Critical thinking is a skill that can and should be taught and practiced within the context of standards-based instruction. The challenge educators often face is how to teach and support the development of skillful thinking in measurable and meaningful ways.

Mentoring Minds identified the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™ to foster high-quality, disciplined thinking. To become stronger thinkers and problem solvers, students should be provided ongoing opportunities to learn about and to practice the nine traits. Each trait contributes to the development of skillful thinking in academics and in social interactions.

The responsibility of the teacher is to cultivate the development of the traits. More explicitly, teachers should introduce, teach, and integrate the nine traits during daily learning experiences, helping students become increasingly aware of how thinking affects learning and behavior. Student actions become more productive when the nine critical thinking traits are used to face unknown situations or challenges, to complete tasks, and to make disciplined choices as problems are resolved at school and in the real world.

Each trait for critical thinking is accompanied by a visual that can trigger its use by students. The nine traits may be introduced or utilized in any sequence or in any combination. The application of the traits will depend on the nature of the work task or activity. When students acquire a deeper understanding of each trait, the students themselves may determine which one or more traits are needed to sufficiently process their thoughts to complete an activity or bring resolution to a task.

This is a photo listing the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking. Examine, Communicate, Inquire, Strive, Reflect, Link, Create, Adapt, Collaborate

What are the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking?

  1. Adapt 

    Adapting is about being a flexible and fluid thinker. You often see the Adapt trait matched with Strive because adapting involves changing your course and adjusting during a predetermined process.

  2. Collaborate

    Collaboration is hard. When we Collaborate, we aren’t simply completing tasks with others. True collaboration includes listening actively while working alongside others. Being able to offer  and accept  feedback will support learners as they do the hard work to achieve better outcomes.

  3. Communicate

    Communication allows us the chance to grab up our thinking and “walk it out.” Children need guidance to Communicate in a way that clearly reflects their deep thinking. They should be encouraged to elaborate on their ideas using specific language.

  4. Create

    When young learners Create, they use their imagination to express new and exciting ideas. By thinking outside the box, they are encouraged to take risks and find multiple solutions to a problem.

  5. Examine

    You will often see Inquire paired with the Examine trait. If we thirst for knowledge, it brings us to action. When children use the Examine trait, they are exploring and analyzing information to gain deeper insights.

  6. Inquire

    Inquire is a thirst for knowledge. We want young learners to be curious and initiate their own learning. When we encourage children to ask questions, we are promoting the trait Inquire.

  7. Link

    When we Link, we recognize how ideas and details work together to help us see the bigger picture when accomplishing tasks. Linking helps our brains to create sense and order out of multiple bits of information.

  8. Reflect

    The practice of Reflection acts as a scrapbook of our learning journey and allows us to pause and review the knowledge we have gained. The act of writing down or explaining our thoughts helps us to monitor our thinking and become more aware.

  9. Strive

    Strive is a “stick to it” mindset. This trait enables us to understand that problem-solving is a journey with twists and turns along the path. When learners Strive, they demonstrate focus and determination. The ability to Strive is such an essential skill for school and in life. It helps us look at challenges as opportunities to grow.

This is an image of the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking poster. The link navigates to a download option.


By visiting, you can see several resources that assist students and teachers in learning about and integrating the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™ into daily instruction across any content area. As the traits are applied to real-life situations outside of school, the value of the traits can be observed at home and in the community. Long after the K–12 education years, the traits continue to be beneficial as individuals apply them no matter their responsibilities. Application of the critical thinking traits can strengthen the thinking process throughout one’s lifetime. Our intent at Mentoring Minds is to help students to become mindful of their thinking and to support teachers as they nurture the development of the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™.

In a series of ten blog posts, you’ll learn about the 9 traits, forming a vision for each and how the trait might be applied in- and outside of the classroom.