students how to identify logical fallacies, you can show them how to recognize these errors in arguments. Showing students how to identify logical fallacy gives them practice identifying common mistakes made by others.

4. Provide Feedback

Providing feedback is another effective method for teaching students how to improve their critical thinking skills. Giving students positive and constructive criticism improves their performance.

Giving students negative feedback does not improve their performance. Negative feedback may discourage students from trying again. Positive feedback motivates students to continue working toward success.

5. Model Good Critical Thinking Skills

Modelling good critical thinking skills is one of the most effective methods for teaching students how to become better thinkers. Teaching students how to think critically requires modeling good critical thinking skills.

Good critical thinking skills include asking open-ended questions, analyzing data, evaluating sources, and recognizing logical fallacies.

By showing students how to think critically and model good critical thinking skills, you can help them develop into successful learners.

In a world where artificial intelligence is on the rise and continuously developing, a humanized value such as critical thinking is increasingly important. Reliance on technology makes life simpler in many ways, but simultaneously makes the possession of certain skills and abilities more attractive to potential employers and more beneficial for individuals who possess them.

Critical thinking allows for creativity when problem-solving and promotes independence and confidence. Should technology ever fail, those who are able to think critically in a variety of situations will be the ones who are valued the most.

Share this:

' src=

Written by raukiya

I am creative and resilient, endeavours to achieve my goal and have been in learning process.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Assessment Strategies to Measure Student Learning Outcomes

What is sensorial learning.

© Copyright 2024 Cambridge. All Rights Reserved.

Username or Email Address

Remember Me

Don't have an account? Register

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Privacy policy.

To use social login you have to agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

Add to Collection

Public collection title

Private collection title

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.

Report Post

Please log in to report posts

developing critical thinking skills in young learners

Teach students to be critical thinkers

I n America today, people all too often rely on only one news source. They accept what they hear as fact and refuse to even consider any other information. The result is a deeply divided citizenry.  But this isn’t really new. Both Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican Party –  National Gazette  newspaper) and Alexander Hamilton (Federalist Party –  Gazette of the United States ) attempted to sway public opinion with newspapers that did not even try to be objective; they represented only the view of their benefactors. Sound familiar? Good thing they didn’t have FACEBOOK!

If we hope to keep this democratic republic, we need to do a better job educating our students with a process that allows them to question what is presented as fact and make decisions on their interpretation of the data. Critical thinking is the foundation of a strong education.  Ironically, the Florida standards state that students will: “Use research and Inquiry skills . . .”. but stops at identifying a process that produces critically thinking students.

In the late 1960’s, Edwin Fenton produced a new social studies series.  The U.S. book was titled "A New History of the United States: An Inquiry Approach." The series actually created a process by which history would be studied.  I believe we need to initiate a similar process beginning in grades 5-6 and reinforce it in every later social studies class.  The process should be taught during the first week of each school year.

Below are the important parts of the process:

(1) Recognition of frame of reference.   Each of us has a unique way of looking at things. All of our life-long experiences, beliefs and ideas shape it.  And it is unique to us.  The fact that we all see things uniquely reinforces the concept that history is interpretative. Just read descriptions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict from the Russian perspective and the Ukrainian perspective.  Hard to believe it is the same event!

(2)  Hypothesis formation. Given a small sampling of data, we formulate hypotheses (educated guesses) about things.  The election was stolen! The Mets will win the World Series! Caitlin Clark is the greatest basketball player ever. My favorite example is called “Diggings the Weans” by Robert Nathan (performed by Theodore Bikel).  Google it for your entertainment.  Once we have a statement, what’s next.

(3)  Validation with data. Statements have to be proven by facts (data).  Where is the data that supports (validates) the hypothesis?  What is the factual argument?  Without actual data, hypotheses (and statements) cannot be validated.

(4)  Verification. Check the data. It is very important that we go to other sources to verify (fact check) the data.  Recognize the frame of reference of those authors and sources, too.

(5)  Logical implications of our statement.  If the statement is true, what logically follows.

Age-appropriate lessons using portions of primary source documents can be developed and used to enhance instruction of the process.

Can you imagine 5 th  and 6 th  graders using higher level thinking skills to evaluate historical data and reach conclusions based on research?  It’s true that facts are important! Absolutely! But it is most important that we help to create an educated, thinking citizenry. 

