“Only dialogue … is … capable of generating critical thinking.” Paulo Freire

Of course we want out students to think.  Freire’s comment, though, is a powerful caution because he suggests that our students won’t think unless we, ourselves, approach them with openness and a desire to learn from them. We need to be, as David Bohm and others have said, thinking partners with our students.

We can ask one simple question to keep the focus on student learning, “am I letting my students do the thinking?”  There are many strategies we can employ to foster a thinking environment for our students.

Connect learning to student interests. Not much learning will take place if our kids don’t give a rip about what they are learning. For that reason, one of the most important places to start, if we want students to think, is by making sure what we offer is, whenever possible, of particular interest to students.

Much has been written about linking learning to student goals.  You can read a nice summary of much of this writing, here.

One particular program that guides students to identify goals, strengths, fears, and develop an action plan to make their dreams a reality is Possible Selves, developed by colleague Mike Hock.  You can download an article about Possible Selves here.

Ask good questions. E. E. Cummings beautifully sums up the importance of a good question

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question

How, then, do we find beautiful questions?  Fortunately, the web is rich with resources to help educators craft questions that prompt thinking.  The following sites provide an overview of many good ideas related to levels of questions:

Bloom’s original taxonomy

The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy

Art Costa’s Levels of Questions.

Lynn Erickson’s Know Understand and Do

My free manual on crafting and asking effective questions.

Use learning structures that prompt student thinking. One instructional approach that is designed to foster thinking is problem-based learning, pioneered at McMaster University.

Edward DeBono’s work has great potential for promote critical thinking in the classroom, in particular his Six Thinking Hats

Finally, I’ve written about thinking prompts previously on this blog.

These are only a few strategies, so I have a question for you, radical learner.  What do you do that works for you?  How do you prompt student thought? We want to know.