3 ways to promote critical thinking and equity in K-12 classrooms

To help every learner become future-ready, districts must prioritize digital equity
By: | December 21, 2021
Gintas Bradunas

Gintas Bradunas

In the most recent edition of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, critical thinking and problem-solving top the list of skills employers believe will grow in prominence leading up to the year 2025.

Emerging technologies and increased automation make it necessary to learn these skills at an early age—only adding to the importance of closing the digital divide.

As a former educator, I understand the importance—and pressure—of helping students master in-demand skills, like critical thinking. My advice? Start early, leverage the right resources and provide ample opportunities for practice.

Here are three ways to foster critical thinking and equity in the classroom.

1. Introduce concepts early

Developing future-ready skills start before middle and high school. Introducing concepts such as information literacy and online research during the early years can help students form strong foundations to build upon.

Teachers, you don’t have to do this alone. Instead, partner up with your school librarian—they’re sure to have plenty of ideas for sharpening students’ media literacy skills and bringing in databases and other more sophisticated resources.

2. Use digital tools to encourage curiosity

As a teacher, I loved to assign research projects that encouraged students to take ownership of their learning. Of course, in the era of information overload, that’s easier said than done.

All too often, I would unwittingly launch students into an ocean of content that, to my eyes, was full of discovery but to some students, was an endless abyss.

To support even the youngest learners in exercising their critical thinking skills through research, educators should supplement lesson plans and assignments with guided, digital resources—such as student databases.

Student databases provide a safe channel for learners to conduct research, evaluate information and share it back with their peers. Platforms can enable access to age-appropriate content that supports standards and covers a broad range of subjects—from animals and geography to sports and literature.

Related Resource: Using student-generated questions to promote deeper thinking (Edutopia)

Providing access to digital resources and devices is necessary for ensuring equity and continuity for every learner, as evidenced by the pandemic. It’s also a simple step toward helping students attain digital literacy.

3. Leverage every opportunity

Today’s educators are tasked with meeting the evolving needs of students and their families. The digital shift has added a new layer of complexity to helping learners become future-ready. It has also brought an opportunity to use technology in new, exciting ways.

Critical thinking and digital literacy go hand-in-hand. If students don’t know how to source and analyze information, they are at risk of absorbing (or worse, spreading) misinformation.

To help every learner become future-ready, districts must prioritize digital equity and leverage available resources, including pandemic relief funds, to close existing gaps. Additionally, teachers must seize every available opportunity to promote needed inquiry skills in a way that’s both impactful and equitable.

Gintas Bradunas is a senior product manager at Gale and a former middle school teacher and Teach For America member.