Critical Thinking Skills Are Important For Kids
What does it mean to think critically? In psychology, there’s little agreement over the meaning of critical thinking, even though everyone agrees that critical thinking skills are vital for academic performance and career development. But, should teaching critical thinking to kids be a central learning objective?
Below, we’ll talk about the benefits of teaching critical thinking skills to kids.
Why Critical Thinking Is Important For Kids
We can easily argue that critical thinking is one of the most important elements of literacy! Once children have developed critical thinking they’ll be able to make reasonable judgments, identify problems, come up with solutions, and filter reliable information necessary for independent learning.
Another way to think about critical thinking is through the concept of digital literacy. Kids receive most of the information online and we can’t control who posts and what. This becomes a problem when we take into consideration that not everyone is qualified to speak or write on a specific topic, or they deliberately spread false information. Critical thinking for kids is a defense mechanism that shields them from becoming victims of such dangers.
There are many other theoretical considerations and practical examples that illustrate the importance of critical thinking for kids. Let’s go over the most important ones.
What Scientific Findings Tell Us
If we want to make a serious case about the importance of critical skills, we have to go beyond the theories and some teachers’ experiences and take a look at science. What can we learn from psychological and pedagogical research findings?
Murawski published a study in the Journal of Learning in Higher Education in 2014, where she discussed critical thinking in the classroom. According to her, educators who teach students critical thinking skills, give control to students to take over their learning process. In other words, children will then approach the course in a more effective manner, ask more challenging questions, and participate in the learning process more intensely.
However, as Carroll from the University of New Orleans cleverly remarks in his study, even though all teachers agree that basic knowledge and skills are not enough to define student achievement and critical thinking is more than necessary, assessments in almost all of the classrooms included in the study focused on basic knowledge and skills measured through multiple-choice questions. This brings up the issue of how much critical thinking is developed in schools and what are the effects of such variability.
Ernst & Monroe’s study from 2007, published in the Environmental Education Research Journal, might shed some light on these issues. The authors investigated how environment-based curriculums (EBL) influence the development of critical thinking skills and a disposition toward critical thinking. The results show that, indeed, environment-based learning had a positive effect (improved) on students’ critical thinking skills.
On the other hand, some evidence from a study in 2001, published in Instructional Science, shows that peer interaction is not effective for improving critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, this further illustrates the fact that critical thinking skills are incredibly complex and many teaching programs might get unsatisfactory results because they use non-effective methods.
Another interesting take on critical thinking gives Loes et al. in their 2016 study which investigates the relationship between diverse experiences and critical thinking. The authors argue that students will be more likely to engage in effortful and complex modes of thought when they encounter new and unique situations.
We also have evidence that argument maps improve critical thinking, which in turn makes better learners out of students. More specifically, Rider and Thomason (2014) investigated the claims and gave support to the claims that students learn to better understand and critique arguments, improve their reading and writing, and become clearer in their thinking through argument mapping (a method improving critical thinking).
Finally, another study by Abduljaleel Alwali closely examined the benefits of critical thinking in high school and concluded that critical thinking positively impacts perception, individuality, general analytical skills, academic performance, metacognition, practical applications of theoretical knowledge, and decision-making.
What do these studies tell us about the importance of critical thinking for kids in general? Keep reading, because everything that we’ve learned from these studies will be summarized and explained in greater detail below.
Benefits of Teaching Critical Thinking to Kids
By now, we’ve seen that there are many findings supporting some if not all of the benefits associated with critical thinking. While we still need a lot more research to be done before we can completely demystify the neurological basis of critical thinking, it is more than clear that this is an incredibly important cognitive process that could literally change students’ lives. Here’s how!
Critical Thinking Promotes Creative Problem-Solving Skills
In some of the studies, we’ve seen that teachers do not believe that students’ achievements are mirrored only in the knowledge of facts or basic skills. All educators agree there’s more to education, including creativity and learning how to think. Well, teaching critical thinking is one way to go beyond factual knowledge, stimulate creativity, and allow students to look for innovative solutions to common problems.
Critical Thinking Creates Independence
Another science-backed benefit of critical thinking is control and independence. In other words, students who are curious and are not afraid to question the information they get, usually take initiative and go on their own to find answers. This means that they think more deeply about the topic, want to know more details, and hear other opinions before making conclusions. All of this makes them more independent, as they’ll seek information beyond what’s given to them by the teacher, which is the first step toward independent learning.
Critical Thinking Promotes Curiosity
The basis of continuous independent learning is curiosity. For a child to learn on their own, they need to be internally motivated, which is always associated with curiosity, one way or another. Moreover, the nature of critical thinking means to evaluate information by questioning aspects of it and relating it with previous knowledge. This is a very intense mental process that requires intentionality. If kids are not curious or internally motivated, chances are they won’t think too deeply about the issue. Teaching critical thinking is one way to make kids more curious about knowledge in general.
Critical Thinking Stimulates Metacognition
Metacognition is a cognitive process that refers to one’s ability to think about thinking. It sounds a little weird, but it’s very simple. Because we have metacognition we’re aware of our own mental processes. We know whether we understand something and how we perform based on self-monitoring. It’s also the ability to see ourselves as thinkers or learners. How is it associated with critical thinking? Well, questioning and challenging information are only possible under the assumption that we are aware of how these pieces of information related to our previous knowledge. It also entails questioning ourselves and finding new relations between the things we’ve learned before. This is why thinking critically means using and practicing metacognition.
Critical Thinking Creates Resilience
Finally, one of the most important practical applications of critical thinking skills is improved literacy, which makes kids more resilient to manipulation, brainwashing, false information, and other dangers that lurk on the internet and in person in the form of peer pressure, bullying, and more. Kids will have the ability to better analyze the situation and ultimately make better decisions.
More generally, if we think of resilience as an ability to solve and overcome problems, then we can also argue that since critical thinking improves problem-solving skills, it acts as a protective factor for students in both educational and social contexts.
Before You Go
Critical thinking for kids is a truly essential topic that deserves more attention. As we’ve seen, critical thinking is associated with many other cognitive skills important for academic success, but also life in general. If educators dedicate more time to developing critical thinking skills, they can help students become more engaged in the learning process, independent, and efficient problem-solvers.
Source: Kids Konnect