Bill Korsonof Naples was a high school American History teacher, coach, advisor and school administrator in New Jersey during his 38-year career.  He currently serves on the board of the Coalition for Quality Public Education, as well as other civic organizations.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Teach students to be critical thinkers

Bill Korson


  1. QuickTips: Promoting Critical Thinking Skills in Young Learners

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  2. Critical Thinking Skills for Kids

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  3. 7 Methods to Develop Creative Thinking Skills for Students

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  4. How to help your child develop critical thinking skills

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  5. The benefits of critical thinking for students and how to develop it

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners

  6. How to promote Critical Thinking Skills

    developing critical thinking skills in young learners


  1. Developing Critical Thinking Skills

  2. Empowering Future Leaders: Developing Critical Thinking at Wisdom High Group of School" #bestschool

  3. Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Asking the Right Questions #WorkOnYourGame

  4. Critical thinking in elementary schools #Shorts

  5. Thinking Critically in College: Essential Tools for Student Success

  6. 10 steps to develop critical thinking skills #smritipandey #ytshorts #thinking


  1. 4 Strategies for Sparking Critical Thinking in Young Students

    Additionally, "noticing and naming the positive things students are doing, both in their conversation skills and in the thinking they are demonstrating," Orr writes, can shine a light for the class on what success looks like. Celebrating when students use these sentence stems correctly, for example, helps reinforce these behaviors.

  2. Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

    Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care ...

  3. Strategies to Increase Critical Thinking Skills in students

    Some essential skills that are the basis for critical thinking are: Communication and Information skills. Thinking and Problem-Solving skills. Interpersonal and Self- Directional skills. Collaboration skills. These four bullets are skills students are going to need in any field and in all levels of education. Hence my answer to the question.

  4. How to develop teens' critical thinking skills

    The framework identifies three core areas within the area of critical thinking: 1) Understanding and analysing links between ideas. 2) Evaluating ideas, arguments and options. 3) Synthesising ideas and information. We asked three teacher trainers for video tips on developing each of these skill areas in class. 1.

  5. Developing Critical Thinking

    In a time where deliberately false information is continually introduced into public discourse, and quickly spread through social media shares and likes, it is more important than ever for young people to develop their critical thinking. That skill, says Georgetown professor William T. Gormley, consists of three elements: a capacity to spot ...

  6. Bridging critical thinking and transformative learning: The role of

    Although students can respond to a perspective-taking exercise in a variety of ways, I argue that instructors ought to prioritize the development of students' critical thinking skills rather than directing them toward particular transformative beliefs. In Part 3, I apply this theoretical account of perspective-taking to higher education.

  7. Empowering Young Minds: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Children

    Developing critical thinking skills is essential to empower children and teenagers to analyze information, think independently, and make informed decisions. In today's information-driven world, it is essential for young minds to develop the ability to navigate through vast amounts of data, distinguish between fact and opinion, and form their ...

  8. Developing Creative & Critical Thinking in Young Learners

    Developing Thinking Skills in the Young Learners ... The direct impact of learning is the improvement of science process skills and critical thinking of students participating in the Biophysics ...

  9. Gamification and the development of teens' critical thinking skills

    It is during adolescence that we see an individual's critical thinking ability evolve towards the complex processes used by adults. And while gamification and quizzes are traditionally widely used in the teaching of grammar and lexis, they also have vast potential to help our digitally-literate teens in this important stage of their development.

  10. Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Kids

    Building critical thinking skills happens through day-to-day interactions as you talk with your child, ask open-ended questions, and allow your child to experiment and solve problems. Provide opportunities for play. Building with blocks, acting out roles with friends, or playing board games all build children's critical thinking. Pause and wait.

  11. The importance of critical thinking for young children

    Basically, critical thinking helps us make good, sound decisions. Critical thinking. In her book, "Mind in the Making: The seven essential life skills every child needs," author Ellen Galinsky explains the importance of teaching children critical thinking skills. A child's natural curiosity helps lay the foundation for critical thinking.

  12. Critical thinking in the preschool classroom

    The importance of developing critical thinking in students has been proposed as the most important skill set the education system can develop in students ... current pedagogical approaches to developing thinking skills in young children and finally the research methods most commonly deployed in the field. Table 5. The geographic location of ...

