(From Vanderbilt University The Center for Teaching) The Teaching Exchange: Fostering Critical Thinking. There are two general approaches that I find helpful in producing a classroom setting conductive to critical inquiry. These involve 1) the establishment of an environment in which both parties, student and teacher, function as partners in inquiry, and 2) the employment of a set of questioning strategies specifically geared to the acquisition of higher-order thinking and reasoning skills.
Central to making students feel they are partners in a community of learners is the creation of a climate of trust, so that students feel safe in offering their own ideas. I try to foster a sense of “we-feeling” by asking, for example, “How can we explain this development? What does it mean to us?” Using plural pronouns creates a dialogue that has less of an adversarial tone and underscores the idea of students and teachers as partners in inquiry. I have also found that learning student names as quickly as possible is essential for developing trust. I give students a rationale for the value of an interactive classroom. I assure them that interaction is not designed to embarrass them, but rather to facilitate learning and make the subject matter more interesting. This lets students know they have some control over class proceedings and that their insights and contributions will be validated in our mutual quest for understanding. Here are some additional strategies.