How to improve critical thinking in HE? Methods from various authors

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Look at the photo. Are the horizontal lines straight or crooked?

Visual illusions, logical tasks, reading a book, writing an argumentative essay, active listening, discussions and debates all contribute for improving critical thinking (CT) skill which has a significant role in successful higher education (HE). CT consists of fundamental learning skills such as remembering and understanding information; analyzing and evaluating materials; knowing how and when to apply the skills; and using it as a basis for further knowledge and creating new things. Currently teaching staff understands the importance of being able to think critically as it allows students to be flexible, quick-witted, rational and creative; as well as to enhance cognitive, language, presentation and self-reflection abilities (What is CT, n.b.). In this case, the role of professors in increasing CT is crucial, and that is why they have some methods and techniques towards developing certain skills.

The first method suggested by King & Kitchener (1994) is going out from the “comfort zone”. When an environment is familiar and a situation is analogous, a person thinks in one way atrophying CT. While building new and unusual conditions, students will think out of a box activating imagination, evaluation, and analyzing abilities. It seems to me an excellent chance to discover some qualities in your personality. For example, imagine, you never consider yourself as a leader. However, one day you will have an unusual situation where you start analyzing, evaluating it, and may be previous knowledge from readings will come up to your mind and you will find out how to apply it in the current situation that will make others follow you. Isn’t it great to have well-developed CT that makes you better?

Meyers (1986) has a similar approach of using paradox performances to deliberate imbalanced facts to change students’ old way of thinking. In another words, creating a risky atmosphere: academia intimidates students when their responses are not correct any more and students should answer to a question quickly and off the beaten track. This way of fostering CT may be a challenge for traditional students; however, making up an extraordinary situation facilitates the brain to find various solutions. Actually, I assume that students must feel that university is a place where they can generate new ideas, analyze, comment on set norms, and suggest logical solutions without any fears.

Moreover, there are some fundamental and significant techniques to foster CT such us listening and writing. The ability to listen to each other is a very important factor as it helps to avoid absolutist thinking; in contrary, analyze and give own constructive answer (Moon, 2005). As I noticed, nowadays not many people are able to listen and hear others. This skill is underestimated; however, the world is giving us answers each day. We just need to learn to listen. What about writing, Moore and Morton (2005) discovered that it is the best way to evaluate CT ability, as it requires comparing advantages and disadvantages, assessing information, finding interrelations, and making a conclusion with concrete arguments. Also, it will delineate ideas and understand deeper what he/she is writing about.

In summary, obviously, there are many methods to improve CT in HE. In my article, I considered some of the techniques such as going out of “comfort zone”, establishing risky situation to facilitate the brain, and pointed out the importance of listening and writing skills. Every teacher can take into account these methods modifying them, and use actively as they have been practicing widely and have had positive results on students.


P.S. By the way, the correct answer is the horizontal lines are straight, even though they do not seem straight.  In this illusion, the vertical zigzag patterns disrupt our horizontal perception. (Retrieved from



King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing Reflective Judgment: Understanding and Promoting Intellectual Growth and Critical Thinking in Adolescents and Adults. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series and Jossey-Bass Social and Behavioral Science Series. Jossey-Bass, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104-1310.

Meyers, C. (1986). Teaching Students to Think Critically. A Guide for Faculty in All Disciplines. Jossey-Bass Higher Education Series. Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers, 433 California Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94104-2091.

Moon, J. (2005). Progression in higher education: a study of learning as represented in level descriptors. Enhancing Teaching in Higher Education: New Approaches for Improving Student Learning, 111-120.

Moore, T., & Morton, J. (2005). Dimensions of difference: a comparison of university writing and IELTS writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes,4(1), 43-66. Retrieved from

What is Critical Thinking? (n.d.). Critical thinking web. Retrieved from


3 thoughts on “How to improve critical thinking in HE? Methods from various authors

  1. Critical thinking skill is necessary for us to interpret, analyze and evaluate in our writing and reading. I sometimes think that critical thinking skill is also related to the intelligence of individuals. In your post, you provided three methods which seem to have a strong connection with each other. For me, comfort zone and risky atmosphere emphasize thinking and looking at the issue from another angle. To conclude, thanks for introducing these methods, and you have reviewed CT skills from different methods, it is also the evidence of your critical thinking skill.


  2. Thanks for your blog! your topic is very significant in Kazakhstani context this because schools are striving for teaching critical thinking. Your suggestions can be valid for secondary school children too.


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