Do you have children of school age, and currently looking for a school to enrol them? As parents, there are a multitude of factors which need to be considered when searching for a school suitable for your child’s educational needs. Selecting the appropriate school for your children is essential as the role of your chosen institution will be to nurture and guide your child in their developing years with the skills they need in adult life.
According to experts, some of the skills children should develop early in life are critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which help them form a structured base for decisions they’ll make in their working and personal life. Critical thinking is in problem-solving, creating strategic plans, and understanding the effects of your actions. This article discusses the various critical thinking and problem-solving skills students need to develop and help you find the right school to cultivate these skills into your children from an early age.
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What Are Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills?
According to Music First Hand, Founder and Chief Executive Officer Kris Potrafka, people who lack critical thinking skills have reduced promotion opportunities and are more susceptible to manipulation and fraud. And, it’s for this very reason, employers value employees highly with problem-solving skills; these essential traits greatly impact employers during the selection process when hiring candidates.
Critical thinking is the mental process of conceptualising, analysing, evaluating, and applying the information to guide one’s action and belief. Information obtained from observation, reflection, experience, learning, communication, and reasoning become the cornerstone of the decisions we make.
Problem-solving, meanwhile, is the process of defining a problem, finding its cause, developing or finding a solution, and applying the solution to solve it. Excellent problem-solving skills are essential tools for career advancement.
Critical Thinking Skills Students Should Develop
Significant responsibility is placed on schools for developing characteristics in students which prepare them for their working roles, the decisions they make and how they interact with the community. But, what exactly are the benefits of critical thinking? How does critical thinking serve as a safety net from making poor decisions, and what are the essentials elements which make up the critical thinking process?
Below, we summarised the essential elements which help all individual’s draw conclusions, make decisions and take decisive action at the right time, let’s look at those now;
- Research – The ability to independently conduct research and verify issues or subjects and analyse arguments from different parties. A critical thinker sources information and determines its validity or factualness based on thorough investigation rather than what they are told to believe.
- Identification –Determine the issue and formulate an understanding of the factors which may affect it. Having a clear picture of the problem allows the critical thinker to take the right approach in resolving it or make determinations on a course of action. Students should learn how to conduct a mental inventory of any new question, scenario, or situation.
- Inference – To develop their critical thinking skills, students should learn how to infer or make an educated guess based on the collected information. In analysing the available data, students should take the initiative to collect other related information to make better conclusions about an issue, situation, or scenario.
- Bias identification – The ability to recognise biases is essential in the critical thinking process. As critical thinkers, students should learn the best ways to assess information objectively. They should take into account the biases of the opposing arguments in their evaluation of the presented claims or information.
- Curiosity – Students should be taught not to accept everything presented to them at face value. To develop their interest productively, they should learn how to ask open-ended questions about the things they observe around them.
- Relevancy determination – In critical thinking, students should learn how to determine the relevant information they need to resolve an issue. To do this, they should evaluate their end goal and rank the collected data based on their relevance to the objective or problem.
What Are the Barriers to Critical Thinking Development in Students?
In teaching critical thinking skills to students, teachers must determine the challenges and barriers that impede their progress. By identifying these barriers, teachers can develop strategies to overcome them. Here are some common educational roadblocks and how to avoid them:
- Intolerance and Arrogance – Certain behavioural traits often prevent critical thinking, compelling some to react carelessly to specific situations and impact on their ability to solve problems. To eliminate intolerance and arrogance, teachers should encourage students to question their way of thinking.
- Personal Biases – Students of all ages should be mindful to avoid biases which can block their ability to reason, inquisitively, and with an open mind. Educators are encouraged to motivate students to develop logical thinking through homework examples to help them question methods and help eliminate biases.
- Schedule Issues – Time constraints and teacher workload often limit learning opportunities to develop critical thinking skills amongst students. Teachers are asked to prioritise the creation of essential lessons of thinking and develop methods to model thinking behaviours which enhance the critical thinking skills of their students.
- Drone Mentality – Young students usually have a drone mentality, in which they have no interest in what is going on around them. Routinary activities in the classroom can lead to this type of attitude and limit the development of critical thinking skills. To eliminate drone mentality, teachers should place increased focus on developing creative teaching strategies to spark and maintain student interest.
- Groupthink – An understanding of groupthink and the barrier it represents to the critical thinking process, especially when encouraged from a young age. To break this way of thinking, the student should learn how to become independent. Students should be encouraged to question popular beliefs, thoughts, and opinions.
Educators can help eliminate a groupthink perspective in their students by introducing teaching methods which encourage independent thinking. Students can learn how to develop individual thought and critical thinking through constructive arguments and debating activities.
