I recently attended a conference at Columbia University. The theme was critical thinking. As Americans, we are taught that critical thinking is a valuable skill that must be cultivated and honed. We are encouraged from a young age to think critically, and as such, we except our students to do the same.
This can be a stumbling block for ESL students. At the conference, one presenter noted the cultural differences in how situations are approached. In addition, the vocabulary required can be an obstacle. ESL students are not alone in their struggles. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) published a study in which critical thinking was ranked as the most important skill by over 80% of employers. Yet only 23% of the employers surveyed felt that the recent graduates they hired had the critical thinking skills required to succeed on the job.
As teachers, how can we close this gap? I would love to know if you value critical thinking in your classes, and how you encourage it in your students.