At present, there are many definitions of such a concept as critical thinking; yet, none of them has become generally accepted by scholars. Overall, this notion can be described as the process of analyzing information, assessing its validity and drawing reasonable conclusions (Hommes, 1999, p. 240). However, this explanation does not throw light on every aspect of critical thinking. For instance, this activity also involves such components as induction and deduction. This means a person should be able to make generalizations on the basis of available data and apply existing theories to specific tasks or situations (Watson & Arp, 2011, p. 177; Stadler, 2004, p. 27).
These aspects of critical thinking are vital for the development and testing of hypotheses or assumptions. Moreover, this concept means that an individual should continuously work on the improvement of one’s cognitive processes (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p. 61). So, this process requires conscious effort of a person (Thayer-Bacon, 2000, p. 61; Hommes, 1999, p. 240). This effort boosts the cognitive development of a person. Thus, it is possible to argue that this concept of critical thinking includes a great number of elements, and this is why it is very difficult to define.
Critical thinking has played an essential role for the development of philosophy and science. Moreover, it is essential for the progress of any society. To a great extent, it can be traced to the philosophers of Ancient Greece. For instance, it is possible to mention Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle who prompted their pupils to take a closer look at the beliefs and convictions that could be taken for granted (Pasch & Norsworthy, 2001, p. 10).
These thinkers highlighted the gap existing between perceptions of individuals and reality (Pasch & Norsworthy, 2001, p. 10). This is one of their major achievements. There are other important landmarks in the development of critical thinking. Much attention should be paid to the works of Francis Bacon and Rene Discartes who advocated the necessity to question and test the ideas of others (Pasch & Norsworthy, 2001, p. 10).
Later, these principles were elaborated during the Age of Enlightenment. Scientist and philosophers, who represented this intellectual movement, emphasized skepticism as the main method that helps people discover the truth about objective reality and bring improvements into the life of the community (Spielvogel, 2012, p. 376; Pupavac, 2012). These ideas were expressed by Denis Diderot, Baruch Spinoza, Voltaire, and many others (Spielvogel, 2012, p. 376). Since that time, critical thinking became an inseparable part of education. These are the most important landmarks that can be distinguished. Currently, critical thinking is believed to be indispensible for the success of individuals and organizations.
It should be noted that the concept of critical thinking has a very wide scope. In particular, it involves the following skills:
- interpretation of data, personal experience, or rules;
- identification between logical relations between different concepts;
- assessment of statements or judgments;
- inference; and
- self-regulation of one’s cognitive activities (Facione, 2011, p. 9; Paul & Elder, 2011).
These are the main aspects that can be identified. In many cases, these skills are closely intertwined with one another. In their turn, teachers should give students assignments that include each of these activities.
One should note that critical thinking has to meet such requirements as accuracy, clarity, relevance, consistency and impartiality (Paul & Elder, 2011). Critical thinking manifests itself virtually in every area of human activity. For instance, it is possible to mention education, scientific research, business administration, trading, and so forth (Kaser, 1998, p. 23). On the whole, the principles of critical thinking should be applied to every field. Thus, this cognitive skill should be one of the top priorities for educators. They should help students understand that critical thinking supports every other activity of a person. It is not just one of those formal requirements that are imposed on learners. This is one of the main issues that should be taken into account by educators and parents.
There are numerous scholarly works that are aimed at examining various aspects of critical thinking. Researchers focus on the development of students’ critical thinking skills and the strategies that teachers should use (Kowalczyk, Hackworth, & Case-Smith, 2012). These studies have profound implications for the development of students’ learning skills and their academic performance. The researchers can study the peculiarities of critical thinking among people who represent various age groups such as adolescents (Holdren, 2012). This knowledge is necessary for the development of educational programs (Holdren, 2012).
Apart from that, scholars attempt to examine various applications of critical thinking. For instance, they focus on its relevance to business administrators, entrepreneurs, and managers (Reid & Anderson, 2012). At present, critical thinking can attract the attention of scholars who can represent different academic fields. To some degree, this situation can be explained by importance of these skills for various professionals. Therefore, it is vital for a person to develop critical thinking skills since early childhood. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward.
Critical thinking and primary school teachers
The critical thinking of a person becomes more elaborate when a child begins to grow. The task of educators is to foster this development. This activity helps the children adjust the academic standards that are set in schools. Primary school teachers focus on certain aspects of this concept. They can understand this term as a set of interrelated activities such as hypothesizing, analyzing, comparing different phenomena, and planning (Hudson, 2013, p. 299).
However, such an approach is possible if learners were accustomed to critical thinking tasks when they were in the kindergarten (Davis-Seaver & Davis, 2000, p. 26). From the perspective of primary school teachers, critical thinking is the cornerstone which is important for the improvement of students’ learning skills and their understanding of the tasks that are assigned to them (Mason, 2009, p. 7). This is one of the main issues that can be singled out.
Techniques used to teach critical thinking
Primary school teachers can adopt various approaches to the development of critical thinking. First of all, they can emphasize brainstorming since this activity can show a child that there are various viewpoints on the same statement, event, or natural phenomenon (Westwood, 2007, p. 149). This understanding is crucial for emotional and cognitive development of a child. In order to achieve this goal, teachers can adopt different techniques. For instance, they can encourage students to discuss the cover of a book and prompt them to make conjectures about the story (Westwood, 2007, p. 149).
This is why educators pay close attention to the visual images in textbooks or other learning materials. Apart from that, they can prompt students to compare the behavior of different characters. This exercise is also useful because in the future students will often have to identify similarities and distinctions while working on various assignments (Silver, 2010, p. 7). Apart from that, the teacher should encourage students to express the opinions that may contradict the views of others (Jesson, 2012, p. 80).
This activity can make a student more resistant to the effects of groupthink. Additionally, educators point out that it is necessary to introduce stories that can give rise to different interpretations (Dickenson & Neelands, 2012, p. 62). Students can derive various moral lessons from these stories. Such discussions are also useful for the development of a child. These are some of the approaches that educators can adopt in order to foster the use of critical thinking skills.
It should be taken into consideration that critical thinking should be incorporated in various parts of the curriculum such as mathematics, reading, or natural sciences. This is one of the main requirements that primary school teachers should meet. Such an approach is essential for helping children get used to the tasks that they will do at the later stages of their education. They should become accustomed to the assignments which are premised on the idea that a student can collect data, evaluate its validity, and draw conclusions. Overall, this discussion suggests that the principles of critical thinking should be taken into account by people who develop the curriculum of schools.
Davis-Seaver, J. & Davis, R. (2000). Critical Thinking in Young Children. New York, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.
Dickenson, R., & Neelands, J. (2012). Improve your Primary School Through Drama. Boston, MA: Routledge.
Facione, P. (2011). Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts. Web.
Holdren, T. (2012). Using Art to Assess Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking in Adolescents. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(8), 692-703.
Hommes, J. (1999). Educational Innovation in Economics and Business IV: Learning in a Changing Environment. New York, NY: Springer.
Hudson, P. (2013). Learning to Teach in the Primary School. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jesson, J. (2012). Developing Creativity in the Primary School. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill International.
Kaser, K. (1998). 10-Minute Critical-Thinking Activities for the World of Work. London: Walch Publishing.
Kowalczyk, N., Hackworth, R., & Case-Smith, J. (2012). Perceptions of the Use of Critical Thinking Teaching Methods. Radiologic Technology, 83(3), 226-236.
Mason, M. (2009). Critical Thinking and Learning. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Pasch, G., & Norsworthy, K. (2001). Using Internet Primary Sources to Teach Critical Thinking Skills in World Languages. Boston, MA: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2011). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking. New York, NY: The Foundation for Critical Thinking.
Pupavac, V. (2012). Language Rights: From Free Speech to Linguistic Governance. Princeton, NJ: Palgrave Macmillan.
Reid, J. R., & Anderson, P. R. (2012). Critical Thinking in the Business Classroom. Journal Of Education For Business, 87(1), 52-59.
Spielvogel, J. (2012). Western Civilization: A Brief History. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Silver, H. (2010). Compare & Contrast: Teaching Comparative Thinking to Strengthen Student Learning. New York, NY: ASCD.
Stadler. F. (2004). Induction and Deduction in the Sciences. New York, NY: Springer.
Thayer-Bacon, B. (2000). Transforming Critical Thinking: Thinking Constructively. Boston, MA: Teachers College Press.
Watson, J., & Arp, R. (2011). Critical Thinking: An Introduction to Reasoning Well. Boston, MA: Continuum.
Westwood, P. (2007). Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs. Boston, MA: Routledge.