There’s No Excuse for Not Teaching Critical Thinking

It was an engineer at Lockheed Skunkworks who coined the design principal of “Keep it simple, stupid.” His belief that complexity should be avoided, and that simplicity should always be the goal, has become a time-tested principle in design, business, and other endeavors.

Education, it seems, often ignores this concept. From elaborate teaching frameworks that emphasize complicated hand signals to complex policies and programs that grow into “Bermuda Triangles,” education often feels a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine.

This over complexity is evident when it comes to teaching young people how to think critically (if they’re taught this at all). Entire books and courses have been developed on the topic. I’ve long thought this was the wrong approach, and that we should strive to “keep it simple.”

Recently, the Reboot Foundation collaborated with researchers from Indiana University to test this theory to determine whether critical thinking skills can be developed through simple, quick classroom techniques and exercises. The results were, in the words of the lead researcher, “really spectacular.”

The research found that educators and others can support and hone their students’ critical thinking skills using a simple method – small amounts of critical thinking practice, employing basic exercises like multiple choice quizzes and analogies. The best part is that this method is easy to implement by virtually any teacher and can be used across diverse groups of students.

And it works.

When compared against a control group, the students who engaged in these critical thinking exercises scored three times higher than the control group on an open-ended critical thinking test.

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