How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Children

Are you looking for ways to develop critical skills in your students - or your children? Check out these 7 ways to get started right now!

If you are an educator or a parent wondering about how to develop critical thinking skills in your students, you have come to the right place.

We are living in a time of unprecedented transformation—which means that learning how to apply critical thinking to real-world problems is more important than ever.

Here are seven ways you can encourage and develop critical thinking skills in your students—and why it matters!

Why Critical Thinking Skills Matter

According to a recent report by Dell Technologies and the Institute of the Future, 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 do not exist today.

Today's students face a future propelled by rapidly evolving technology, along with complex global, social, and environmental issues.

The answers to their problems cannot be found in a textbookwhich means that developing their critical thinking skills is more important than ever.

Colleges and universities across the globe understand this, often using critical thinking as the number one skill they look for when evaluating their applicant pool.

Here’s how you can start developing your students’ critical thinking skills to ensure their success in the college application process and beyond!

How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Students

1. Give them more freedom.

Companies like Google offer their employees sizable chunks of time to work on their own personal projects.

There’s no reason the same approach can’t work for students as well.

Offering students a chance to design their own learning experience gives them a sense of ownership —which makes them engage with the problems in front of them much more deeply.

2. Encourage project-based learning.

Getting kids out of the classroom — into the real world — is crucial for helping them develop critical thinking skills.

Project-based learning is one of the best ways to critically and thoroughly examine real-world problems and outcomes.

Plus, seeing a real-world “why” behind what they are learning offers the students’ an additional incentive to engage more deeply with the material.

3. Encourage collaboration.

Give your students a chance to collaborate with others, both inside and outside the classroom.

Reach out to local community members, organize regular community events to help students engage with the world outside of the classroom. 

Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of collaboration by involving your students in healthy debates.

Such practices will teach them to spot weaknesses in other’s arguments and improve their own.

4. Ask open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions require more attention and thought than close-ended questions.

Since students can't answer them with a simple "yes" or "no", they have to consider the context of the question and come up with a well-organized answer — especially because they may be asked follow-up questions.

Whenever possible, try to ask open-ended “why” and “how” questions in lieu of the more simple “yes/no” questions.

5. Consider the 6D approach.

The 6D Solution Fluency approach, popularized by the Global Digital Citizen Foundationis a handy way of working through any problem — big or small.

It employs a cyclical approach to problem-solving which has students revisiting and revising their ideas every step of the way.

It can be helpful to familiarize your students with the 6Ds, which are:

  • Define the driving question

  • Discover all aspects of the problem

  • Dream and brainstorm possible approaches

  • Design the solution

  • Deliver the solution

  • Debrief and review

The Solution Fluency approach is often referred to as "what to do when you don't know what to do" — which will be the case for many problems your students will face in today's rapidly changing world.

If your child or student knows how to tackle problems using the 6D approach, they will be well on their way to mastering real-world critical thinking.

6. Teach nonlinear approaches to problem-solving.

Nonlinear problem-solving approaches, such as Design Thinking, allow students to expand their viewpoint by generating an endless stream of ideas and possibilities.

The ongoing cycle of revisitation and revision encourages students to view each problem they encounter from every possible angle.

If practiced enough, approaching problems in a nonlinear way becomes second-nature and significantly aids the development of your students' critical thinking abilities.

7. Let them make a mess.

Critical thinking relies on resiliency — the ability to get up after a failure, examine the situation, and learn from your mistakes.

If you want to develop your child’s critical thinking skills, let them make a mess!

Then let them figure out how to clean it up — and how to do better next time.

How an Entrepreneurship Program Can Help

Participating in an entrepreneurship-focused program at school can help students develop real-life skills while offering a superior college preparatory experience.

Entrepreneurship programs focus on developing important critical thinking skills that prepare children for life after school — as well as for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

In entrepreneurship-focused programs, the students are taught to understand the product development cycle, develop their own unique business proposals, and deliver multiple pitch presentations.

Students learn to be resilient, empathic, and inquisitive problem solvers, ready to create their own futures and change the world.

Why Choose Marlborough

The Marlborough Entrepreneurship program was created with young girls — our future leaders and innovators in mind.

Willingness to take risks - and learn from their failures

Our program encourages students to carefully weigh the pros and cons of their ideas — but never to a point of decision paralysis.

Being willing to try, fail, and then try again, is a cornerstone of our approach here at Marlborough.

Investment in learning

At Marlborough, learning is active and collaborative, students develop their leadership skills by solving real problems that don’t have answers found in a textbook. 

Our Entrepreneurship Program brings together students and faculty from across multiple disciplines to discover and learn in a space designed to enhance collaboration and experiential learning.

Making learning joyful

There’s nothing that inhibits the development of critical thinking skills more than a stressful, unhealthy learning environment.

Here at Marlborough, hard work is encouraged — but never at the expense of the students' health and well-being.

What’s Next?

Developing strong critical thinking skills will allow our students to innovate and lead in the rapidly changing world, while also providing them with them a superior learning experience.

Want to experience the Marlborough Entrepreneurship Program for yourself?

Get in touch now.


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