Critical Thinking – Part 2

I hope today finds you all with the ability to reflect over the past week and recognize some “lightbulb moments” in your family’s life this week. It’s fun to look back and realize how in a tough situation the ability to formulate a decision was done and then to recognize that as a critical thinking moment is the awareness I am hoping to help you see!!

Another concept of critical thinking that I find fascinating, but definitely far more challenging to develop is the ability to put a thought pattern together while considering its effects on future choices. I think that ability is one that takes the longest for many folks to develop. The ability to slow down and consider what each possible choice’s outcome will be is the first step, but following it up with how each choice will affect future decisions is a much harder thing for us humans to wrap our brains around! For example, if in a moment of panic and worry about a math assignment a student opts to check their work using a calculator -( notice I said CHECKS their work, meaning they have put in the effort, but are confirming they did the work correctly). This is a positive and effective method to help a student combat anxiety regarding an assignment, and most of the time that’s as far as the thought pattern goes. However, the most important thing to consider is how this particular decision will truly affect the student at the time of the test on the subject. If the ability to check their work brings them a confidence boost and they are able to build their knowledge base on the topic then this decision is a great one. However, if they begin to rely on the “calculator checks” for assurance that they are doing things correctly, rather than beginning to develop a confident approach to their own abilities then this method will have a negative future outcome involving potential test anxiety, and even a chance at lower scores and lower confidence in the subject going forward.

This concept is often not considered by parents or students because it just isn’t as easily accessed in our critical thinking brains as solving an immediate problem is. We are often more focused on “in the moment” solutions than we are with future problem solving skills and abilities. That’s not unexpected. As mammals we are naturally pushed to our fight or flight mode when we are in a high anxiety and stress situation, and so building on that skill is more innate than considering the effects of the choice in the future. However, it is important to continually challenge our brain to develop new sets of skills, and in an effort to help you do that here are a couple questions to consider throughout this week to help with those problem solving skills.

What will this choice do for your ability in this area in the future? Will that be a positive or a negative? This is the beginning question to consider when the stress and anxiety of finally achieving a planned solution has been lifted. However, it is also the most challenging thing to implement because it requires a lack of action, and for a few minutes just a moment to think about the future implications of the choice.

Where do you think you will use what you just learned in the future? Again this is a good follow up to the previous question because it will help the student determine if this solution is viable in future situations – (i.e. will you have the ability to check your answers in the future on quizzes or tests using a calculator?) Hopefully what this will send into motion is a cascade of plans on how to best use the current solution to develop a better understanding of the topic.

This topic is not just something we need to instill in our students, but rather something that the majority of us still struggle with in some capacity every single day. Good luck!! Let me know how this week’s critical thinking challenges go for you!



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