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  • Writer's pictureyabebal fantaye

On Critical Thinking

Updated: Nov 23, 2019

Image Credit: Carla Von Münchow

Identify problems carefully

We need the problems to be exciting and relatable. Challenges that the student has no interest in solving it or learn more detail about it may not provide the right context and environment for demonstrating the techniques of critical thinking. That being said, even if a problem has no relevance in practical sense, like games, as long as students are interested in it, it will work. Some techniques to identify problems

  • Think of the time you were in the same level as the students you are going to meet. What would you have liked to learn? What would you have liked someone not your teacher explain to you or make you understand?

  • Prepare the topics you would like to communicate well, but allow the flow to be guided by the students interaction and interest.

  • Think of the students environment, and learn what is available in their environment. Relate the objects and challenges they relate to in your critical thinking exposition.

  • Even if none of the above is possible, understand the key elements of the challenge you want to use for CT demonstrating, and spend a good time in advance motivating the students to see your views - why the challenge is interesting.

Apply critical thinking

A project on stimulating critical thinking will be a joke if it doesn’t apply critical thinking on the project design and setup. What does that mean? It means the project owner must reflect critically on all the relevant questions of the project

  • why this project? why not something else?

  • what are the key elements of the project? what can be left out without fundamentally altering the nature of the project?

  • who is the audience?

  • is the implicit or explicit assumption about the audience's skill and technical capacity justifiable?

  • what is the single most important concept underpinning the project?

  • is the time set for the project matches the complexity of the project?

  • what outcomes are expected?

  • what metric can be used to measure if the project achieves its desired outcome?

Strategies a critical thinking mode

Once the problem is well identified, and passed through a critical reflection process, it is time to think about available strategies that help guide students into critical thinking mode. There are a number of strategies one can adopt at this stage.

The Astrobus-Ethiopia project planning guideline outlines a general framework build on three pillars - abstraction through mental space transformation, composition of abstract elements through critical thinking, and acquiring multiple interpretations for a rich perception. This framework, however, does not provide detailed strategies on how to achieve that.

Here are a few suggestions. More detailed information that we recommend can be found here.

Pause a question that promotes exposing pre-preception ideas and reasoning; analysis, synthesis, evaluation capacity; and enquiry think

  • what do you see/know/think?

  • what is it made of?

  • what does it do?

  • how is made?

Wait for enough time! This is very important. Students may not start thinking about the questions paused for some time. In our past experience in environments like Astrobus students may take unto 5mins to start considering the questions asked. To accelerate the students involvement, pause the questions together with a hint or example.

Provide feedback on the possible solutions proposed by students, and ask back for improvement.

Use the six thinking hat formalism:

WHITE Hat: calls for information known or needed

YELLOW Hat: symbolises brightness and optimism. Calls for educated guess

BLACK Hat: the devil’s advocate or why something may not work, risk assessment and caution.

RED Hat: signifies feelings, intuition, hunches, and emotion – gut feelings.

GREEN Hat: focuses on creativity, the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas, growth, energy, hypothesis building

BLUE Hat: used to manage the thinking process (metacognition).This is the overview or process control hat

Use the SCAMPER formalism to facilitate flexible thinking

Substitute: Substitute one aspect of your product/process What else instead?

Combine: Combine two or more parts with something else

Adapt: Adapt or alter one aspect. What else is like this? What other idea does this suggest?

Modify (distort or) Magnify: Change part/all of the current situation. Order, form, shape? What to add? More time?

Put to other purpose: How could you put your current item/process to another use? What else could I use this for?

Eliminate: Delete one aspect. What would happen if I got rid of something?

Reverse: Reverse one thing. What if I did it the other way round? What if I reverse the order it is done or the way it is used?

Further Reading

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Project planning guideline

Mission Stimulating a culture of critical thinking to realise a society that is competent in a modern world. Basic Principles for all Projects The many activities organised under the Astrobus-Ethiopia


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