Teaching Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is interwoven into all areas of Hudson’s curriculum, but why does it matter and how do we teach it?

Critical thinking skills are defined as the ability to think rationally and independently, to understand the connection between ideas, and to see ideas from different perspectives. The ability to think critically is essential in the global knowledge economy, which increasingly demands that participants analyze information and integrate different sources of knowledge in problem-solving. 

According to L. Edler and R. Paul, authors of Critical Thinking Development: A Stage Theory, critical thinking skills enable students to make connections across disciplines and understand content on a “deeper, more lasting level.” Students who can think critically do better academically and in careers. Critical thinkers consider, evaluate and incorporate other’s ideas into innovative solutions and therefore make exceptional leaders.

At Hudson, we recognize the importance of critical thinking skills, and teachers intentionally focus their curriculum on developing these skills in their students. Units of study in language, media, science and social studies often begin with provocative questions that ignite an interest in the topic to be studied. Curriculum topics are embedded in social justice issues, historical contexts, political and economic theories. 

For example, prior to reading the novel Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Grade 4 students learn about the Great Depression in the United States. They discuss hunger, joblessness and other events that occurred in the 1930s related to issues of civil rights. As the students progress through their novel study, teachers explicitly model, guide and encourage the connection of ideas in the novel that relate to class discussions.

In Grade 6, students review and discuss social attitudes and fears towards an increasingly technological society in the 1950s and 60s. Group discussions help students understand Ray Bradbury’s stories “The Marionette” (published in 1949) and “The Veldt” (1950) on a deeper level. As students read, they respond to the question, “Is there an increasing loss of human relationships as we become increasingly more dependent on technology?”

Our teachers believe the ability to think critically underlines social change for the better. Grade 8 students engage in critical thinking skills when they deconstruct popular advertisements to reveal subtle and hidden messages that sustain systemic discriminatory practices in society. Using this information, the students create media pieces that promote greater acceptance of diversity.

Critical thinking skills are practiced as students and their teachers, discuss, evaluate, and consider ideas from a variety of primary and secondary sources. Students are encouraged to make connections and to share innovative ideas that come from those discussions. This everyday, integrated practice ensures that students engage at the highest level of critical thinking. They are encouraged to reflect upon their own understandings and ideas, and these reflective processes in turn help students learn to see their own ideas as perspectives that can also be subjected to critical review.

– Rose Bastien, Lower School Principal and Head of Curriculum

Lower School

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