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Climbing the Ladder to Critical Thinking Success!

Research Team: Haley Berggren, Dana Bonsack, Allison Scher

Westmont College 2014

This study examines the level and type of questions and tasks teachers ask of students in terms of
critical thinking.

Research Review:
Our research promotes information that encourages critical thinking, and displays how essential it is for
students to posses.
The main point of critical thinking is to help students think more productively and clearly
Benefits in life and in school include:
Increase in students metacognitive abilities
That real life, whether that be college or career, requires higher order thinking skills
Teach critical thinking skills explicitly to students and model thinking processes
Look to students background knowledge as it is essential for critical thinking to occur
Learn about your students and their abilities and ask critical thinking questions at every grade level
Embed critical thinking questions in curriculum to allow flow
Consistently ask for clarity, details, depth, and precision (becomes more natural)
Ask open-ended questions, and guided questions to allow students to think through ideas
Questions should not only be asked in all subject areas, but should span across all areas
Give students choice to increase interest
Provide a safe classroom environment to foster inquiry
Make things visual for students to see their thinking

Data was collected from 14 credential students observing various classroom environments at seven different
schools. Observations were 30 minutes long and credential students recorded all questions and tasks the
teacher asked of the students. After the observation, credential students coded each question according to the
Rigor and Relevance Framework and Blooms Taxonomy.

Research Results:

What we have found from researching critical thinking in the classroom and looking at the data collected is
that it is important for teachers to believe that their students can critically think and have high expectations
for their students when asking them questions.
In order to engage students in effective critical thinking, the teacher must:
Intentionally Plan
Critical thinking should be introduced at all grade levels. Make sure to start by asking questions that tap
into students basic knowledge before moving on to questions that promote a higher and more rigorous
level of thinking.
When planning out questions to ask during the lesson, teachers should structure their questions so that
they are relevant to students. Asking questions that are relevant will not only enhance class discussion but
also help promote students to engage in thinking critically about the questions asked.
Intentionally ask open ended questions
By asking open ended questions, students will be pushed to come up with multiple answers to a question.
This also allows multiple viewpoints to be shared during conversation and encourages students to ask
further questions to prompt discussion.
Intentionally design tasks where students use their critical thinking skills
When a teacher constructs a task where there is more than one possible solution, students have to figure
out how they will find the solution through asking questions that will help them find a way to complete
the task.

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