Teach Analytical And Critical Thinking Skills

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Summary

The focus of this lesson is teaching analytical thinking skills. The teacher leads the class through an exercise developed by Stella Ting-Toomey called “Describe, Interpret, Evaluate” (See-Think-Feel).

The students move through the process of carefully examining an event before they form an opinion about it. The teacher compares this process to intercultural contact, and encourages thoughtful reflection on cultural differences.

Teacher Preparation Video Transcript

This episode shows a model of teaching through role plays and group projects. Click on the image below to download a pdf of the transcript.

Women Teaching Women English Text

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Women Teaching Women English Listening

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Conversation: Reading a Coffee Cup

Reading: Mystery 1

Reading: Mystery 2

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Poll

Is analytical thinking undervalued? Andy Homden thinks so. Without it, critical thinking is so much more difficult, if not impossible, to teach. Here he explains why.

Analysis. We all use the word. We all set work requiring its use. And yet, as we seek to justify our curriculum and pedagogy, we are more inclined to identify “critical” rather than “analytical” thinking as our ultimate, higher order thinking skill.

Perhaps with good reason. Critical thinking involves the ability to make a judgement or evaluation about importance, nuance, or precedence. More: being an effective critical thinker also implies that one has the ability to ask the right kind of questions – not merely answer them.

Analysis is regarded as less demanding. Both in Bloom’s original Taxonomy of Educational objectives, and its various revisions, you tend to find “analysis” towards the apex of higher order thinking skills, but never at the top.

 

The importance of analytical thinking

However, this may well be to ignore the true significance of analysis as a way of thinking. One reason for undervaluing analytical thought, perhaps, lies in our use of the word. When we ask for an “analysis” of a question or idea we normally expect – and may be satisfied with – something like “a detailed description”. Not very demanding. However, the importance and use of analytical thinking becomes more readily apparent when we start using the term “analysis” in a stricter sense, which becomes clear when we look at the word’s origins.

Analysis, ἀνάλυσις

Detailed examination of the element or structure of something; the process of separating something into its constituent elements  (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/analysis?q=Analysis)

From the Ancient Greek ἀνάλυσις : analysis, “a breaking up”, from ana-“up, throughout” and lysis”a loosening” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis)

What does analysis reveal?

The first outcome of “an analysis” as the original Greek concept implies, is an understanding of an idea or object in terms of its individual component parts. If we were to leave it there, however, this would still involve little more than a detailed description. However, as components emerge, rigorous analytical thinking requires us to organise these components into groups or systems. The specialised analysis which we call dissection is a case in point. As the components of an animal are identified, the analytical thinkers we call biologists organise them into systems – and then go on to examine the relationship between these systems – digestive, respiratory, skeletal, reproductive – and so on. A student historian will learn how to identify individual causes and then organise them into different types (social, political, economic etc.) while a physical geographer will be able to analyse a landscape in terms of the different kinds of processes that shaped it.

Analysis therefore involves both breaking down and re-joining, which can be done in a variety of ways depending on what we are looking for. This will essentially be an answer, which can be an essay, a thesis, a chapter, or a complete book. In the first instance, any coherent answer takes the form of a plan for this new piece of writing. Here, the philosopher Roman Krznaric lays out what is “in his head” for a chapter in his new book:

Analysis: the essential precursor to evaluation

Analytical thinking therefore reveals relationships as well as components. This is vital for effective critical thinking. Without first establishing the components of a problem and showing how they are related, it is impossible to make a judgement about their relative importance. It can therefore be argued that analytical thinking is the essential precursor to critical judgement, and that in order to bring any inquiry to a rational conclusion, it is absolutely essential to think analytically first.

Relevance and creativity: adding value to analysis

The success of any synthesis – the process of putting the elements of an analysis back together in the form of an answer or thesis, depends on two other elements: relevance and creativity. Quite early in the analytical process it is essential to pause and examine the emerging components. Do they belong here? Do they answer this question? If so, how? If they pass muster, they can stay. If not, they must go before one is tempted to use them. The analytical thinker then looks for connections, which brings creativity and insight to bear.

Analytical thinking and critical judgement

Critical thinking remains the key higher order objective of teaching, but it is made so much easier when one has acquired the habit of analytical thought. Judgement emerges naturally when an idea is broken down into component parts, and their relationships understood. All the more reason for the explicit teaching of analysis as an essential precursor to the development of critical thought. In fact, it’s what makes it possible.

Further reading:

 

 

Developing Independent Writing (with the use of analytical thinking)

 

 

More on Bloom and his successors:

http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/cognition/bloom.html

Andy Homden

in Humanities / Language / learning & teaching / Secondary

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