How Tutors Can Foster Critical Thinking in Children

Developing the skills to think critically, analyze information, and form original ideas are essential tools for students of all ages. Here’s how tutors can help foster critical thinking skills in children!

Student-directed learning.

One of the core elements of one-to-one tutoring involves structuring lesson plans around the student’s individual needs and pacing requirements. Put simply, individualized tutoring allows the student to stop the lesson at any time to ask clarification questions – or until the concept is fully understood.

In a classroom environment, teachers simply do not have enough time or resources to answer every student’s individual questions. In addition, many students feel self-conscious about “raising their hand” during class.

One-to-one tutoring’s unique approach solves these two dilemmas. Students are encouraged to ask as many questions as they want, even if it takes more than one session! For some students, certain topics may need a little extra practice before they “click.” In addition, the individualized approach allows tutors to revisit earlier lessons the student may have never fully understood – a common reason learning gaps are formed.

This is where critical thinking skills come in! The very act of asking questions, rephrasing concepts, and requesting clarification all demonstrate (and develop) critical thinking skills. Throughout this process, students must absorb the information being presented to them, analyze it, and formulate specific questions about the concepts that aren’t making sense.

Click here to learn more about how one-to-one tutoring differs from group learning environments!

Open-ended questions.

Tutors are experts at phrasing questions the “right” way! The key is to avoid “yes” or “no” answers – they simply don’t provide enough information to the tutor. This same advice also applies to parents who want to ask about their children’s day at school:

  • CLOSED QUESTION: “Did you have a good day at school?”
    The student can respond with either “yes” or “no” – neither of which provides any specific information about their day.
  • OPEN QUESTION: “What did your teacher talk about in school today?”
    With this phrasing, a “yes” or “no” answer will not suffice. As a result, the student will be encouraged to respond in detail.

Tutors use this same principle throughout the entire duration of their lessons. Rather than asking “Does that make sense?” an effective tutor will phrase it as, “What parts of this lesson are the most challenging for you?” We also make use of open-ended statements such as, “Pretend I’m the student, and show me how you would explain [concept] if you were the teacher.”

The ultimate goal is to encourage students to think actively, critically question their own understanding of the material, and feel comfortable asking for clarification when they need it. Check out these excellent Tutor Doctor blogs for more expert tips on critical thinking and open-ended questions!

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