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Teaching Tips - Critcal Thinking

The following information was adapted from the book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis. (Available in the LT&ITC library.

Critical Thinking

Students are often times reluctant to challenge their existing conceptions or opinions on various subject matters. Research has proved that in order for real learning to occur, students must abandon their preconceived conceptions before they can internalize more rational arguments. That task is not always easy to accomplish. Barbara Gross Davis in her book Tools for Teaching offers the following advice for planning activities that will help students think more critically.

  • Help students consider and appreciate other points of view
    • Require them to present evidence to support their own viewpoint
    • Reinforce the importance of considering other viewpoints
    • Stress to the students that it is alright to change your point of view when there is evidence supporting an opposing viewpoint
  • Model how to evaluate other viewpoints
    • Plan discussions, debates, or group activities that reveal opposing points of view that are supported by evidence - students will learn that some arguments make sense to abandon based on the evidence
    • Have students play the "devil's advocate"; in opposing arguments (this exercise helps students to realize the importance of disagreements and how to think more critically)
    • Identify criteria necessary to change one's point of view
    • Discuss what makes evidence valid or invalid
  • Help students to understand the judgment making process
    • Have students create a chart or podcast or PowerPoint presentation on how to evaluate new information that conflicts with previous conceptions
    • Encourage students to post to a discussion board or blog on how to make decisions when information is vague or uncertain

These are just a few suggestions for developing critical thinking skills in your classroom. For more information, contact the LT&ITC at 615-494-7671 or by e-mail at


1.Davis, Barbara Gross, Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 1993.