If you’re like the majority of instructors, you recognize the importance of teaching critical thinking. However, you may occasionally find it challenging to communicate that importance to your students.

Looking for ways to refine, increase, or change the ways you address critical thinking in your classroom? Below, we’ve provided some questions that will help you consider (or reconsider) how your course helps students develop the critical thinking skills they’ll need today, and in the future. If you’d like to add your own suggestions, please share them in the comments!

Helping students build their critical thinking skills: Three things to consider

1. In what specific ways do your assignments illustrate your course’s overall contributions to students’ development as critical thinkers? 
Though the great majority of students will likely tell you that they understand the importance of critical thinking, they may still need to better understand how their participation in your course will enable them to develop the critical thinking skills they need for academic, professional, and personal success.

In order to demonstrate the benefit of critical thinking to students, ensure that many of your course activities encourage application of those skills in practical, “real-world” ways. For example, you could incorporate current events and research-based case studies into your lectures, discussions, and assignments; this will help students consider how they can (and will) respond when they face challenges on the job, through their work in their communities, or in their personal lives.

And remember, you don’t necessarily need to create every assignment, activity, or discussion question from scratch! Discuss ideas with your colleagues, then adapt them to the specific topics and issues that you’re covering in your own course. For some additional suggestions, see what other instructors had to say in our post “The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking.” You might also try some of the ideas that we shared in the article “Critical Thinking Skills for Academic Writing: Three Activities.”

2. Do your course discussions require students to apply their critical thinking skills?
Whether they’re held in the classroom or online, your class discussions offer students the opportunity to share their ideas and hear others’ perspectives. They also provide an excellent environment in which students can apply their critical thinking skills!

For ideas on fostering discussions that sharpen students’ critical thinking skills, read our posts on facilitating discussions that inspire deeper thinking and setting the groundwork for effective classroom conversation. And, to help students develop the “habit” of responding thoughtfully to others in and out of the classroom, encourage them to read our post on “adopting the attitude of a critical thinker.”

3. How might students use your course assignments as evidence of their critical thinking skills when they’re speaking with prospective employers? 
It’s not enough to say you’re a “critical thinker” when you’re in a job interview; today’s hiring managers want to see evidence that applicants can think critically. To that end, students will benefit if they can use some of their completed assignments to show how they developed these skills through their college education. Review Katie McPhee’s post, in which she describes types of assignments and projects that can help students demonstrate their critical thinking skills once they’re on the job hunt; consider what kinds of activities might help students show or describe the ways that your class helped prepare them for a future job.

How do you help students build, use, and demonstrate their critical thinking skills through your coursework? Share your ideas and activities in the comments.