How Do You Motivate Students to Think Critically? 8 Best Tips

Before I project something, may I ask.

How can we live a meaningful and successful life if we don’t think critically? This encases our topic for today in a nutshell. And teachers feel a huge role to motivate students to think critically.

If you’re a teacher like me, we should roll up our sleeves and do hard work to develop critical minds.

ways of promoting critical thinking in the classroom

Critical thinking is one of the 21st-century skills in the K to 12 curriculum.  Thus, instilling critical thinking abilities in students has been always emphasized in the educational landscape.

There’s a highlight on how to strategize rather than what to think.

How do you motivate students to think critically?

In today’s age, students need to enhance their critical thinking skills to make the most of the opportunities in life. Hence, developing the critical thinking skills of students is of utmost importance.

But, students need motivation. And since it’s a critical skill, your motivation strategies should be revisited.

Firstly, you should incorporate activities in your instruction that promote critical thinking skills. Like, tasks that require students to evaluate and analyze.


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What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the process of questioning, analyzing, interpreting, investigating, evaluating, and forming your opinion and judgment about something.

It is derived from the Greek word “kritikos” which means making a reliable judgment.  And since it emphasizes the skill to make decisions and judgments, it requires deep thinking and an immense appreciation of facts and information.

Why is critical thinking important to students?

Why should students be encouraged to think critically? What makes it a valuable asset to students? What good can it do to them? Does it have something to do with lifelong learning?

Just like any other individual, students can highly benefit from critical thinking. Critical thinking helps students make important decisions that affect their future actions and their lives in general.

With this skill, from a broader perspective, students are guided in making choices that help them to live their best and to become successful in life. It enables them to weigh things and make conscious decisions that they won’t regret.

In other words, with critical thinking, students empower themselves to actuate self-reflect, and rationalize their habits and viewpoints. And because critical thinking offers the means to properly assess themselves properly to magnify independent and deeper learning, this skill is highly crucial.

importance of critical thinking

How Do You Motivate Students to Think Critically?

In order for students to learn life skills, they must be given enriching opportunities to think critically. It’s about literally going beyond the informational ‘wh- questions’ such as who, what, when, where, and which. It’s delving deeper through questions that begin with how and why.

8 best tips

1. Intensify the art of questioning

Encourage the how and the why. Assess student learning with higher-order questions. These are difficult and challenging questions, but they are more pragmatic. Thus, you should enhance your art of questioning.

Going beyond surface-level questions is a great exercise for students to think critically. Right after reading the selection, you should ask more comprehension questions rather than dwelling on “who are the characters and where is the setting”.

In addition, students must be motivated to research background information when asked questions. Likewise, students must be encouraged to see the relevance to real-world circumstances.

You need to craft more how and why questions that enhance the learning experiences of students by making the activities more interactive and meaningful.

enhancing the art of questioning

2. Ask questions that encourage further thinking

Asking probing questions can help. However, you have to ask questions that will encourage further thinking. It’s a smart way to encourage children to think deeply.

Ask intelligent questions to promote sound thinking in responses. Following that, interactive discussions bloom.

  • Could you please provide an example?
  • Will you provide more examples?
  • Will you provide further information?
  • How can it be possible? Can you specify the ways?
  • Is there a different way to look at this?
  • Why does it happen?

Interactions in the classroom can boost students’ confidence and encourage them to think critically. This improves student participation which is a significant step in promoting collaborative learning.

<<<Here’s the best advice from a teacher evaluator on how to make questions to make students think critically.

“You first start with a what question but don’t end there.”

3. Encourage creativity

Encouraging creativity in the classroom will help students to think outside the box and think from a broader perspective.

Creativity is the driving force why amazing innovations and inventions abound.

In doing their outputs, for example, it really helps if you provide students with rubrics so they’ll know how their work is graded. With a clear guide, students will strive hard to meet the expected criteria.

Realizing the importance of creativity in the classroom gives students enough opportunities to show their best. When students are given the freedom to find the most creative ways of doing things, they become more confident.

Fostering creativity in the classroom allows students to exercise their potential for innovation and become a better version of themselves.

With the production of creative thoughts, students think critically. They think of ways how to make their work more presentable and awe-inspiring.

