Critical thinking is not just another subject or “extra.” As teachers and principals, we have experienced first-hand what a difference critical thinking can make when it is applied as an integral skillset for teaching and learning all subject matter. We’ve seen how, in a thinking-centered environment, students become engaged, challenged, and active members of the learning community.
Yes, educators face an overwhelming number of new technologies and course content, shifting standards, high-stakes tests, and changing student needs, all with shrinking budgets and limited resources. It’s easy to see how critical thinking might take a back seat. But now is the time, more than ever, not to forget our goal since day one: preparing students to excel inside and outside the classroom. Critical thinking is foundational to this task, and we’re committed to helping schools keep critical thinking at the center of instruction.
This myth breaks down as soon as you consider that critical thinking is more of a process than a destination. All students, no matter their starting point, need tools to integrate new content, solve problems, analyze and evaluate information, and ultimately succeed in school.
As teachers create thinking-centered classrooms to help all students acquire these skills, they work purposefully to make every day focused on content, driven by questions, and accessible to all learners. This is no easy task, so we build lessons and develop materials that help teachers integrate rigor with the standards while meeting all learners’ needs.
Once you’ve been in the field long enough, you’ve seen it all—materials that claim critical thinking as a quick fix, but don’t translate into long-term instructional design; or abstract philosophies that sound great but just leave you empty handed. At Mentoring Minds, we know that critical thinking is not as simple as the quick fix, but we also don’t think it has to be quite so mysterious.
Critical thinking should be approachable, and we’ve been connecting the dots between the what and the how of instruction for 13 years. Simply put, the what is the content, or the things students should know and be able to do. The how is the instructional design that empowers students to think their way to that knowledge and ability.
Our goal is to develop tangible strategies and learning experiences that support the standards, putting them into teachers’ hands so that they can continue their gratifying work—teaching students how to learn. Ultimately, with these tools, we want to create engaged students and successful schools.
Critical thinking is not going to go away. Standards can come and go but this foundation of deeper thinking is not going away. We’ve had Mentoring Minds’ teacher resources for 3 years now and they’re timeless. We’ve been very pleased.
The feedback we’re getting is ‘this is difficult,’ which makes me happy because then I know they’re being challenged. Not difficult that they can’t do it. Difficult in that we have to think. Difficult in that we have to look back into the text to answer a question. Difficult in that the math problem is asking for an explanation, not just the solution.