Wanted: Critical thinkers – Four things your child needs to know

A small business owner, Dr. Ellis G. Godwin became frustrated when he had trouble hiring employees who could make good decisions and work independently.

In many businesses, he knew those employees would be fired. Instead, Godwin decided he wanted to try something to keep his employees. He created opportunities in their jobs to help them build the critical thinking skills they should have learned in school but didn’t.

It worked, he says.

Then he realized the problem was much bigger than his small business. After he sold the business and began teaching college courses, he discovered college students lacking the same skills. Even the latest research from the National Center for Education Statistics points to a lack of critical thinking skills in high school seniors in the latest National Report Card, with just 4 out of 10 students tested proficient in math and reading. Another surprising fact is that even after four years of college some students are still deficient in these skills.

He says he decided he needed to do something to reach more students before they graduated from high school.

Enter his business, Practical Learning Online, which offers online classes students can take to bolster critical thinking skills as well as monitored forums that fit perfectly with students’ online activities.

He says there are four things every student needs to know:

1. How to search for information.

With thousands of pieces of information at their fingertips in literally seconds, today’s kids can access information more easily than their parents ever could. But knowing how to search for the information means more than just typing the topic into Google. This is where their work pays off. They should learn how to use the internet and library effectively to get the facts needed to make decisions.

2. How to understand what they are reading or hearing.

Students today need to know how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information. Just because it is on the internet or TV does not guarantee it is correct so students need to know how to evaluate each piece of information they find. They also need to learn to take the emotion out of the process.

3. How to analyze and form an opinion.

Too many school assignments simply ask students to research a topic and spit out the facts in a logical, organized way. Students need to be able to take the information one step farther and decide what it really means beyond the words in front of them.

4. How to put the information into action.

Students need to be able to make decisions on the information, whether it is whether to vote for a person running for office, buying something or even applying for college or a job.

Practical Learning Online’s courses targets these four areas to help students develop the skills necessary to apply critical thinking to both their academic and real life situations. It is what they call the ability to Pract The Facts.

“The purpose is to give students the skills needed to find relevance in the information they are exposed to on a daily basis. Having this skill is beneficial so they can make good decisions both academically and in life,” Godwin says. “The use of discussion forums has been proven to be an effective method for enhancing a student’s critical thinking skills, and that is why we use it in our courses.”

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