Courses with significant online components can combine features of computers and proven pedagogical techniques to help students improve their critical thinking skills. Here are seven techniques for doing so, particularly for students in higher grade levels:
1. Create online quizzes. Incorporate self-exams into the online curriculum. Provide examples of good answers to analytical questions.
2. Require writing each week. Have students respond to questions you pose or to comments that other students make about topics that have come up in the course. Online threads of commentaries from one student and then another can open students’ minds to new perspectives.
3. Design questions carefully. Stick to the proven model of beginning with questions that ask students to demonstrate knowledge and comprehension, then moving to application and analysis, then synthesis and evaluation.
4. Challenge cliches. Don’t let students fall back on easy answers; challenge them to consider other points of view that may be in opposition to what they assume is “the truth.”
5. Keep journals. Depending on the level of sophistication of students and the subject, keeping journals may be appropriate. These can track their evolving understanding of issues and themes.
6. Seek opinions. Ask students for their opinions on issues before they are addressed in “class” and then again after a topic is covered.
7. Assign role-playing games. Students learn not only from hearing opposing points of view, but also from having to craft a compromise between opponents. Online discussions in which the goal is a mediated resolution can encourage critical thinking.