  13. Developing young learners' thinking skills #1

    In the first of a five part series, Herbert Puchta explores the part that thinking skills play in success, and how we can develop those skills in young learners. If you are a teacher of young learners, then you've most probably wondered what it is that makes one learner so different from another.

  14. Full article: Children's critical thinking skills: perceptions of

    Introduction. The importance of fostering and developing critical thinking (CT) in children from a young age (Lai Citation 2011) has been widely discussed and endorsed in scholarship (Facione Citation 2011; Lipman Citation 1991).Education policy often highlights CT skills as an essential component of twenty-first-century skills - the set of skills needed to solve the challenges of a rapidly ...

  15. PDF Developing Thinking Skills in the Young Learners' Classroom

    Applying thinking skills The same is true of cognitive skills. So-called higher-order thinking skills - such as problem-solving - are not completely different skills from the lower-order ones, but are merely a combination of those basic skills used in a specific way. When we try to solve a problem, we first of all

  16. Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Elementary Students

    This section defines critical thinking for young learners, explores their cognitive development stages, and emphasizes the significance of fostering these skills early in their educational journey ...

  17. Improving Critical Thinking Skills of Students through the Development

    Abstract and Figures. Student's critical thinking ability can be improved through a good learning process. For that, the learning process should be packaged in such a way that students are ...

  18. PDF Developing Creative & Critical Thinking in Young Learners

    The spectrum of thinking skills for young learners "Critical thinking" is largely understood as logical skills that can be "tacked onto other learning" (Paul, 1989, p. 3).

  19. Enhancing Students' Critical Thinking Skills: Strategies for Educators

    Here are some practical strategies for enhancing students' necessary thinking skills: Start with clear learning objectives: Identify the critical thinking skills that you want your students to develop, and create clear learning objectives that align with those skills. Use active learning techniques: Incorporate active learning techniques into ...

  20. PDF Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Students: A Mandate for Higher

    be re-organized in such a manner that critical thinking skills could be imbued in the young learners, in order to make them problem solvers, thereby become assets rather than liabilities to the Nigerian society. In spe-cific terms, the paper examines such issues as the concept of critical thinking, the importance of critical

  21. Developing Computational Thinking with Educational Technologies for

    In the last ten years, new educational technologies have been designed and developed to engage young learners (defined as pre-kindergarten to elementary school age learners) in computing and computational thinking activities along with the maker education movement and computer science initiatives (Smith 2016).Computational thinking refers to a set of thinking skills, processes and approaches ...

  22. MIT faculty, instructors, students experiment with ...

    At MIT's Festival of Learning 2024, faculty, instructors, and students shared how they're leveraging technologies like generative AI in the classroom. Panelists stressed the importance of iteration and teaching students how to develop critical thinking skills.

  23. K-12 students' higher-order thinking skills: Conceptualization

    In other words, learners' critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills may affect their learning quality. ... Developing the critical thinking skills of astrobiology students through creative and scientific inquiry. Astrobiology, 15 (1) (2015), pp. 89-99, 10.1089/ast.2014.1219.

  24. (PDF) Teaching Creative Thinking: Developing learners who generate

    Teaching Creative Thinking: Developing learners who generate ideas and can think critically. October 2017. Publisher: Crown House Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-178583236-9. Authors:

  25. Integrating a hybrid mode into kindergarten STEM education: its impact

    ABSTRACT. Critical thinking is essential for young children and can be enhanced through appropriate and supportive curricula. With the rich affordance of digitalization, this study evaluated the effects of a hybrid STEM curriculum on critical thinking skills in 74 kindergarteners (42 boys and 32 girls) aged 5.83-7.25 years (Mean = 6.44, SD = 0.31) from a Chinese kindergarten during the COVID ...

  26. Five tips for improving critical thinking in your classroom

    By showing students how to think critically and model good critical thinking skills, you can help them develop into successful learners. In a world where artificial intelligence is on the rise and continuously developing, a humanized value such as critical thinking is increasingly important.

  27. Teach students to be critical thinkers

    Ironically, the Florida standards state that students will: "Use research and Inquiry skills . . .". but stops at identifying a process that produces critically thinking students.