When we leave our lessons in frustration and throw up our arms saying, ‘They have no opinions on anything’, perhaps we should ask ourselves two questions:
1 Do our students have the language they need to express their opinions and better still to support those opinions with evidence?
2 Perhaps they have CT skills but is it normal in their culture to express that thought in the classroom setting?
In her book Critical Thinking (Trotman Publishing) the author Debra Hills suggests that we need to begin by developing a student’s critical mindset before launching into lots of critical thinking tasks. She also highlights the need to make sure that all students are familiar with what is meant by critical thinking. She gives students a task in the book to help with this. Her activity isn’t written with language learners in mind, so I’ve adapted it here for the ELT/EAP classroom:
1 Write a statement or discussion topic on the board which requires an opinion such as:
“Sites like Facebook are reducing young people’s ability to concentrate and think.”
Ask students to think about what their response to the statement is.
2 Now gives students this list of possible responses. Ask them which response most closely resembles their own in 1:
1 I’m not interested in this topic.
2 I agree. It’s true.
3 I disagree. It’s false.
4 I’m not sure.
5 I agree up to a point but I also disagree.
6 I agree / disagree because…
7 I agree / disagree for a number of reasons but I’d also like more evidence.
3 Now give them this list and they read what their response means:
1 You don’t need to be interested but have an opinion.
2 and 3 You have a strong opinion but can you give reasons for your opinion?
4 and 5 This is a safe response but critical thinkers also need to be active in the discussion.
6 Good. You have a reason for your opinion.
7 Great! You have reasons for your opinion and you want more information.
I think this a good warmer exercise to help students who need CT skills for their EAP studies or even for general English students who need to develop the ability to research texts and give opinions. In particular, the list of seven responses is a useful ways to introduce the language of discussion and the interpretation of their response that follows is a simple way to develop a working – and accessible – definition of CT.
Categories: Critical thinking