Critical Thinking

A structured strategy in using critical thinking for problem-solving.

Identify the Problem.

The first task is to determine if a problem exists. Sometimes when the point is thought through, the conclusion may appear that there really isn't a problem, just a misunderstanding. If that's the case, fine. If not, determine that there is indeed a problem and identify exactly what it is by identifying relevant information. Sometimes breaking the problem down into more manageable parts can help to identify more specifics regarding the true problem and help to not overwhelm.

Analyze the problem

Look at it from different angles. Once the problem is identified, analyze it by looking at it from a variety of perspectives. Is it solvable? Can it be solved alone or is help needed? Sometimes by looking at a problem from many angles a resolution can be developed right away. Realize and take into account any bias or narrow point of view that needs to be broadened. Critical thinking is about curiosity, flexibility, and keeping an open mind. Accept new evidence, explanations and findings.

Brainstorm and come up with several possible solutions.

Problems can be solved in many ways. Brainstorm a list of several possible solutions. Put down anything that comes to mind and then go over the list and narrow it down to the best possibilities. Having several viable options leads to obtaining the best results. Rely on reason rather than emotion. Sometimes taking a break and then going back to the problem can help.

Decide which solution fits the situation best.

Go over a list of possible solutions. Different situations call for different solutions. Quite often what works in one situation may not work in a similar one. Take time to determine what will work best for the problem at hand. One solution usually does not fit all problems. Avoid hasty judgments and be willing to reassess information if necessary. Question the pros and cons of each solution -what may be the consequence of each?

Take action. Implement a solution.

Every problem has a solution; even if it is to accept the situation and move on. Evaluate the outcome by reflecting on likes and dislikes about the solution -how could it be improved?

Instead of approaching problems as insurmountable obstacles, students can view them as opportunities to hone critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Every problem resolved increases self-confidence and self-worth. Skill in self-determination gives the blind or low vision student increased control over choices and life. Thinking critically not only helps handle future challenges more skillfully, whether solving a science class problem or using orientation and mobility skills to determine location along a route, it also broadens life experience and helps gain perspective as there becomes a shift from concrete thinking of recalling information to increased use of abstract thinking using higher order thinking skills of analyzing and assessing information presented.

Strategies to promote critical thinking skills.

Devise long-term goals.

The importance of looking ahead and planning for the future is important for everyone. This is a skill which can be encouraged in students and directly relates it to learning.


The ability to analyze options, risks and opinions will help in the future in many situations. This skill can be practiced by providing a relatable situation and asking that different options be analyzed and compared.

Anticipating consequences.

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

Ask questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Take a moment to think about the questions being asked. Are the questions perhaps too simple, receiving only one word responses? Change up what is asked. Instead of asking “if the sky is blue,” try asking “why is the sky blue.” Just switching the question around a little bit will turn it from a no brainer question to one that has to be thought about before answering.

Look to classic literature pieces.

Encourage students to read the great classics, such as Shakespeare. Classic pieces have characters that are deep and rich. They are sure to get a teen thinking in a critical manner while they think about what will happen next in the story, what the characters motives are, and so on.

Relate questions to real life events.

Life presents opportunities at every turn for thinking critically. Watching the evening news, reading the newspaper, or even simply people watching at the local mall will provide plenty of opportunity to pose questions and have open discussions. Ask questions such as: “What do you think that person was thinking?”; “If you were in their shoes, what would you do?”; “How would doing that benefit them?”; or “What were the possible outcomes in that situation?.” Questions like these will get students digging deeper and also will get them thinking about how they would respond if they were in a particular situation.

Teach how to sort through information.

A big part of critical thinking is knowing how to dissect vast information. Your teen will need to know what information will be crucial to them when forming their opinion and what information is just “fluff.” They will need to know how to read information given to them and find the useful and pertinent facts relative to their topic.

Correct assumptions -especially with visually impaired students.

Students might have assumptions or misconceptions of what they are reading. This is a great time to talk with students should you notice their line of thinking isn’t factual. When you give students information that they might not have had or explain to them why their assumption is wrong, you are widening their horizons and broadening their knowledge so never miss out on that opportunity. Consider using similar known objects or situations as comparison’s to help describe.