4. Promote discovery learning

Challenging the impossible allows students to discover solutions to given situations. They think and they get excited about the results.

Discovery learning promotes engagement and autonomy in learning. It helps students increase their motivation to think critically.

The process gives students the responsibility to assume their own learning and bring forth brilliant ideas to the class.

Moreover, discovery-based learning fosters inquisitive minds and the possibility for life-long learning.

In the classroom, students should be given options to investigate, gather information, experiment, and make explanations. And this happens in a learner-centered classroom.

5. Use a problem-solving teaching strategy

Teaching problem-solving skills helps students become more independent and confident. Research shows that problem-based learning can help students retain and recall information as it highlights maximum student participation.

Often engineering, math, and science teachers provide ” problems” for their students to solve. Are you one of them? But, problem-based instruction should not be only for them.

All teachers can use a problem-solving teaching strategy in a classroom setting. It just requires careful planning and effective implementation.

Now, if you’re using this strategy, are you giving your students opportunities to work on real problems?  Here’s the rule. The more concrete, the more effective is the task.

Furthermore, introducing group tasks to solve problems can help foster good relationships other than honing students’ collaborative and critical thinking skills. They design real-life solutions so they have a better grasp of the concept which in turn aids them for longer retention of information and for better mastery of skills.

6. Enhance your teaching practices

Improving students’ critical thinking skills requires a dramatic change in your teaching styles. You need to reflect on your practices and enhance your instructional teaching strategies.

Think of your toolbox for teaching. Does it help develop deeper learning in students? Are the students given autonomy in defining their own goals and designing their own learning? Are they allowed to make choices?

When students are given opportunities to direct their own learning, they become more dedicated and engaged. Like, if you’re to adopt project-based instruction, students foster a deeper appreciation of knowledge by processing it and designing something new that manifests their learning.

Thus, you reflect on your existing teaching practices and ensure that you foster deeper learning. You have to make sure that students are actively involved and that they are thinking critically.

7. Give challenges and set high expectations

This should be part of your practice. When students are faced with a challenge, they are to ponder, to exercise their creative and critical thinking.

And because students are to meet high expectations, then they have to exert effort in learning. As you give projects and exams, make sure that you foster higher-order thinking skills. So, if you’re to ask questions, for example, you have to make sure that students are to make elaborations and present reasons and examples.

When students are made to understand the set high expectations from the beginning, they are more guided on what to do and how to excel. They learn to accept the challenge and show their best because you believe in their capacity.

Requiring students to make their outputs creative and outstanding is a way of communicating to them your confidence in their capabilities. So, you have to make immediate and timely feedback so they’ll know if they passed the challenge and met high expectations.

8. Promote student-led discussions

Who talks most in your classroom? Then, if you realize that it’s you, I bet, you reflect on your practice and adopt student-centered instruction. Make them talk, and engage them to participate.

How to initiate it? Well, you have to include that in your plan and project ways that encourage students to share their ideas and become a remarkable part of the big group.

Now, think about your instruction. Do you always stay in front and do the lecture? Very well, you need to strategize a plan that requires your students to talk, share, and lead discussions. Although the lecture is important for learning complex concepts, it should not happen all the time. Otherwise, your students will be bored to death.

Allow them to manipulate discussions. You can implore small group discussions by assigning them topics and giving them time to research.

In addition, when students are given opportunities to lead discussions, their confidence develops and they are deeply engaged in lessons. As they talk the most during class discussions, after presenting to them the concept, they are able to think critically in order to share sound ideas and practical solutions.


When you’re teaching your students how to analyze facts in order to form judgments and make reliable decisions, then you are motivating them to think critically. You are preparing them to be more confident as they face the real world.

Insightful thinking has done greater contributions to students so they become more critical to judge and discern. Such a useful life skill promotes lifelong learning.

In addition, when students make reasonable thinking on what to do and are able to discern what is true they are already improving their critical thinking skills.

All you have to do as a teacher is to enhance your teaching practices and provide your students with meaningful learning activities.

How do you promote critical thinking in your classroom?  What’s your critical game? Mind to shoot your critical ideas in the comments?

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