Publish at October 07 2018 Updated March 16 2023

A pedagogy to make learners think

An approach that requires learners to think critically based on facts

« In class, you shut up and listen to the teacher! »

This type of instruction is often given to the youngest children as soon as they start school. The image of school is, for many people, that of an environment where knowledge is assimilated. The students sit down, learn and apply what they have learned in a few tests. Okay, but is it responsible to offer this model of teaching in a world that will require more and more performance skills? Even more so in a time when knowing how to question what you read and see online is becoming a key element to using the Internet successfully.

Digging deeper into issues

In Anglo-Saxon countries, a pedagogy is gaining popularity: critical thinking. The idea is to let students study a topic from all angles. That is to say, starting from a question, the learners must reflect and bring a point of view and knowledge to test their thinking. The banal questions that are answered by the affirmative or the negative have no place.To develop their reasoning requires research and demonstration. It is therefore a good way to teach children to confront their ideas based on information.

For example, it would be very easy to simply offer a text by William Shakespeare and hand out a quiz about the play. With critical thinking, the teacher can ask them if they believe that the playwright's image of King Henry V is that of a hero or a war criminal.

The approach is not so recent. From the 1910 publication of «How we think», John Dewey invited readers to à base a belief on facts, çaét the spark to encourage certain pedagogical currents. It was established between 1930 and 1960 to serve democracy.

It was then an approach against indoctrination during the Cold War. Finally, it has undergone many transformations with the various forms in the United States. This approach has given rise to questions and debates. For example, should it be taught as a general or specific skill, i.e., contextualized to be useful? Are some people more prepared to use this approach than others? In what contexts can it be used?

A New Hope

One thing is certain, the possible uses are quite interesting. Suddenly, pedagogy can see a bit more broadly. For example, to grasp the political subtleties, learners could design a fictional country. They should then make connections to what they have learned in the classroom and research the history of nations or current situations.

In a language class, to better understand the construction of language, why not ask them how to express themselves with another medium? What are the limits of using only the body, for example? The method can also be used in higher education, such as this experiment with physiology students. The faculty offered them misleading articles about weight loss and they had to show why they were wrong.

Furthermore, in an environment of fake news, many are placing hope in a critical thinking approach to try to counteract the forces that want to deceive the general public. By having them work on reflective skills and advanced research, then, learners could acquire skills that will allow them to better analyze information, whether it is in the media or on social networks. Many teachers believe that this approach will give them an opportunity to improve public debates by giving young people a chance to argue using facts and not just impressions.

To the point where some believe that it would be unnecessary for courses in critical thinking to be mandated in schools. Such a directive is still a long way from becoming a reality.

However, the rise of interest in critical thinking in this era of fake news is reassuring and will allow for somewhat more rational management in the future.

Illustration : Hibr Kobayat Youngsters Think Media via photopin (license)


Baldasty, Jerry. « Fake News and Misinformation: Why Teaching Critical Thinking is Crucial for Democracy. » UW Homepage. Last updated: April 23, 2018.

Clarke, Loren, and Esther Care. "How Do You Teach Critical Thinking when the Norm is Not to Question?" Brookings. Last updated: December 5, 2017.

Cospérec, Serge. « Déveloping Lélèves Critical Spirit? An Anglo-Saxon Movement, Critical Thinking. » Démocratisation Scolaire. Last updated: February 15, 2018.

Gonzalez, Javier T. « Using Misleading Online Media Articles to Teach Critical Assessment of Scientific Findings About Weight Loss. » American Physiological Society Journal. Last updated: July 23, 2018.

Tatsumi, Ana. « Teaching Critical Thinking In The Language Classroom. » Cambridge University Press. Last update: April 4, 2018.

« Teaching Critical Thinking and Why It Should Be a Mandatory Course. » Shutdown -r Now. Last update: 1er November 2017.

Watanabe-Crockett, Lee. "12 Strong Strategies for Effectively Teaching Critical Thinking Skills." Global Digital Citizen Foundation. Last updated: April 4, 2018.

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