What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking entails making thoughtful, rational, and reasoned decisions. It is a mode of thinking in which one questions all the arguments and conclusions they are exposed to, rather than simply accepting them at face value. It requires an interest in the evidence used to support a particular claim or conclusion.
Should critical thinking skills be taught in language classes?
1. Language in the classroom
When teaching languages, critical thinking skills can be easily overlooked. Rote learning methods do not require critical thinking, and at the beginner level, the primary focus may be on learning foundational vocabulary. However, as students engage in various tasks in the target language that involve personalization, research, or problem-solving, they must utilize critical thought. These communicative tasks are typical in modern language techniques since they involve learners in real communication. Success in such tasks, as in life, depends on the ability to communicate clearly and critically.
2. Language Literacy
Children must do more than recognize and sound out letters and words to fully comprehend the message of a book. They must also “read between the lines” to understand information that is not explicitly stated. To accomplish this, they must apply critical thinking abilities such as problem-solving, anticipating, and explaining. Early exposure to this way of thinking helps children develop the comprehension skills necessary for independent reading of texts.
3. Utilizing actual meaningful texts
In modern language schools, authentic texts or original writings that have been modified for language levels but retain the writer’s original meaning are used. Students must understand the meaning of a text (spoken or written) that contains facts and opinions expressed by the speaker or writer, such as a news article or a blog post. They must separate facts from opinions, match arguments to supporting evidence, and then express their own opinions. In other words, students are forced to view texts critically at an early stage of language acquisition.
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4. Critical Literacy
When approaching texts, it is important to consider their sources. In our digital age, we are inundated with writings that claim to be factual, but may not come from reliable sources. Therefore, it is essential to cultivate the skill of analyzing documents by asking critical questions, evaluating reliability, comparing sources, and identifying the origin of the information. This is a skill that students will need to succeed, and language instructors are in a unique position to cultivate these critical thinking skills alongside their language skills, as a significant portion of critical literacy is conducted in English or other languages.
5. Using critical thinking to prepare for exams
Many teachers may feel that they do not have enough time to go beyond the basic syllabus and examination requirements. However, students with high language skills may perform better on exams if they have developed their critical thinking abilities. Therefore, it is important to incorporate critical thinking into exam preparation.
6. Critical thinking for future careers
Many students learning a second language may want to continue their education at the university level, which often involves learning English. At this level, critical thinking is an important study skill. Undergraduates are often required to defend their arguments against accusations of bias, a lack of supporting evidence, or incompleteness. Developing critical thinking skills will enable students to develop compelling arguments of their own.
How to incorporate critical thinking in the classroom?
There are various approaches to incorporating critical thinking into the classroom, but the following elements are universal:
- Determine the question or what you want to know
- Investigate using dependable sources of information
- Apply the knowledge gained through investigation to the original query
- Analyze and, if necessary, conduct further research
- Draw inferences, set priorities, and make judgments
- Take action and design a plan to make choices relevant to the initial question