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Critical Thinking Skills

free world u critical thinking image

Benjamin Bloom was an educational psychologist. He created a pattern that could be used to help teachers categorize instructional objectives, goals, and assessments. Bloom’s taxonomy was designed to help teachers prepare objectives and establish appropriate measures of a student’s higher order thinking skills. It divides thought processes into six levels. The levels build from simple to complex.

Bloom’s original taxonomy has been revised with the names of the levels being made into verbs. There is also a difference in the ranking of the levels. Creating was moved to the top instead of evaluating.

The first level is remembering or simple rote memorization of facts. This entails having knowledge of details such as terminology, facts, and basic concepts of a subject. This level requires that you recognize and recall relevant knowledge using both short and long-term memory. You are able to define, list, read, record, and acquire further knowledge.

The second level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is understanding. This level involves comprehension of facts. This means that you have an ability to organize information, make comparisons, interpret data, and give descriptions. You understand uses and implications of words, facts, and concepts. You are able to recognize, identify, discuss, and classify.

The third level, applying, requires that you are able to solve problems by applying prior knowledge. You can implement what you know and combine facts to discover new ideas. You are able to interpret, demonstrate, experiment, and discuss.

The fourth level is analyzing. You are able to break concepts down into their individual parts and analyze the meaning of those parts. You can recognize poor logic and evaluate material for relevancy. You have the ability to identify motives and causes. You are able to appraise, illustrate, make choices, examine, and transform.

Evaluating is the fifth level of Bloom’s taxonomy. At this level you are able to make judgments based on criteria and standards. You can accept or reject ideas and concepts based on prior knowledge. You are able to argue, assess critically, test, and validate.

The highest level of thinking on Bloom’s taxonomy is creating. At this level you are able to put information together to form a coherent whole. You can reorganize elements into a new pattern by planning. You are able to synthesize, arrange, deduce, formulate, and rewrite.

free world u critical thinking pyramid image

The questions below illustrate the use of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Remembering: Who are the main characters in the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Understanding: Write a paragraph explaining what happens in the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Applying: In the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, why is Baby Bear upset?
Analyzing: How are Goldilocks and Baby Bear alike? How are they different?
Evaluating: Do you think it was wrong of Goldilocks to enter the home of the Three Bears when they were not at home?
Creating: Write a paragraph telling what might have happened if the Three Bears had been at home when Goldilocks arrived.

Bloom’s taxonomy is an excellent method for establishing a logical process for teaching children. If instruction moves logically through the levels, the end result is an ability to think critically and solve problems.

Critical thinking involves being able to evaluate information and our own thoughts in a disciplined way. Critical thinking is not just thinking more about a subject. If your thinking is flawed, it won’t matter how long you think about it. You must be willing to look at things in an objective way. Reasoning must be based on sound, consistent logic, not on emotions and social pressure.

Everybody thinks—it is a part of being human. The essence of critical thinking is the quality of thought. Critical thinking does not come naturally; it must be taught and refined. Critical thinking involves all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy from the lowest to the highest. To develop critical thinking skills in children they must be guided through the process and encouraged. It is not a short-term project but rather a long-range one.

Critical thinking is not an esoteric exercise reserved for scholarly debate. It is a manner of thinking about any subject, concept, or problem. It is self-directed and self-disciplined thought that entails effective communication and problem solving abilities.

According to Richard Paul and Linda Elder in The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools:

“A well cultivated critical thinker:
  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively,
  • comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.”

Flashcards can be used to deal with all aspects of critical thinking. Questions can be formulated in ways that address each level of Bloom’s taxonomy. In a research study conducted in 2008, three hundred students in each of three grades—second, seventh, and eleventh—were selected to participate in an evaluation of our system. Specifically, this project tested the following hypotheses across all subjects:

H1: Students exposed to the Free World U system will learn material faster than will students who are exposed only to traditional teaching methods.
H2: Students exposed to the Free World U system will retain more material than will students who are exposed only to traditional teaching methods.
H3: Students exposed to the Free World U system will demonstrate more critical thinking skills than will students who are exposed only to traditional teaching methods.

The results of the first year of the five year study were very exciting. The results supported our three hypotheses that students using the Free World U system learn faster, better, and develop greater critical thinking skills.

Educators and researchers are increasingly aware of the value of learning that is student-directed to increase critical thinking skills. It is has been shown that virtual instruction is intrinsically immersive and therefore encourages critical thinking by allowing students to make their own educational choices. Learning occurs best when what is being learned is relevant to the learner and when the learner is actively engaged in the learning process. Free World U allows students to make choices about what they will study, when they will study, and most importantly how long it takes to master a subject. Our students are not held back by slower classmates or pushed ahead before they are ready to move on.

Reading and writing are important parts of instruction to encourage critical thinking. Free World U’s students will be required, from 3rd grade through high school, to submit written assignments on a daily basis. Good writing is a reflection of good thinking, therefore is a strong indication of a student’s ability and progress. Good writing integrates ideas through analysis, organization, synthesis of ideas and concepts. It also exhibits skills in language usage and clarity of expression. Our ELA program teaches all the steps that a student needs to achieve the ability to write coherently and concisely about any subject.

Free World U also teaches critical thinking skills through reading and analysis of the material read. Students are systematically guided through the steps of Bloom’s taxonomy from a simple understanding of the material to the ability to evaluate and analyze the meaning behind the words.

In order for a high level of critical thinking to be attained, it must be encouraged throughout the curriculum. Free World U achieves this by its use of illustrated virtual flashcards. Students are allowed to participate in their educational choices. The flashcard format allows the mind to wonder about the answer to a problem before answering. The attention to detail of our teachers and authors ensures that all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are addressed in each subject taught.

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