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Critical Thinking Is…

A blog by Mrs Samantha Parker (Head of Upper School and Languages Faculty Lead) and Mrs Lucy Ball (Deputy Head, Teaching and Learning) 

Find out more about what we do at St Peter’s Preparatory School to encourage your child to think, think, think for themselves! 

  • Have you ever had FOMO? (Fear Of Missing Out,  for those of you not down with the kids)?!  Not surprisingly, this has been on the rise with the advent of ‘lockdowns’, with a reported 69% of millennials claiming they feel this on a daily basis. 
  • Have you ever seen the dishes pile up on the side? Been late for work? Burnt your toast and then thought ‘The day is ruined! I may as well just go back to bed’? 
  • Or frighteningly, have you ever had everyone and everything in the social media feed repeat your own thoughts through a variety of memes and  surreptitious advertising? ‘I was just thinking about how ridiculous my car tax is, now I have electric car adverts filling my news feed…weird!’ 

These thoughts, these predispositions, these concerns are common and can, if left unchecked, be damaging. 

These cognitive biases, or more plainly modes of irrational thinking, are rife; research suggests that the three most common are: 

  1. The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), 
  2. Catastrophic thinking (see toast-gate above) and 
  3. Confirmation bias (echo chamber alert above).  

But why is it important to recognise these biases and how are they damaging? Experts say that they can limit our thought patterns, limit our ability to see beyond our day to day trials and tribulations and reduce our capacity to think expansively. If ever we needed to ‘think ourselves out’ of a period in history,  surely the pandemic would be it? 

But, other than making us check our own media feeds and casting a critical eye over today’s hard hitting headlines, what else does critical thinking actually do? How does it help pupils who are exposed to it, succeed? And why, at St Peter’s Preparatory School, have we embedded critical thinking into every area of our broad and varied curriculum over the past 4 years?

According to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking and complex problem solving are the two top in-demand skills that employers look for and it is an enterprise skill that employers often refer to at interview. The creativity to think around a problem, the communication and presentation skills to convince stakeholders that your vision is worth investing in, the digital literacy to ‘deep dive’ into the accuracy of the information and with which sources you are presented. 

Critical Thinking Skills at St Peter's Preparatory School

As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, these are key skill sets that we need people to fulfil should they become the future leaders of industry and with whom the heavy burden of economic growth will lay upon the shoulders of. 

At St. Peter’s we recognise the importance of laying the foundations of these skill sets early on, not one to subscribe to a one-size fits all cookie cutter approach to the curriculum we understand that teaching our pupils how to engage with Critical Thinking will not only give them a competitive edge in the workplace, but crucially, it will give them the autonomy to make informed decisions about how they want to live their lives. 

We have 10 Critical Thinking Objectives that all staff from Nursery to Year 8 use in their planning and teaching. 

They are:  

CTS: 1    →    Is able to understand the structure and parts of an argument 
CTS: 2     →     Is able to give opinions about arguments 
CTS: 3     →     Is able to present an argument to an audience 
CTS: 4     →     Is able to use a range of sources and be aware of where they have come from 
CTS: 5     →     Is able to evaluate facts and opinions and explain their thinking 
CTS: 6     →     Is able to look for cause and effects of events 
CTS: 7     →     Is able to take part in clear decision making 
CTS: 8     →     Is able to explain the meaning of their ideas 
CTS: 9     →     Is able to process information presented to them 
CTS: 10     →     Is able to think creatively to solve problems 

The skills are split across the St. Peter’s Baccalaureate 7 Areas of Learning and our staff plan and monitor critical thinking successes. We believe that thinking critically is a core competency with which the pupils should hold confidently in their own right. What’s more the lessons where we focus on our critical thinking strands are often the ones where we see the sparks of curiosity, the drive to find out and work through answers and the enthusiasm to present findings or solutions to the class. Basically our homegrown Baccalaureate core skills of Curiosity, finding and presenting!  

To support the drive to excellence we have also invested in resources such as First News, a news outlet that has recently diversified their content to offer critical literacy – if you are interested have a look at the linked article  FN Critical Thinking  for tips and  ideas of how you may wish to incorporate some critical thinking at home.

The French philosopher, historian, writer and activist Michel Foucault famously made the link that knowledge is power – we believe in this at St. Peter’s – we believe in the power to choose and the power to make change. Indeed, in our most recent ISI  inspection it was observed that  ‘pupils understand the value of good decision making and its importance. They develop these skills at an early age so it becomes part of their mindset.’ (ISI Report March 2020).

Wishing you all a thoughtful Easter and if you are keen to try your hand at Critical Thinking why not tackle this challenge:

‘Was the trial of Jesus legally justifiable’? Answers on a postcard please to samantha.parker@stpetersprepschool.co.uk  and  lucy.ball@stpetersprepschool.co.uk !!!