Cultivating critical thinking

Megha Bajaj

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”—Albert Einstein

One of the traits of great minds and thinkers of all times is curiosity. Their minds explore possibilities and probabilities. This is also a defining trait of highly effective leaders. Every step of our lives deals with decision-making. And, it is not always about yes or no. There are maybes, ifs, and buts. If we have options, our minds need to be trained to think critically and choose the best one.

During their learning phase, students are equipped with different life skills which will help them to grow as individuals, not just academically, but also socially and often professionally. Our education system has changed over time to include these essential skills in some way or the other. Critical thinking is one area that needs to be more consciously inculcated into our progressive curriculum and used more often to encourage young minds to apply it in the right way.

From managing time to preparing for exams, from understanding concepts to delivering performance, everything has an element of critical thinking in it. Not all can be learned and imbibed from textbooks. It is the real-life application that matters more.

Critical thinking deals with assessing all the aspects and prospects of a situation and taking informed decisions. It is very important for students to inculcate this as an important life skill from an early age. It needs to be incorporated into the educational system and educators must be equipped to nurture this skill in students. I will come to How, but many curious minds will ask Why.

Critical thinking:

–        Helps in better decision-making and problem-solving.

–        Enhances creativity and innovation.

–        Helps students become active listeners.

–        Ramps up their research skills and domain knowledge expertise.

–        Stimulates curiosity.

–        Improves presentation and language skills.

–        Fosters life skills through reasoning.

The aim of education should be teaching students how to think and not what to think. And, simply put, critical thinking is all about that. As parents and educators, let’s find out how we can facilitate and integrate these in the classroom and otherwise too.

Urge them to ask questions: Whenever I interact with students, the first thing I tell them is – this is a safe space. You won’t be judged for asking questions. For being wrong. For expressing even the most bizarre of views. This helps them feel at ease in an otherwise judgmental world where each of us feels inhibited to be ourselves. Ask thoughtful questions during a lesson and encourage them to ask as well. 

Probe with questions like:

·        Would you give me an example?

·        Will you provide more details?

·        Could you be more specific?

Work in groups: Cooperative learning and teamwork not only exposes students to different thought processes but it expands their thinking abilities to know that a problem can be approached in various ways. Group projects are a great way to harness critical thinking and brainstorming. This also leads us to our next strategy.

Incorporate different viewpoints: Working with different viewpoints on the same topic gives them the flexibility to explore, listen, and express. They start understanding that there can be multiple solutions and they must choose what is the optimum one. Moreover, this enhances their active listening and concentration skills.

Connect ideas: Connecting the dots and relating to experiences has always helped us hone our skills. Whenever we start thinking if it has ever happened to us or to someone we know, it opens up a plethora of thoughts. This facilitates critical thinking in many ways.

For example: If the educator asks, “Do you take a bus to school every morning? What are the challenges you face? What would be the probable solutions? What are the pros and cons of this?”

This allows the students to use their prior knowledge and judgments to come up with solutions and arguments.

Encourage them to take decisions: One of the best ways to approach the problem above is to assess the odds and come up with a feasible solution. This is the most important output of critical thinking which comes in the form of a rightful decision. Encourage students to make decisions and back up their views with facts and arguments.

Encourage creativity: Finally comes one of the most important aspects of critical thinking – creativity and innovation. Give students the time and opportunity to explore on their own. Their independence will lead to amazing innovations.

For example: If the educator asks them to draw a tree, do not show them that it has to be done in a simple way. If you keep everything ready, they will never get a chance to show their creativity. 

With traditional concepts of education losing their value, it is time for a change. This a step towards not just creating professionals out of students, but critical thinkers who can excel in any field of life with determination. I believe critical thinking must not be left to chance – but be added as a special class in every school. Think about this critically, and tell me if you agree!

The writer is a bestselling author of several books, including, The Breakthrough by Rupa Publications. She was awarded as The 50 Most Influential Authors by Delhi Wire. She has also been invited as a Speaker for several MNCs like Amazon, Pfizer, and for meditation seminars in San Francisco and New Jersey. Her company WoW (Wonders of Words) conducts notable programs like the WoW Online Writing and Healing Workshop as well as WoW 3 Ls (Language + Life + Leadership Skills) Program which is a life skills-based curriculum that has reached 1,00,000 plus students. Her thoughts as an educator and mentor have also been published on several notable platforms. She can be reached at

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