How we teach critical thinking skills
13 July 2018
Should children do chores at home? This is just one of the many questions we debate at Limespring School. We ask children to decide whether they are for or against a particular issue and then they take turns putting their views across. By making debate an important part of the curriculum, our pupils develop many crucial life skills. They learn how to look at an issue from all sides, listen to others, evaluate information, understand opposing views and express their opinions in a calm and articulate way.
However, debating an issue is just one of the ways that we develop our pupils’ critical thinking ability. We also pose playful questions. For instance, who (alive or dead) would you invite to a tea party and why? Other classmates then question the pupil about their choice. The exercise encourages children to really examine why they like that particular figure – whether it’s Ariana Grande or Mo Farah – and what they would like to ask them when they meet.
Moreover, we don’t consider critical thinking as something separate; it forms part of all aspects of the curriculum. For instance, when we recently visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey, we asked the children to consider whether – now that we have DNA testing – should we use it to find out where the soldier came from? And a straightforward maths’ question like: ‘if Harry has four apples but removes three, and then Julie gives him two, how many apples does he have left?’ can be an opportunity, not only to test a child’s numerical ability, but also an opportunity to get them to think more deeply. Where did Harry put the apples he ‘removed’? Does he still have them? And does Julie want the apples back?
The ability to think critically and deeply about something is not just a nice thing to have. In this Internet age, we are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of information and media. Added to that, our children are entering a world that is changing at breakneck speed. In order for them to flourish, it is therefore essential that they develop the skills to filter through the noise, evaluate sources of information and question what they hear.