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Critical Thinking - An Essential Skill

Why should students become critical thinkers?

Sometimes, students are easily influenced by what they see and hear. If the person speaking is famous or a best friend, or the shared information is seen in the media, read on the Internet, or spoken on television, students may not think but make quick decisions and jump on bandwagons without asking any questions or seeking other sources. Still in other situations, students are lonely and subject to peer pressure and anxious to fit in so they may make unwise decisions in selecting appropriate friends. A multitude of reasons exist why students need to think critically before they act.

As students learn how to think critically, they will display numerous positive thinking habits. No longer will students make rushed, uninformed decisions from a single perspective. The ability to draw conclusions based on multiple perspectives becomes apparent. Seeking varied sources and knowing how to evaluate them as reliable becomes significant. Students learn to value collaborative, intellectual dialogue and show how to listen skillfully to ideas of others and reflect on what is heard. They will demonstrate how to disagree without making personal judgments. Students will be able to note positive and negative implications of varied ideas. They will acknowledge how personal viewpoints might change during a conversation due to new and evidence based information. The importance of posing open-ended questions as ways to seek understanding rather than searching for set answers will become routine. As students learn to act in a diplomatic manner, they will be able to better resist peer pressure and face conflicts. All of these actions and more describe students as they develop as independent thinkers and learn to make healthy choices for their academic, personal, and professional lives.

Educators are in the position to teach students how to gather information, evaluate it, discard irrelevant or distracting ideas, and think for themselves. The infusion of critical thinking opportunities into every content area is crucial in order to prepare students for college and career readiness. Learning to think critically cannot be left to chance or be taught to only a few. Educators have a responsibility to develop critical thinking skills and make it a priority during the K-12 years for all learners.

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