+ Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to LD Students

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From an article in LDA Newsbriefs by Dr Johnny L  Good, Ed.D., excellent tips for teaching critical thinking skills to learning disabled students.

We all agree that one of the main goals of education is to teach students to think critically.  Students with learning disabilities, as well as other students, need to learn to assimilate information by engaging in higher order thinking skills.

But like learning any skill, it takes practice and training.

It is not enough to learn about critical thinking.  Students must engage in critical thinking itself if they are to improve.

There is no “best” approach.  But research shows that a positive classroom climate characterized by high expectations, and teacher warmth and encouragement, enhance the learning of critical thinking.

  • Model critical thinking for your students.  Modeling is the most effective means in advancing students’ critical thinking.  The teacher should demonstrate the critical thinking process, and be an effective model for students to follow.  They should make their decision-making process transparent to students.  Demonstrate how good critical thinking skills can be used to solve everyday problems.
  • Ask open-ended questions that do not assume one “right” answer.  Ask questions that require explanations, not simply yes or no answers.  Allow ample opportunity to think through questions and not make snap judgements.  During classroom discussion require students to explain how they reasoned through to their answers.  Provide non-threatening responses to these explanations.  Allow students to explore and examine alternative positions on controversial topics, as well as to voice their opinions while participating in discussions.
  • Listen attentivelyAllow students to be active participants in the learning process; listen attentively and show respect for each student.  Acknowledge every response and provide a safe classroom environment.  Give encouragement and support.  Evaluate their progress by identifying strengths and weaknesses in their reasoning processes.
  • Make students aware of the component parts of critical thinking.   Dr Good advises teachers to reinforce something called the Elements of Reasoning, developed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking (www.criticalthinking.org).   The Paul/Elder Model of teaching critical thinking skills provides a practical and flexible approach that is applicable not only in the academic realm, but also in solving virtually any problem that requires effective reasoning.    This model seems particularly useful for assisting LD students in the development of critical thinking skills because the approach is easily defined and is applicable to a broad range of circumstances that require critical thinking.

Dr. Good suggests that teachers model each component of the Paul/Elder model individually, and help students identify how each component may be used in classroom activities and assignments.  Develop critical thinking exercises to show how the components fit together and reinforce each other.  Help students identify assumptions in their reasoning and recognize bias and inconsistencies in their thought processes.

source: LDA Newsbriefs, Dr Johnny L Good’s article in the January/February 2009 issue.  www.ldaamerica.org .  Dr Good is Professor of Critical Thinking at Beacon college, Florida.

 tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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