How to facilitate learning and critical thinking?

Teachers can facilitate learning by making the educational process easier for students. This is not to water down the curriculum or lower the standards. On the contrary, facilitating learning is about teaching students to think critically and understand how the learning process works . Students must learn to go beyond basic facts – who, what, where and when – and to question the world around them.

Teaching methods

A number of teaching methods can help the teacher move away from standard teaching and foster a real learning experience. Teachers can vary methods to accommodate different learning styles. Lessons can be designed for tactile learners one day and visual learners the next. Teachers can also give students the opportunity to work both independently and in groups to meet the many needs of the children in their class. Some students prefer to work alone, while others excel when working cooperatively, also known as peer-to-peer learning.

If you want students to engage more with the topics you teach, give them different choices for accessing lessons in class. Some children may take the opportunity to write creatively about a story they have read in class, while others may want to discuss the themes of the story with their peers. Increasing the number of classroom conversations can appeal to both verbal and auditory learners.

It’s also important to make sure your lessons relate to the real world. If students have just learned a scientific concept, ask them if they have witnessed it in nature or tell them when they are likely to observe the scientific principle in question, whether it is condensation or of a certain phase of the moon.

Make thematic connections, so students don’t learn information in isolation. If you are reviewing vocabulary words, give students examples of situations where that word is likely to be used in real life. Review a literary passage or listen to an audio clip in which new vocabulary is used in context. This increases the likelihood that students will absorb the information.

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Varying teaching means using different methods to teach students. Each way of facilitating learning has its merits and helps to immerse students in the learning process by appealing to their interests and abilities.

The lecture can seem boring, as it is the most traditional way that teachers deliver information to students. But for some students, this method has advantages. It can exploit students’ linguistic intelligence.

You can lecture for a while and then open the conversation up to the whole class or have students break into groups. Getting students to interact with each other helps them tap into their interpersonal intelligence, a social skill that will be important far beyond the classroom.

Incorporation of role-playing

For kinesthetic learners, role-playing can be key to helping them get comfortable with the lesson. Some students like to act out important events from the story, for example. But children can also play characters from a novel or short story to help them better understand the material. Students who do not feel comfortable acting in front of their peers can write from the perspective of a historical figure or a character in a book.

Simulations are another great way to help students better understand the lessons. Consider allowing them to participate in immersive experiences, such as creating a model legislature or class government. And for visual learners, consider multimedia presentations that can appeal to their spatial intelligence.

For students who simply don’t understand why a particular topic applies to the real world, outside speakers can help. Bring in a mathematician who will explain the importance of algebra or a journalist who will explain why writing well is an essential life skill. It’s always a good idea to expose students to role models who can give them different perspectives on various issues.

Provide choice

When students feel empowered in their learning, they are more likely to take ownership of it. If a teacher simply conveys material to students through lectures, they may not engage with it. You can give students the opportunity to make choices by giving them lots of writing exercises. Similarly, let students research a topic of their choice and then report back to the class.

You might also consider providing them with a selection of books for reading reports and reading assignments. Allow students to choose their own partners for a class project. Even whole-class work can leave room for student choice. Have the class work on a historical newspaper and let the children choose which section of the newspaper they will cover.

Facilitate critical thinking

Teaching students to think critically takes practice. Rather than focusing on facts and figures, students need to be able to make observations across disciplines. After these observations, they must be able to analyze documents and evaluate information. By practicing critical thinking, students recognize different contexts and viewpoints. Finally, they interpret the information, draw conclusions, and then develop an explanation. 

Teachers can provide students with problem-solving and decision-making opportunities to exercise critical thinking. After students have come up with solutions and made decisions, they should have the opportunity to reflect on what made them successful or not. Establishing a regular routine of observation, analysis, interpretation, conclusion, and reflection in each school discipline improves students’ critical thinking skills, which they will need in the real world.

Connections with the real world and themes

Making learning relevant to the real world helps students make important connections. For example, if you teach supply and demand from a textbook, students can learn the information right now. However, if you provide them with examples that relate to purchases they make all the time, the information becomes applicable to their own lives.

Similarly, thematic connections help students understand that learning does not happen in isolation. For example, an American history teacher and a chemistry teacher could collaborate on a lesson about the development of the atomic bombs that the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. This lesson could be extended to English by including creative writing work on the topic, as well as environmental science to study the effects on the two cities after the bombs are dropped.

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