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Critical thinking

Developing critical thinking to implement the curriculum statement

In the overall structure of the curriculum statement we referred to the importance of developing students critical thinking and critical action skills. Here is some background on how these might look in practice.

The curriculum statement glossary contains these definitions:

  • Critical thinking - involves activities requiring "examining, questioning and challenging taken-for-granted assumptions."
  • Critical action - "involves students acting on their findings."


Teacher behaviours which enhance the development and use of critical thinking include:

  • modelling thinking out loud
  • questioning
  • creating the environment
  • teaching thinking skills
  • teaching as facilitator, motivator, help students learn
  • developing teaching strategies that encourage thinking.


Student behaviours and characteristics that will assist in the development and use of critical thinking can be summarised as having a readiness, a willingness, and an openness to think critically.


The classroom conditions need to be in support of teacher and student characteristics as above. Students need to feel they are in a positive and supportive learning environment.

An exercise in critical thinking

The Christchurch College of Education contract staff developed this activity. Teachers have found it a valuable exercise in helping themselves recognise critical thinking in action.

Participants are asked to read the following quotation then respond to the questions below.

  • people who can't cook are at the mercy of purveyors of processed and pre-prepared foods, because they can't do it themselves?.
  • If you cannot cook, you surrender your food choices to someone else to cook for you, which increasingly these days is the food industry. You also surrender your nutrition, and that of your family, to commercial concerns?.
  • In the USA, there are apartments being built without kitchens. If you haven't got a kitchen, what choices have you got? Eating out, or eating takeaway, right?

Cherry Ripe, Goodbye Culinary Cringe, Allen & Unwin, New South Wales, 1993.

Questions for Critical Thinking

An Introductory Critical Thinking Model is as follows:

  • Describe what you see/read on this page? What are the 'hidden' messages?
  • What's missing from this picture/reading?
  • What are my beliefs about this?
  • Why do I believe this?
  • Whose interests are being served / who is advantaged?
  • Whose interests are not served / who is disadvantaged?
  • What needs to change and how can I contribute to this change?

The same questions can be used to encouraged critical thinking about a number of issues. For example, they could be used in conjunction with a series of advertisements.

To view Questions for Critical Thinking – based on Bloom's Taxonomy, a word document is supplied below.

Word icon. Questions for Critical Thinking (Word, 35 KB)