Critical thinking enhances performance

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In the global educational domain there has been, for several years already, a pronounced focus on developing critical thinking in schools and learning institutions. Although there’s wide consensus that critical thinking can enhance the learner’s general performance levels effectively, approaches towards that end by no means have been the same.

Here are some accustomed, though quite dissimilar, models.

On the one hand it is reasoned that the learner’s critical thinking levels can be raised with specific pedagogical approaches. Hence, instructional and often subject-specific teaching/learning strategies are deemed important for meeting this goal.
In order to raise learners’ performance in mathematics or languages or the sciences, for example, their critical thinking faculties need to be developed in those explicit or respective learning areas. This is by far the most popular approach in neoliberal, Westernised schooling systems today.

On the other hand, renowned scholars such as Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren have taken their cue from Paulo Freire, the distinguished Brazilian thinker and practitioner, who essentially argued that education is tied up with social systems. As such, critical thinking should be seen as a crucial tool to raise students’ social awareness and commitment to social justice.

For Freire, Giroux, McLaren and others, critical thinking should empower younger generations not merely to perceive, understand and recognise social wrongs, but also to overcome them. Here it is reasoned that the student’s very induction into various learning areas serves as a basis for him or her to employ knowledge to bring about meaningful social change. In this view, education should not serve narrow ends, but carry a social duty.

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