How to get teenagers to think critically

Anna Roslaniec
Anna Roslaniec
A group of young people sat at a table discussing with a woman stood up

Critical thinking is a 21st century skill that has been around for thousands of years. There are records of Socrates using critical thinking skills in his teaching in 4th century BC Greece. In recent years though, critical thinking has again become more prominent in education.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking requires students to do more than remember and repeat information. Instead, it encourages them to analyze, examine, evaluate and use their problem-solving abilities through questioning, theorizing and rationalizing to have a deeper understanding of the world around them, both inside the classroom and beyond.

Why is critical thinking so important?

In the past, success in education was largely based on the ability to remember facts and figures. However, the skills which our students need today go further than memorization. With our rapidly evolving technology, the internet, and the bewildering amount of information online, it is essential that our students can use higher-order thinking skills to analyze and assess the information they are presented with.

How can you incorporate critical thinking into your classes?

Devising long-term goals

We all know the importance of looking ahead and planning for the future. We can encourage this skill in our students and directly relate it to their learning.

At the start of the course, take a moment to chat with each student individually and ask them to identify an objective for the first part of the year. You may like to brainstorm possible objectives as a class first, but it’s important for students to determine their own personal objectives, rather than imposing objectives on them.

During the first half of the year you can talk to each student about their progress and ask them to assess to what extent they’re achieving their goals.

The key point comes at the end of the semester when students evaluate their progress and set a new objective for the following one.


The ability to analyze options, risks and opinions will help your students in the future in many situations, including when they decide which course to take at university or which job to take.

You can practice this skill by providing students with relatable situations and asking them to analyze and compare the options.

For example:

Imagine you are taking a trip with some friends this summer. You have a number of different options and want to discuss them before finalizing your plans. Talk to a partner about the different trips and decide which would be best:

  • Traveling around Europe by train for a month ($1,000)
  • A weekend hiking and camping in the countryside ($200)
  • A weekend break in a big city, with shopping, sightseeing and museum trips ($500)
  • A week-long trip to the beach in an all-inclusive resort ($650)

Anticipating consequences

Students also need to have an awareness of the consequences of their actions; this is a skill which is transferable to making business decisions, as well as being important in their everyday lives.

To practice this skill, put students into small groups and give them the first part of a conditional sentence. One student completes the sentence and then the next student adds a consequence to that statement.

For example:

Student A: If I don’t study for my English exam, I won’t pass.

Student B: If I don’t pass my English exam, my parents won’t let me go out this weekend.

Student C: If I can’t go out this weekend, I’ll miss the big football match.

Student D: My coach won’t let me play next year if I miss the big match.

Rearranging the class menu

By giving students more responsibility and having them feel invested in the development of the lesson, they will be much more motivated to participate in the class.

Occasionally, let students discuss the content of the day’s class. Give them a list of tasks for the day, including how long each will take and allow them to discuss the order in which they’ll complete them. For larger classes, first have them do it in pairs or small groups and then vote as a whole class.

Write on the board:

  • Class discussion (5 minutes)

The following tasks can be done in the order you decide as a class. You have five minutes to discuss and arrange the tasks as you choose. Write them on the board in order when you’re ready.

  • Check homework (5 minutes)
  • Vocabulary review (10 minutes)
  • Vocabulary game (5 minutes)
  • Reading activity (15 minutes)
  • Grammar review game (5 minutes)
  • Speaking activity (10 minutes)

Take this one step further by asking your students to rate each activity out of 10 at the end of the class. That way, you’ll easily see which tasks they enjoy, helping you plan more engaging lessons in the future.

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    You may have heard the term learning management system (LMS) at work or perhaps during your time in education. For many, this throws out images of clunky, outdated systems that clumsily distribute course materials and are tough to use. But that is no longer the case. Modern LMS's are far more user-friendly, and it's time to relearn what you thought you knew about these tools. 

    In this ultimate guide, we will look at everything you need to know about learning management systems and why they are so beneficial. 

    What is a learning management system?

    A learning management system is a digital platform or software as a service (SaaS) solution that is used to create, organize and distribute online courses. 

    The idea is that these LMS platforms offer one central place for users to manage and access courses and learning materials. Depending on the user, this could be anything from self-paced e-courses to classroom training. 

