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Identify, analyse and evaluate

What's needed is a good dose of scepticism in order to start thinking more objectively about things

Over the last few weeks my history students have been working on a new essay. They've been considering how continuity and change affects the topic they've chosen. Yesterday I had a discussion with some students about the fact they weren't enjoying this essay, and just struggling with the subject in general.

I was a little gutted for a few moments. Then I realised this wasn't about me but about the fact that, for whatever reason, the students weren't really understanding what I was asking them to do. So… last night I did some hard thinking about how I can really engage them. Not only in the topic they're researching, but really to develop their analytical stills.

So I have a new strategy now with some fun and engaging activities for next week to get them thinking and build their skills. But it has really got me thinking about critical thinking.

So what is critical thinking?

Because we live in a media-saturated world, students often take what they see and hear for granted. The expression "curiosity killed the cat" is one that doesn't apply here. We want students to question what they're reading in relation to what they know.

So much of what students see or hear is sensationalised, and writers are often paid to persuade us to believe what they write. What's needed is a good dose of scepticism in order to start thinking more objectively about things.

Developing your own views

Often students read information and only consider what they comprehend in what they have just read. They need to connect the information they've read into other aspects of what they know or how it might link in or be in relationship with other information they have at hand or have experienced.

I find sometimes that students lack logical flow in how they think when they're developing ideas. Some students like structure in order to develop their ideas and opinions. Sometimes students just don't seem to know which questions to ask in order to dig a little deeper with a complex problem or issue.

As students develop their higher order thinking skills, they'll begin to ask more complex questions. However, for some students they just need a starting point. I need to help my students really understand the importance of analysis and the ability to account for the information they're reading in relation to their topic. The thing I like about this essay is that the students need to consider continuity and change and this in itself is asking them to make connections and see how complex issues can form relationships within the historical context.

This is an edited version of a post that was originally published on 30 October 2014 at Techno in the classroom.