Critical thinking refers to the ability to have clear, reasoned ideas and judgments.
Some of these 21st century competencies identified by our Ministry of Education for Singapore’s future are critical-thinking skills. Given the vast amount of information available via the internet, memorising one new fact is far less valuable than the ability to understand, analyse, apply and evaluate information. Indeed, the traditional academic path of using rote memory to sail through school examinations is no longer the right way to be prepared for the future.
Benjamin Bloom, back in 1956, helped form six “levels” of thinking:
1) Recall: Recalling facts, formulae, rules or concepts from memory. Questions such as: List 10 fruits and vegetables
2) Comprehension: Demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by being able to summarise, organise and compare information. Questions such as: What are the similarities and differences between fruits and vegetables?
3) Application: Applying acquired knowledge and facts to solve new problems. Questions such as: Is it better to eat fruits or vegetables for someone with diabetes? Why?
4) Analysis: Examine and break down information into parts by identifying motives or causes. Questions such as: How does eating fruits and vegetables daily help to maintain good health?
5) Synthesis: Creating new patterns or proposing alternative solutions. Questions such as: Create a new diet plan for someone who wants to eat more healthily.
6) Evaluation: Present and defend opinions by making judgments about information and ideas. Questions such as: Which fruits or vegetables are the best to be included in a daily diet and why?
Tips for building stronger critical thinking skills:
* Avoid telling your child to do things in only one way. Encouraging your child to consider alternative explanations and solutions develops flexibility in thinking.
* Encourage your child to read widely to increase his/her knowledge base.
* Don’t confine critical thinking to purely factual or academic matters. Encourage your child to reason about ethical, moral, and public policy issues.
The article was based on the contribution of Cheryl Chia, director of BrainFit Studios.