    This can help facilitate a range of training, studying and skills development, as well as assessments, exams and certification management. 

    Who uses LMS's and why? 

    There are many great uses for learning management systems but these are used primarily by businesses and educational establishments. Here are some of the most common use cases for these platforms: 

    • HR and management - The HR and management team might implement these across the business to help with learning and development and make sure that organizational goals are being hit

    • Employee onboarding - Those starting a new job may be given training via an LMS; this can make the onboarding process much quicker and simpler 

    • Compliance training - Lots of roles require compliance training, for example health and safety training, and this is a great way for businesses to stay up to date and ensure everyone complies with regulations 

    • Customer support - Some businesses use learning management systems to onboard customers or clients. This might include sharing user manuals and product guides. Plus, sales professionals might also use them to train new partners or clients in using their services or platforms. 

    • Classroom learning - Lecturers and teachers can create and share course materials and align content and tests from one place. These can also be used to put a twist on traditional classroom learning. 

    • Blended learning - Schools, colleges and universities may use these for online lessons and blended learning, particularly for remote students 

    • Volunteer training - Charities and non-profits may also use an LMS to educate volunteers and keep them motivated about the cause 

    Of course, these platforms can and will be used in other ways, but these are some of the most common and beneficial uses for LMS's. 

    Who has access to LMS's?

    In most cases, learning management systems will have two primary user groups: administrators and learners.  

    Administrators are the people who create, manage and deliver e-learning. They may use these platforms to upload their own learning materials, or they may select courses and materials from an existing list given by the provider.

    On the other hand, learners are the professionals or students who will use these platforms to train, study and gain new skills. Many modern LMS's allow multiple learners to train or access materials at the same time.

    However, there is a third and final group that we have yet to mention: the parents of students using LMS's, particularly outside of school hours. In some cases, parents may have access to these systems to support students, track their progress or look at feedback from the teacher. 

    Key features in modern LMS's

    There are a variety of learning management systems out there and some are more advanced than others. That being said, many modern platforms will share similar features to ensure they stay competitive. Some of these key features may include: 

    • Authoring tools that allow administrators to upload or build their own courses

    • Access to subject matter experts who can contribute to learning and development activities 

    • Automated workflows that allow for the creation of personalized learning journeys

    • A resources library that holds all relevant learning materials, such as guides, video clips and courses

    • Quizzes and surveys for a more fun and engaging way to assess learners 

    • Compliance features, such as automatic reminders that notify learners when it is time to retrain 

    • Certificates and diplomas that give learners recognition as they study and meet their targets 

    • Insights and analysis for individual progress and results, allowing administrators to identify gaps or areas where support is needed

    • Compatibility with mobile devices for studying on the go 

    • Integrations with other internal systems and software 

    This is by no means a complete list and different platforms will have different functionality. However, these are some of the most common and beneficial features of many modern LMSs.

    The benefits of using learning management systems

    Saving time and money

    First and foremost, an LMS can be an excellent way for businesses to save time and money on training. 

    Of course there is an initial investment in the platform, but training can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly if it must take place in a location outside of the workplace. Therefore, this can be the more cost-effective solution. Not to mention, the materials are quick to access and can save time and effort. 

    Ensuring compliance training is completed

    These platforms are an excellent way to ensure that all mandatory training is completed on time and to the highest standard. For example, industry-specific training such as fire safety or cybersecurity training. 

    Provide accurate data

    Administrators can access data and insights into their employee's learning. This can be a great way to see where more support is needed and to identify any skills gaps that need to be filled. Similarly, teachers can get to grips with how well their students are doing and if they need extra help in any subjects or areas.

    Improves the learning experience

    Whether in school or the workplace, LMS's can be a great way to improve the learning process. It allows users to study and access learning materials from one accessible location. Plus, through a multimedia approach, they can use guides, videos and more to help them learn. This can ensure they engage with the materials and stay motivated. 

    Simplifying communication

    Finally, an LMS can make communication between students, teachers, employees and employers far simpler. For example, automated reminders keep everyone in the loop and ensure all training is completed on time. But more than that, there is one central place to communicate, review feedback and access the same materials.