Teaching Children How to Think
To function and create change in this modern world, individuals need critical thinking skills – the ability to think about ideas or situations in order to fully understand their implications so as to be able to make an informed judgment or decision. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, investigating, hypothesizing, analyzing, reflecting, revising, comparing, evaluating and forming opinions. It involves an inquiry process of exploring issues that may not be clearly defined and for which there are no clear-cut answers. Critical thinking also includes metacognition – the process of thinking that enables us to reflect on our own learning as we develop knowledge and skills.
According to Tony Wagner in his book, The Global Achievement Gap, mastery of the basic skills of reading, writing and math is no longer enough. Instead, work, learning and citizenship in the 21st century demand that we all know how to think – to reason, analyze, weigh evidence and problem solve. He goes on to say that children will need seven basic survival skills to succeed in the world that awaits them:
· Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
· Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
· Agility and Adaptability
· Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
· Effective Oral and Written Communication
· Accessing and Analyzing Information
· Curiosity and Imagination
Robert Fisher, a leading expert in developing children’s thinking skills, says that thinking is not a natural function like sleeping, walking and talking. Thinking, he stresses, is a skill that needs to be developed, and people do not necessarily become wiser as they become older. Children learn to think when adults take them seriously, engage them in meaningful conversations, inspire their imaginations and ask them questions that get them to think. This is exactly the approach that we need to incorporate into the classroom.
According to many experts, to develop these basic skills, we need to re-define the role of the teacher and the student. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an orchestrator of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student. Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources who make use of spontaneous teachable moments to scaffold children’s learning. The 21st century will require knowledge generation, not just information delivery, and schools will need to create a “culture of inquiry” that is shared equally by teachers and students.
Ms. Nora Sierra