What is Critical Thinking?

Written by Darla Milford, Instructional Coach after Action Research on Critical Thinking
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical Thinking defined by Alberta Education involves using reasoning and criteria to conceptualize
and evaluate or synthesize ideas. Students reflect on their thinking to improve it, they challenge
assumptions behind thoughts, beliefs or actions. Students value honesty, fairness, and open
According to Alberta Education, “Students are the artists, scientists, thinkers, innovators and leaders
of the future. They will be tasked with solving the problems of today, while imagining and creating
a new tomorrow. Critical thinking is foundational for equipping students with the knowledge, skills
and attitudes that they will need to successfully navigate their personal journeys in learning, living
and working “Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013).”
Why Critical Thinking?History helps us to answer questions about the past. It helps us to see how some things have stayed
the same and how some things have changed. Schools have changed drastically in their approach
and pedagogy. Using critical thinking as a platform for digging deeper in order to transfer learning
is one of these ways. Teachers and educators have been tasked with finding ways to excite and
engage students in their learning, as well as giving them the necessary skills and abilities to function
in an ever changing world. To be a critical thinker means to have the ability to reason, evaluate and
synthesize the ideas around you. So, how as educators do we go about doing this?
How as educators do we go about doing this? What resources are available?
There are many resources available for educators to create tasks which are intellectually engaging and embed critical thinking. Below is a comprehensive list of some of the resources we use at Foothills School Division:

  • Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison Making Thinking Visible Resource – how to promote engagement, understanding and independence for ALL learners
  • Online purchase http://amzn.to/2oL4eyC

Thinking routines form the core of the Visible Thinking program. These routines work to promote the development of students’ thinking and the classroom culture. Examples of some routines used in FSD include:

  • Think Puzzle Explore
  • See Think Wonder
  • CSI – Color, Symbol, Image
  • I Used to Think But Now I Think
  • Compass Points
  • What Makes You Say That

And many, many more!
Making Thinking Visible – online resource of graphic organizers and explanations http://bit.ly/VTRFSD
Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the classrooms’ culture.
Alberta Assessment Consortium – https://aac.ab.ca/learn/big-ideas/To access this resource, you require a login for employees at Foothills School Division. Please contact your admin or Instructional Coach for details!
This new AAC resource has been ‘made for Alberta’. It is a practical resource that every system leader,
school leader and teacher can turn to for background information, answers to assessment questions,
and ideas for moving assessment practice forward in classrooms, schools and jurisdictions.
TC2 – The Critical Thinking Consortium -https://tc2.ca/Again, as above, to access this resource, you require a login for employees at Foothills School
Division. Please contact your admin or Instructional Coach for details! The Consortium’s aim
is to work in sound, sustained ways with educators and related organizations to inspire, support
and advocate for the use of critical, creative and collaborative thinking as an educational goal and
as a method of teaching and learning.

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