Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Students – 11 Strategies from September’s #suptchat Tweet-Up

Shonagh MacRae

Twitter is the best professional development tool available. Allows for autonomous and anytime learning.

I use Twitter for a variety of reasons, including sharing resources with colleagues.

– Two top rated thoughts valued by 23 district administrators at ThoughtExchange’s Building Trust Online Leadership Event (Read full results)

On the first Wednesday of every month at 7:00pm CT, a group of engaged and forward thinking superintendents gather around the Twitter hashtag #suptchat to share ideas and strategies for improving education.

The focus of September’s conversation was the 4 C’s or critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. 8 questions were tweeted out over the course of the hour. In today’s post we are looking at:

Q6. Give examples of authentic tasks your students engage in so that they can develop critical thinking skills.

Developing critical thinking in students is a hot topic in education and a thorny issue in an era of high stakes testing and accountability. In answering this question, education leaders across North America offered concrete strategies to develop critical thinking skills in students.

Here are 11 strategies that approach critical thinking from 4 different directions:

Connect Student with Future Careers

@drjcotton Working in teams to develop PR campaign for community sports complex! Presented to staff for implementation!

@rsquiercacsd We have begun a student tech help desk. Already helping Ts prepare prior to Ss arriving.

@npolyak Leyden students use 3D printer to design prosthetic hands for kids

@val_green High Tech High uses real work math tasks w critical thinking

Engage Students in Creating History

@suptgilmore Create oral history books with real people who lived through the Holocaust, Vietnam war and civil rights

@drjcotton Creating an interactive website on early man for the local natural history museum. The best was added to actual museum site!

Help Students Develop Design Thinking

@pammoran Prototyping as a process of both creative and critical thinking

@Carrie_Kamm @OakPark97 MS design program engages Ss in critical thinking/design challenges

Immerse Students in a Challenge

@jonbartelt Cleaning a stream with local Rotary then debriefing on the importance of preserving the environment and local community

@mikelubelfeld Reality Life simulations – experience real life decision making and options – STEM & Communication Media Arts

@val_green Radix Endeavor by MIT is applied STEM in gaming – very cool

All of these strategies center around considering multiple perspectives and solutions – the foundation on which more complex critical thinking skills can then be built.

At ThoughtExchange, our group conversations expose a wide range of perspectives and opinions. Getting students together to design and facilitate a community or school process not only pushes them to think about the opinions of others, but also encourages teamwork and engages them in real world problems and solutions. How could a student driven process enrich the conversation in your community? How could it help students understand the education system and inspire them to engage with the policies and initiatives that shape it?

Watch this space for things to consider and challenges to overcome in designing a student-led ThoughtExchange process.

About #suptchat
The chat is co-moderated by Mike Lubelfeld, Ed.D. (@mikelubelfeld) and Nick Polyak, Ed.D. (@npolyak) both Superintendents and engaged digital collaborators. This week’s guest moderator was  Valerie Greenhill (@val_green), Chief Learning Officer of EdLeader21. Read this month’s #suptchat.

About the Author

Shonagh MacRae

Shonagh is our Director of Discover and describes herself as continually curious about people. This curiosity led her to a Master’s in Organizational Psychology where she learned a whole lot about how humans interact in groups and how to support them. Shonagh has also spent a lot of time in her community supporting at-risk populations. This work further honed her ability to connect with a broad range of personalities. When she’s not working with ThoughtExchange, Shonagh is most often found out in the garden with her hands in the soil.