Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Critical thinking involves carefully reasoning through information in light of its perceived accuracy and implications. In other words, critical thinking is thinking through the process of thinking. This type of thought is important in maintaining an open mind, recognizing problems, and finding solutions.2
While everyone thinks, not many people bother to evaluate their thinking. It is easy to assume that our thoughts are correct, simply because we thought them. However, our beliefs are biased, based on our personal experience, culture, and leaders, among other influences. Critical thinking helps a person to realize when he or she is making assumptions and to evaluate whether or not these assumptions are true.
In recent years, teachers are starting to emphasize critical thinking over the memorization of basic facts.1 With its emphasis on analysis and logic, critical thinking improves students’ ability to do well in school and also encourages them to develop a sense of curiosity, become more independent, express themselves, and solve the problems they encounter.6 The ability to judge the reliability of data has also become increasingly important as the Internet provides a wealth of readily available, but not always credible, information.7 Some believe that this information overload encourages students to skim through lots of information rather than deeply engage with any one source.7
Learning to think critically can be hard. There is always the temptation for students to ask for the solution to be given to them rather than working things out for themselves. This can range from cheating on a test to asking a parent to step in and tell them what to do to solve an argument with a friend.
Try not to simply give your mentee answers to his or her problems. Instead, you can encourage and support your mentee as he or she works through the decision making process. Learning to think critically and solve problems will help your mentee not just in school, but in all of life.
The articles “Think About It: Critical Thinking” and “How You Can Help Children Solve Problems” provide specific ways to encourage critical thinking in your mentees. Other resources, such as “Thoughts on Thinking,” “Critical Thinking: An Introduction” and “Our Concept and Definition of Critical Thinking” offer a better understanding of what critical thinking is and why it is important.
1. “Think About It: Critical Thinking”
2. “Our Concept and Definition of Critical Thinking”
3. “Brain Development in Young Adolescents”
4. “Problem Solving Procedures”
5. “Developing Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills”