Step 1: Determine learning objectives. Considering the importance of a course, its placement in a program of study, and its role in providing a base of knowledge to be built upon by other courses, a teacher should first identify the key learning objectives that define what behaviors students should exhibit when they exit the class. To make critical thinking happen, these learning objectives, as well as the activities and assessments.
Step 2: Teach through questioning. Questioning is a vital part of the teaching and learning process. It allows the teacher to establish what is already known and then to extend beyond that to develop new ideas and understandings. Questions can be used to stimulate interaction between teacher and learner and to challenge the learner to defend his or her position, (i.e., to think critically). When teachers plan, they must consider the purpose of each question and then develop the appropriate level and type of question to accomplish the purpose. All students need experience with higher level questioning once they become familiar with a concept. Thoughtful preparation on the part of the teacher is essential in providing that experience.
Step 3: Practice before you assess. In the past decade, a major shift has taken place in education; that shift is toward active learning. Teachers that have used this approach generally find that the students learn more and that the courses are more enjoyable. One very important ingredient of active learning is in-depth reflective dialog. This provides students with the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of their learning experience. One can reflect with oneself, as in a journal, or with others, as in a class discussion.
Step 4: Review, refine, and improve. Teachers should strive to continually refine their courses to ensure that their instructional techniques are in fact helping students develop critical thinking skills. To accomplish this, teachers should monitor the classroom activities very closely. To track student participation, a teaching diary can be kept that identifies the students that participated, describes the main class activities, and provides an assessment of their success. Other reflective comments can also be tracked in this journal and can be very useful when revising or updating instructional activities. Student feedback is also an important tool to be used in the improvement of a course. Discussing the patterns of responses with the students can lead to better teaching and learning.
Step 5: Provide feedback and assessment of learning. Teacher feedback, like assessment, compares criteria and standards to student performance in an effort to evaluate the quality of work. However, the purpose of feedback is to enhance the quality of student learning and performance, rather than to grade the performance, and, importantly, it has the potential to help students learn how to assess their own performance in the future. Teachers should provide good feedback to their students through frequent opportunities to practice whatever they are expected to do at assessment time. Teachers should spend ample time helping students to understand what the criteria and standards are and what they mean. Student peers may also provide feedback and evaluation. Each of these techniques help students learn to distinguish between satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance.