Critical Thinking Skills Essential to 21st Century Success

Jul 19, 2016

Today, critical thinking is considered as one of the most important skills for career success and an essential component of life in the information age.

Academia, business and policy makers all concur on its importance. The USA-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) organization and the American Management Association list it as a key 21st century skill “expected to become even more important in the future.”

In the context of the UAE and the national agenda, it gains even more importance as ensuring students are equipped with critical thinking skills is primordial to achieving a competitive knowledge based economy.

Critical thinking has been identified as a key skill to foster innovation. Research shows that critical thinking and creativity are correlated. Critical thinking training is becoming common practice in the workplace to help develop employees’ innovation skills.

It is a required building block for a STEM education. Subjects in the STEM curriculum teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.

On both accounts, critical thinking is key to the fulfillment of the UAE’s aspiration outlined in the Vision 2021 that “science, technology and innovation become the real drivers for sustainable socio-economic development” and tangible goals outlined in the recently launched Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy. In fact, it permeates many of the strategic sectors and focus areas outlined in the policy.

In this context, critical thinking becomes more than a skill; it’s a mindset, often requiring a culture shift. For us educators, we recognize that is easier to create a culture rather than shift it. Therefore, we believe that nurturing critical thinking from a young age at school is essential for it to become a constructive, life-long habit.

One educational system that has adopted critical thinking as an essential part of its curriculum and teaching method is progressive education.

It is a system that relies on active learning methods for children, starting from a very young age. It provides a framework for the learning and teaching methods that can encourage critical and independent thinking in children and facilitates the process of learning in students. Leading educators agree that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would benefit not only the individual learner but also the community, and society at large.

Against this new paradigm, the role of education, teachers and students inevitably must change. Today the role of the teacher in a progressive environment is very much different to that in a traditional classroom. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an enabler of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student.

Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources that support children in acquiring independent thinking and ‘learning for life’, stemming from the unique blend of traditional and experiential learning that progressive education offers.

At Clarion, the only school to date offering progressive education in the UAE, our teachers have the benefit of experience with and education from the world’s leader in progressive education, the NY-based Bank Street. In recognition of the increasing importance of progressive education, Bank Street has been tasked by the US Department of Education to guide the development of the curricula of schools around the United States to equip the students with the optimal education to prepare them for STEM-based and other priority 21st century careers.

Empowered with the right education and values, children who grow up in the UAE have an opportunity to become truly global citizens and role models to children all over the world.

As educators, it is our responsibility to ignite in them a natural curiosity for the world around them, the confidence to develop their independence of thinking and harness their joy for learning. It’s a gift they will carry with them throughout their entire lives and one that will serve them well as they grow into the leaders, innovators, scientists and shapers of tomorrow.

About Dr. Williams

Dr. Kandace Williams has a rich history of experience in education both nationally and internationally. She earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, her middle school won national recognition for academic achievement and social inclusiveness. She has been a principal of the Kennedy School, a bilingual, bicultural school in Berlin, Germany. In Saudi Arabia, she was part of a small team that started a school on the campus of the first co-gender graduate university in the Kingdom, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She then served as the founding principal for students from 75 countries. In the second year of operation, the school was named as an International Baccalaureate World school.

Dr. Williams’ most recent assignment was the Chief Instructional Services Officer for the Reading School District where she was passionate about the challenge of supporting 19 schools. She is the proud mother of four grown children who have all graduated from university.

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 Academia, business and policy makers all concur on its importance. The USA-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) organization and the American Management Association list it as a key 21st century skill “expected to become even more important in the future.”

 

In the context of the UAE and the national agenda, it gains even more importance as ensuring students are equipped with critical thinking skills is primordial to achieving a competitive knowledge based economy.

 

Critical thinking has been identified as a key skill to foster innovation. Research shows that critical thinking and creativity are correlated. Critical thinking training is becoming common practice in the workplace to help develop employees’ innovation skills.

 

It is a required building block for a STEM education. Subjects in the STEM curriculum teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.

 

On both accounts, critical thinking is key to the fulfillment of the UAE’s aspiration outlined in the Vision 2021 that “science, technology and innovation become the real drivers for sustainable socio-economic development” and tangible goals outlined in the recently launched Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy. In fact, it permeates many of the strategic sectors and focus areas outlined in the policy.

 

In this context, critical thinking becomes more than a skill; it’s a mindset, often requiring a culture shift. For us educators, we recognize that is easier to create a culture rather than shift it. Therefore, we believe that nurturing critical thinking from a young age at school is essential for it to become a constructive, life-long habit.

 

One educational system that has adopted critical thinking as an essential part of its curriculum and teaching method is progressive education.

 

It is a system that relies on active learning methods for children, starting from a very young age. It provides a framework for the learning and teaching methods that can encourage critical and independent thinking in children and facilitates the process of learning in students. Leading educators agree that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would benefit not only the individual learner but also the community, and society at large.

 

Against this new paradigm, the role of education, teachers and students inevitably must change. Today the role of the teacher in a progressive environment is very much different to that in a traditional classroom. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an enabler of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student.

 

Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources that support children in acquiring independent thinking and ‘learning for life’, stemming from the unique blend of traditional and experiential learning that progressive education offers.

 

At Clarion, the only school to date offering progressive education in the UAE, our teachers have the benefit of experience with and education from the world’s leader in progressive education, the NY-based Bank Street. In recognition of the increasing importance of progressive education, Bank Street has been tasked by the US Department of Education to guide the development of the curricula of schools around the United States to equip the students with the optimal education to prepare them for STEM-based and other priority 21st century careers.

 

Empowered with the right education and values, children who grow up in the UAE have an opportunity to become truly global citizens and role models to children all over the world.

 

As educators, it is our responsibility to ignite in them a natural curiosity for the world around them, the confidence to develop their independence of thinking and harness their joy for learning. It’s a gift they will carry with them throughout their entire lives and one that will serve them well as they grow into the leaders, innovators, scientists and shapers of tomorrow.

 

About Dr. Williams

 

Dr. Kandace Williams has a rich history of experience in education both nationally and internationally. She earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, her middle school won national recognition for academic achievement and social inclusiveness. She has been a principal of the Kennedy School, a bilingual, bicultural school in Berlin, Germany. In Saudi Arabia, she was part of a small team that started a school on the campus of the first co-gender graduate university in the Kingdom, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She then served as the founding principal for students from 75 countries. In the second year of operation, the school was named as an International Baccalaureate World school.

Dr. Williams’ most recent assignment was the Chief Instructional Services Officer for the Reading School District where she was passionate about the challenge of supporting 19 schools. She is the proud mother of four grown children who have all graduated from university.