Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Road to PEP - Developing critical thinking

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrittany Singh Williams

Of the four C's that PEP students must demonstrate in order to excel - creativity, communication, critical thinking, collaboration - I like to think of critical thinking as the leader of the pack; we can't learn well without thinking well.

Critical thinking is the process of analysing, synthesising, conceptualising, applying, and/or evaluating information from various sources. It is the strategy we use to think in an organised way in order to understand and to solve problems.

The correlation between aptitude and critical thinking is unmistakable. Keen critical-thinking skills develops the capacity to achieve higher levels of concentration, deeper analytical abilities, and improved thought processing. In order to make sensible decisions, compare evidence, and evaluate competing claims, it is vital that our children become active, critical and divergent thinkers. The ever-evolving world demands our attention, and the constant barrage of information thrust at us requires that we become adept at sifting efficiently through material and making sense of it.

The National Standards Curriculum (NSC), through the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) assessment, challenges our children to look at problems in a new way, linking learning across subjects and disciplines.

If implemented correctly, this new curriculum has the capacity to spark divergent thinking. Have you ever noticed that if you give a young child a paper cup, they can find multiple ways to use it, while adults often generate a lesser response? Our ability to be creative thinkers often gets stifled or suppressed as we get older. It can be argued that this happens as a result of how we were taught - by rote education, which tends to suppress curiosity and creativity.

You may be wondering why is it necessary to develop your child's ability to think critically. The answer lies in developing a basic skill into a tool that will better prepare our children as they grow in today's world. They will be expected to come up with new ideas, projects, and innovations to make them stand out in the job market or as entrepreneurs and bring promotion up the career ladder. Critically thinking pushes our children to think beyond and outside of the predictable box.

There may be an argument that the rise of technology has limited the need for us to be critical thinkers. But, in fact, technology has only changed the platform of how we think.The more technology diminishes menial tasks such as memorisation, the more room is provided for us to spend time on more complex systems. In order to succeed in today's world, we have to remember that no matter how advanced technology becomes, it still requires a human element to predict infinite outcomes and instruct the programming of it.

So, how do you help your child exercise critical or divergent thinking?

 

Provide opportunities to play

 

Children discover how things work while they play - cause and effect. "If I flip my spoon this way, this happens." Hands-on discoveries lay the foundation for critical thought.

 

Pause and wait

 

While your child is trying to complete a problem or assignment, give them time to figure it out before intervening or answering. This gives them an opportunity to think, attempt a task, or generate a response. It also helps them to trust and stretch innate abilities.

 

Ask open-ended questions

 

This is a great way to stretch children's curiosity, reasoning ability, creativity and independence while gaining an understanding of what your child is thinking and feeling. A question like, "What colour is that block?" evokes a one-word answer. An open - ended question like, "Tell me about the blocks you are using," encourages children to use their language and process their emotions.

 

Help children develop hypotheses

 

Encourage dialogue. Take moments to talk about the 'why' or 'how', or what will happen next. For example, a great time to engage your child on developing a hypothesis is while reading or watching the news together. It challenges them to be current on local and international affairs while helping them to develop opinions and solutions on certain matters of interest.

Divergent thinkers are the innovators of the world. They think of the new, and they are constantly looking for ways to invent, enhance, beautify, humour or improve on the insufficient, incomplete, normal or mundane. Each has unique abilities to invent and to create. Critical thinking, along with the other future-ready skills, are talents we as parents can easily play an integral role in developing in our children as they ready for life beyond PEP.

- Brittany Singh Williams is the founder of SPARK Education Ltd and is a senior adviser to the minister of state in the ministry of education, youth and information. Website: www.spark-education.com or call 876.576.7756