Using innovative teaching methods across the curriculum helps students develop critical and creative thinking skills. Stimulating the individual to think independently and make innovative connections provides a foundation for advanced academic work. Students who engage in critical and creative thinking are more likely to have positive self-esteem and be engaged in the classroom experience. This makes learning fun and motivates ongoing interest in school subjects.
Providing varied types of activities to stimulate learning enhances critical and creative thinking. For example, ask students to read about a new subject and work as a group to create a physical model that represents the concept. Working together enhances the creative process and stimulates critical thinking. Similarly, introduce a subject with differing perspectives. Split students into teams and ask them to debate the topic. This process promotes critical thinking and encourages application of varied opinions. Finally, use a game show format similar to Family Feud to engage students in a team-based competition. Base the questions on class topics and have teams of students serve as contestants. Combining critical thinking and creativity when learning new curriculum prompts the questioning process and deepens subject retention.
Challenge Classroom Norms
A traditional classroom encourages conformity to structure. For example, students typically use white, lined notebook paper and No. 2 pencils for assignments and taking notes. Challenging these variables allows the mind to think differently. Provide students with yellow paper and ask them to turn it horizontally. Instruct them to take notes on your lecture with colored pencils using all parts of the paper. Ask them to re-read their notes at the end of the lecture and make an outline that includes questions about what they learned. A new orientation for taking notes serves as a creative stimulus, and summarizing the main points engages your students in critical thinking.
Teaching methods that encourage students to think critically include a positive environment and enable varied viewpoints to be heard. Teaching students how to mindmap an idea as a group meets all of these requirements. Using a large sheet of paper, ask students to work in groups to brainstorm about a topic area. Using an assigned marker color, students add their ideas to the page simultaneously. After 20 minutes, ask each group to read all of the ideas and create an outline of the main points. Free-flow sharing bolsters creativity and synthesizing the results enhances critical thinking.
Teach Team Writing
Creative writing is an ideal vehicle for teaching creative and critical thinking. Without prescribed structure, invite students to write about an assigned subject. Form small groups and encourage a peer-review process. As students provide suggestions, the group engages in supportive dialogue that prompts critical thinking. Students return to their paper to refine and rewrite. The group process can be repeated to stimulate further revision.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.