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Global Education

Global Competency: How to Build Critical Thinking

In a rapidly changing world, critical thinking skills have emerged as a cornerstone of career readiness, especially when taught in real-world contexts. When teachers cultivate the ability to analyze information, solve complex problems, and make informed decisions in their students, students gain the confidence and belief that they can make an impact on the world around them. 

But how do schools infuse global learning opportunities across grade levels, subject areas, and school-wide activities in a way that supports existing initiatives? What skills and attitudes should students have to help them become globally competitive for their future careers and success? And, how do students develop into engaged citizens of the world?

To help answer these questions, Participate Learning has identified ten global competencies that help young people develop the skills necessary for global competitiveness. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts diving into each global competency to give you a more detailed definition of each one and practical resources to integrate into your teaching instruction. The fourth global competency we will look at is critical thinking.

Skills, values, and attitudes of critical thinkers

When students build their critical thinking skills, they are able to explore multiple ways to solve a problem. They can defend their thinking on an issue or point of view using compelling and logical arguments.

Critical thinkers are able to deal with ambiguity, question biases, and apply complex thought processes when they encounter a challenge. They can think of creative improvements to systems and organizations and see solutions in the context of the world around them.

For example, Amanda, a partner teacher at Jupiter Elementary School in Florida, created an assignment for students to explore the impact of drones around the world, form a claim, and defend their statements to others. 

This is an excellent example of building academic skills through standards-based instruction, while also preparing students to solve real-world problems in their future careers. Thinking up solutions for complex problems builds critical thinking skills and student agency. It also builds confidence by allowing students to envision themselves as global leaders who possess the knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on the world around them.

How to build critical thinking skills

In a Global Leaders classroom, students are encouraged to look at the world with a critical eye, questioning assumptions and digging beyond face value. Find ways to give students opportunities to deepen their learning. Giving students time to think of more than one way to solve a problem, or guiding them through a project focused on solutions to a problem, is a great way to build this cognitive skill set. 

You may be wondering what specific challenge or problem you could tackle with your students to ensure they are interested and engaged in the content. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and globally focused learning provide the perfect framework for relevant, problem-based learning

Students can be invited to think critically about how their learning in the classroom can be connected to global issues like the SDGs. This sense of relevance immediately sparks student engagement because it empowers them to express their opinions on issues that impact their lives. They can even explore how they might be change agents on a global issue within their local community. It can also be a chance to cultivate empathy as they imagine its impact on the lives of others. This develops their curiosity to explore further, and fosters a genuine concern for the world.

As you consider ways to help students build their critical thinking skills, they are taking steps toward becoming engaged global leaders. Teachers in our network are already successfully using the Global Leaders framework to prepare students to navigate the global marketplace and think critically about the world around them. Bringing a global perspective to your school opens up the world to your students, developing their intercultural knowledge and preparing them to be agents of change from a young age.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that focus on applying other global competencies! We would love to hear how you are helping your students become critical thinkers. With Global Leaders, students experience learning that goes beyond mastery of specific academic skills; they develop solutions and ideas to change the world. Share your lessons and activities on social media using #UnitingOurWorld.

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