In order to meet the content targets of the National Curriculum, teachers are under pressure to impart the knowledge needed to pass exams. Actually teaching children how to think critically becomes a lesser priority, the focus being continually on attainment.
Whether it’s solving problems in the workplace, evaluating evidence at university, or spotting fake news, critical thinking is a vital skill in day-to-day life. When we’re thinking critically, we’re asking questions, challenging assumptions, identifying biases, and developing innovative ideas.
Critical thinking is also a skill that enables students to reach the highest grades in their GCSEs, for example, helping them to transfer and apply knowledge to new problems in Maths, or to identify underlying meanings in texts for English. Year on year, our tutors observe that children fall short of being able to work autonomously and use their skills of analysis and independence to solve problems for themselves.
At VAKS tuition, we consistently see problems with students’ ability to think critically, including their problem-solving, inference, transfer of knowledge and evidence-based argumentation. We endeavour to develop critical thinking skills in students from the age of 4 to 16. As research has attested (Jones 2014; Dixson 1991), we find that our small-group learning approach gives us the best opportunity in which to engage the students. Challenging them to delve into texts and problems and to share, discuss and evaluate their ideas is what propels them as learners.
Dixson, Marcia D. (1991) Group Discussion and Individual Critical Thinking Processes: An Interactive Perspective. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Central States Communication Association (Chicago, IL, April 11-14, 1991). (Accessed on 21/11/2019 at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED336772.pdf).
Jones, Janelle M. (2014) Discussion Group Effectiveness is Related to Critical Thinking through Interest and Engagement. Psychology Learning and Teaching 13/1, 12-24.