60 Practical Approaches for Getting Learners Thinking Independently

by | Nov 29, 2018 | Student Engagement

Independent critical thinking skills are among the top skills educators strive to give to their students. That’s because when we succeed at getting learners thinking independently, we’ve given them a gift for life. Once school is over they can then go into future enterprises and pursuits with confidence and pride. After all, they have the tools to make their own choices that were nurtured by amazing teachers like you.

When teaching our learners critical and independent thinking skills, the more effortless it is the better. Our students’ natural learning abilities shine because we provide them with the freedom to explore, create, and analyze. Their intuition and curiosity blossoms because we present real-world challenges that speak to their personal interests. Above all, authentic learning occurs when we find the courage to stand aside and let them step forward on their own.

There are many engaging methodologies for getting learners thinking independently, and this TeachThought article features 60 to consider. We’ve shared them below in the hopes that they’ll bring you some ideas you can use with your own critical thinkers.

60 Ways of Getting Learners Thinking Independently

  1. Let them watch their predictions play out.
  2. Let them form theories, and then test and revise those theories based on observation.
  3. Give them the right collaboration with the right “mind” at the right time.
  4. Allow them to read with choice without guidelines or external pressure.
  5. Let them play with content or dynamic learning tools–no goals or prompting or rules (other than basic common sense, safety, etc.).
  6. Let them see the parts of the whole, and the whole of the parts.
  7. Help them realize the interdependence between content and themselves.
  8. Make sure they are motivated to know themselves.
  9. Help them serve others, and learn to value themselves and their own human utility in the process.
  10. Guide them to write about something complex, personal, emotional, meaningful, or seemingly trite.
  11. Teach them to meditate (seeing without thinking during, thinking about thinking after).
  12. Help them start with what they don’t know. This will guarantee that they think for themselves, and provides each student with their own launching pad.
  13. Allow them to navigate “unfiltered” sources of information.
  14. Encourage them to begin to separate basic epistemology. For example, have them investigate the differences between information, knowledge, and wisdom.
  15. Help them attempt to transfer understanding (prompted).
  16. Allow them to attempt to transfer understanding on their own.
  17. Encourage them to believe they can, and to then make the choice to not be denied.
  18. Allow them to practice, practice, and practice in the company of some kind of feedback loop.
  19. Teach them to make mistakes without blame.
  20. Help them explore something they see as mysterious, untamed, or socially “disallowed”.
  21. Allow them to receive learning feedback from someone just beyond their own “level”.
  22. Teach them to try to find the common ground between seemingly disparate positions.
  23. Encourage them to think critically about the what others perceive as mundane.
  24. Make sure they think frequently about complex ideas or situations.
  25. Help them to realize everything is infinitely complex. When they see information as a matter of perspective, this causes an endless chain of other realizations if they’re willing to consider it long enough.
  26. Encourage them to be bored and allow that boredom to “sit”.
  27. Allow their minds to wander.
  28. Encourage them to play video games or other learning simulations.
  29. Teach them to set goals with extrinsic or intrinsic rewards.
  30. Help them sense an authentic need to know or understand.
  31. Ask them what they stand for, and why.
  32. Leave them alone.
  33. Make sure they hear “something” in multiple times in multiple ways from multiple perspectives and voices.
  34. Help guide them to recognize the nuance in other people’s thinking.
  35. Help them to honour the limits of human knowledge.
  36. Encourage them to operate within their Zone of Proximal Development–the ZPD of that student for that standard (which is really, really difficult to promote consistently).
  37. Make sure they have meaningful choices at every step.
  38. Make sure they are given the support to self-direct their own learning.
  39. Encourage them to make things.
  40. Help them to see the value of their own performance.
  41. Give them personalized direct instruction.
  42. Allow them to hear a well-written lecture.
  43. Help guide them to think about their own thinking.
  44. Encourage theirs passions to lead them into spaces where learning can occur on its own.
  45. Help them honour uncertainty.
  46. Make sure they are able to establish their own relevancy for content.
  47. Encourage them to ask their own questions–and then ask better questions.
  48. Encourage opportunities for inquiry to meet a motivated mind.
  49. Guide them to dynamic spaces characterized by people, thought, and creativity (rather than intricate policies, rules, and standards).
  50. Expose them to something worth doing.
  51. Help them to confront and internalize diversity and divergence.
  52. Encourage them to revisit their past mistakes, thinking patterns, and moments of genius.
  53. Guide them to seek self-awareness not content-awareness.
  54. Help them to not take anything too seriously beyond playful curiosity.
  55. Encourage them to trust themselves to fail.
  56. Allow them to see their own progress.
  57. Guide them in studying patterns.
  58. Make sure they can explain the significance of an idea, skill, or other academic topic.
  59. Allow them to see or experience affectionate modelling.
  60. Make sure they are mentored with love.

Learn even more about getting learners thinking independently and read the full article at TeachThought.

 

Additional Reading

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