- Social Conditioning – Social conditioning is developed through stereotyping and unwanted assumptions. Students are vulnerable to social conditioning, as their critical thinking skills are not yet fully developed. Teaching them to think outside the box at an early age will allow them to avoid social conditioning. Educators should also teach their learners accuracy, fair-mindedness, and clarity in their thinking pattern.
- Egocentrism – Egocentric thinking is more noticeable in young students as they are curious about themselves and where could they fit in. In egocentric behaviour, individuals have the natural inclination to view all things about themselves. This type of response prevents the development of different perspectives and sympathy for others.
To eliminate egocentric behaviour, teachers should encourage critical thinking activities in the classroom. The educators should assist students in improving their abstract thinking by highlighting the attitudes and opinions of others in social conflict examples. The teachers should develop empathy and understanding of student views and their opinions of others.
Problem-Solving Skills That Are Essential to Students
In teaching students how to develop their problem-solving skills, teachers should use the theories linked to the psychology of learning. The use of psychology may rouse the curiosity and motivation of students in the learning process. The Australian Christian College also recently discussed the importance of critical thinking in a recent article, a worthwhile read. Here are some of the problem-solving skills students should develop inside and outside the classroom:
- Analysis – In problem-solving, the first step is to analyse the issue to formulate possible solutions or strategies to resolve it. Teachers should introduce lessons or methods of teaching aimed at nurturing the analytical skills of their students. An example is the cause and effect analysis.
- Communication – Students should learn ways to communicate effectively to solve problems or issues successfully. Excellent communication is particularly essential if they are working with a team or an organisation. With proper communication, they can avoid confusion and misunderstandings. They will also learn how to determine the most appropriate communication channels when they need assistance.
- Active listening – Listening skills are essential components of problem-solving. Through active listening, students can fully understand the problem or issue and respond accordingly. How well they grasp the problem will enable them to ask the right questions and allow them to have a clearer picture of the situation. Active listening will result in the development of better solutions.
- Teamwork – In solving problems in an organisation or team, the camaraderie and rapport among team members are essential. Therefore, students should learn how to work independently and with their peers. Teachers should use team-building practices to allow their students to establish trust and better relationships among each other.
- Research – Like in critical thinking, research skills are essential in problem-solving. Students should be able to analyse a problem’s cause and the factors involved to be able to solve it. In gathering facts and other data, they can conduct independent research, brainstorm with their team members, and consult with their teachers.
- Decision making – As a problem solver, students should learn how to determine the most effective solutions to an issue. In the decision-making process, they should use the data obtained from their research and analysis. In a group setting, they should also learn how to reach a consensus during the decision-making process.
- Creativity – Students should nurture their creativity in finding solutions to issues. Creative problem solving allows students to find fresh ideas and develop disruptive solutions to problems. Creativity leads to the development of new products, technologies, and processes.
- Dependability – Creating solutions on time is essential in any organisation. Therefore, students should strive to become dependable by completing their tasks and homework on time. Students who demonstrate dependability are highly regarded by employers.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right School for Your Kids
Academic achievements aside, one primary consideration for most parents is the development of your child’s character, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Several other factors need also will weigh into your decision making, they are;
- Academic programs – Choosea school with curricula and services based on a holistic approach to education. Its missions and objectives should include introducing programs aimed at developing the integrity, compassion, resiliency, and critical thinking skills of its students.
- Educational cost – To make sure you can shoulder the expenses of your kids, enrol them in schools that fit your budget. Take into consideration the financial assistance the school may offer in your decision. You may also apply your children for scholarships, if available.
- School size – The number of students in a class may affect the learning process of your children. If you can afford it, you may enrol your students in a school with smaller classes to maximise the learning potential of your kids.
- Location – Before looking for a school, determine whether you can afford to send your kids to faraway places to study. It is practical to enrol your kids in schools near you to save on transportation costs, gas, or boarding fees.
- Reputation – A school with a reputation for quality education is preferable for your kids. Consider enrolling them in reputable schools to maximise their learning opportunities.
- Extracurricular or special activities – Out-of-class activities are essential factors in developing the character and personality of your kids. Find schools with proactive extracurricular offerings.
- Retention and graduation rates – Before enrolling your kids in a school, research on its retention and graduation rates as they are indicators of its quality. If possible, avoid schools with high transfer rates and low graduation rates as they indicate poor quality.
- School safety – The safety of your children should be one of the primary considerations in your choice of school. Research on a school’s crime statistics and determine its strategies in place to ensure student safety before enrolling your children.
Critical thinking and problem-solving are essential traits in the development of all children. As parents, actively encouraging your children to engage in discussion about current world events, problems or issues which they are passionate about, whether they be at home, school or amongst friends. The skills they learn today greatly aids in them in making the right life choices, while increasing their perceived value within the community and to future employers.