At this point in the series, we hope you are comfortable integrating the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™ into your instruction to enhance student thinking. The previous posting in this blog series presented a brief overview about the trait inquire. This post features the critical thinking trait link.

I apply knowledge to reach new understandings.

When students acquire the trait link, they transfer meaning from previously learned concepts and apply to new situations to build knowledge. They display the ability to successfully make connections between their background knowledge or new learning and everyday life.

As students apply the link trait, you might observe them creating analogies or making inferences to demonstrate how pre-existing knowledge and experiences can be used as sources to support or explain new learning. To construct meaning, it is important that students show they can relate newly learned information to what they already know and apply that knowledge in different contexts in the real world. Making personal connections to the concepts taught provides relevance, meaning, and interest which highlights why the trait link is necessary for success in learning.

Connections can be made when models are built, a poem written, or a skit performed to show meaning behind concepts taught, when graphic organizers are completed to show connections to the text being read, or when a science discussion about recycling is held to determine possible effects in the community. To connect to the world today, technology offers many avenues for making social connections such as media outlets for group chats to discuss an issue or Linkedin for making professional contacts in areas of interest. For businesses to be successful, they apply the trait link as they network to build relationships to acquire and sustain customers and they also use the trait link to determine how input can transfer to successful products or marketing campaigns. Transferable skills such as multi-tasking, problem solving, and decision making have purpose in school, the workplace, or in the home. No matter the occupation held in life, you can easily recognize that the trait link has value.

The following questions can be asked of students to facilitate focus and application of the trait link. Feel free to adjust the vocabulary to promote understanding among students.

  • What does what you recently learned have to do with your life or those around you?
  • What relevance does this concept have in today’s world?
  • What lesson can you learn that you can apply to your world outside of school?
  • How is this similar to/different from your life/the real world?
  • Why is the recall of prior information helpful when making connections?
  • Do you ask questions to make connections?
  • How do you use prior knowledge to avoid poor choices or mistakes?
  • How does thinking about and discussing what you already know deepen learning before interacting with a topic?
  • How might you use past events or experiences to help you construct meaning?
  • What are examples that show how the trait link might be used in school, at home, in the workplace, or elsewhere in life?

In the next blog post, we’ll explore an eighth trait reflect.