Updated: Mar 26, 2020
Children of today, in order to cope with the challenges that lay ahead of them, need to be taught the importance of critical thinking in the long term. Brian Oshiro, a renowned educationist and teacher trainer, says that for every child, inculcating critical thinking is important. We need to find concrete means to help a child develop critical thinking skills. This can be done by asking 4 simple questions.
Oshiro says that while teaching code, or learning to speak new languages or even learning to play a sport are definitely going to create some impact, it’s not enough. If people want their child to develop a flexible mind which can readily absorb new information and solve complex problems, they must be taught the importance of critical thinking.
Doing this in some way, prepares them for adult life, where according to him, the challenges faced by people both on the professional and personal front are totally different to what’s taught in a traditional class or is the curriculum in a test.
As per Oshiro, we need to give children an opportunity to find their way to solve through much more pertinent questions, which don’t necessarily have only one correct answer. In real life, this is the kind of challenge they face outside the four walls of a classroom.
To achieve this, he adds that we can encourage children to apply critical analysis skills against any challenge in life, which can be done by encouraging them to ask questions. Oshiro has laid down the four major yet simple questions below:
1) ‘What, How and Why’?
Oshiro uses the example of climate change to explain the above point. He says that when teachers ask their students questions like - “what is the primary reason for economic slowdown?”, it has multiple flaws as it can be easily answered via a quick online search. Being able to find solutions, without really digging in-depth, provides them with a false sense of security and knowledge, since most knowledge is superficial.
While at home, kids should be prompted to answer questions like - “How does an economy solve a crisis like an economic slowdown?” and “Why should we be prepared for it?”
Answering such questions will allow them to think over their answers from a different angle altogether and inculcate much valued analysis skills.
2) Add the ‘how’ angle to your question
To follow up on the previous question, Oshiro says that the children would be required to provide some sort of evidence to support their answers and also be able to defend it in a logical debate. This will help them double-check the resources and see the topic/question with a more well-rounded view, rather than just gaining a superficial, surface view of the topic at hand.
3) Teaching to think how perspective differs from person-to-person
Asking questions like “how does a pandemic affect economic growth?” or “how can people from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh solve the problem of job cuts due to economic growth” will prompt kids to develop empathy and to know how their own perspectives on a topic or question might differ from those of the citizens of a particular state in India, and also about the priorities and concerns of other people, which is essential to become a creative problem-solver.
4) Finally, ask them how they’re going to solve the problem?
Lastly, rather than asking them about how they could improve upon economic slowdown as an entire concept, ask them how we can address and solve a particular cause of economic slowdown, one step at a time.
Answering it, will require kids to synthesize their knowledge and encourage them to come up with a variety of approaches to answer the question or address the problem, be it a political, scientific or financial solution.
This approach works wonders and can be started at any point of time with children, doesn’t require you to be an expert in a topic. Rather, it is focused on teaching your kids to think critically. The role of parents and teachers in such a scenario is to direct the child’s inquisitiveness in the right direction, listen to them and then offer solutions after they have explored the concept themselves.
According to Oshiro, this activity provides them a great way to consolidate their knowledge about a subject or problem statement in life. Critical thinking is a continuous process, and it must be adopted across the age groups, be it the children or even adults.