The Importance of Critical Thinking

Elmhurst School for Boys

1st February 2018 | Headmaster's Blog

At Elmhurst, we aim to instill a real love of learning within each of our pupils. One of the key elements of this is critical thinking - developing the confidence and desire to know not just “what”, but “how” and “why”. What a great week it has been to see some real examples of this in action...

I went up to Year 1 to see Mrs Prior, to find her hugely enthusiastic about how one of the boys had worked out how to take away 32 from 65. Firstly, this is a sum with tens and ones which is a challenge in itself, at six years old. Secondly, reflecting on my own education at that age, I am not sure that I was given the opportunity to express my understanding of Mathematics in this way. The boy described to me that he used an egg box with ten marbles in each of six egg cups and five marbles on their own. He went on to say that he had worked out that if he emptied three of these egg cups and took two marbles away from the five marbles, then he should have the answer to the sum. In counting up the remaining marbles, he had worked out that the answer was 33.

Similarly, I supported the Year 5 Forest School session this week where Miss Kasza-Martin was providing the boys with the opportunity to use art as an expression of their perception of their surroundings, which was brilliant! However, in the ‘Free Flow’ time at the end of their session, I was fascinated by the group of boys that were attempting to set up a ‘zip wire’ between two trees. Not only were the four boys collaborating and communicating whilst they worked together, they were discussing ‘how’ to set up a zip wire. This discussion was very interesting, as they were talking about the tension of the rope, height of the rope and finding a certain type of stick with which to slide down the rope. Ultimately, they managed to design and construct an effective zip wire, which was excellent to see.

In order to overcome these challenges the boys were thinking critically. I was in discussion with a prospective parent this week and I explained the range of cognitive skills that underpin all that we do within our curriculum at Elmhurst. He then asked me how we promote critical thinking within our lessons and I was able to use these examples to answer his question. The definition of ‘Critical Thinking’ is ‘...the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement’. Elmhurst boys are doing this in every lesson. As a teaching staff team, we are all challenging our boys to think critically every day. I know this from my educational walks and lesson observations.

The ability to think critically is a crucial cognitive skill in the 21st century as identified by the World Economic Forum. By the time our pupils move on to their Grammar Schools or independent secondary schools of choice, at the end of Year 6, their ability to think critically is something which is a fully embedded part of their skillset.

- A J Padfield

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