It is strange that we expect students to learn, yet seldom teach them anything about learning. ― Donald Norman
Education consists of two things, subject matter and evaluation of subject matter. As far as the subject matter or content is concerned, it is properly transferred from teachers to the students. But, when it comes to evaluation of the subject matter by students, it seems like a difficult process, mainly because they lack basic critical thinking skills.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the correct way of thinking in order to attain relevant as well as reliable knowledge of our surroundings. This strategic thinking, based on reasoning, is focused on helping an individual decide what to believe and what to do. It helps the individual question, gather necessary and relevant information, reason, and come to a reliable conclusion. We don't possess these skills right from our birth, nor do we develop them more than basic day-to-day survival thinking. These skills need to be thought by the parents and teachers.
Recognize, Recall and Classify
When children learn, it's important that they have fun. In this way, they take more interest in things which they are learning. One has to tap this aspect of teaching children to inculcate critical thinking skills in them. Encourage them to apply the knowledge that they gain in practical activities. Critical thinking exercises for children include activities which would make them recognize things, recall them, and classify them. For instance, give them a story to read and ask them to follow-up by explaining the logical connection between events in the story.
Quizzes, puzzles, debates, and problem solving exercises can make them think strategically, and hence, should be encouraged. These exercises can help them master memory techniques, thus inculcating life skills in them at a very young age. It is important that the person who is teaching critical thinking to the children himself believes in it and applies it to the questions he asks children.
Just grasping the subject matter is not at all useful, they should learn to apply the knowledge that they gain in various walks of life. Subjects like mathematics and science are based on logic. If they are not practically applied, then there is no use learning them. At times, even doctors, who can boast of sound educational background, resort to help from the supernatural. This in itself shows that science and maths are immaterial, if not used properly. These skills don't just make children smart, but also help them when it comes to decision making. They help them reach the root cause of the problem in order to eliminate it completely, instead of finding a temporary solution for it.
Sans critical thinking, the world will no doubt drown in the sea of gullibility, and hence, it is important that the same is inculcated right from childhood. As we grow, we tend to memorize, but we are not comfortable with the adapting part. In our childhood, we are eager to learn as well as adapt. We as parents and teachers should make full use of this and thrive to inculcate the habit of critical thinking in budding minds.