Teaching Strategies

Welcome to the TH!NK Faculty Resource page. This is aimed to give you helpful teaching strategies and exercises for implementing more critical and creative thinking into your curriculum and classroom.

Many of the resources included here align with multiple stages of the critical and creative process, and we are sure that most teachers will find new and exciting implementation for these strategies. Please share your successes (and learning) with us as you use these resources in the classroom by email at: sdcarson@ncsu.edu. You can access a full list of these resource sheets here

Raising Questions, Formulating Problems

Students need to have the fundamental ability to raise relevant and important questions, but they also need opportunities to connect previous knowledge to what they are learning in your classroom. Opportunities that help them do that is critical to creating lifelong learners and more critical and creative thinkers.  

VISUAL THINKING:

Students don’t always realize the previous knowledge that they might have about a subject, or their own ability to be critical thinkers. Having students look and observe their surroundings, or images that you provide, can be an empowering way for them to recognize the knowledge that they bring to a situation or lesson. Download PDF.

CRITICAL READING:

The beginning of all critical and creative thinking is being able to assess and question the information that you are given. Challenging students to be more independent, critical and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. This resource sheet will give you strategies for encouraging critical reading in your class. Download PDF.

DIVERGENT THINKING:

As a form of structured brainstorming, divergent thinking can help students re-examine concepts that they are already familiar with, or to come up with new ideas to address age-old problems. Because of the inherent structure of the exercises, it is also a great way to encourage risk-taking in your students work. Download PDF.


REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

Gathering and Assessing Relevant Information

Students often need additional support in assembling research, but also in making meaning out of it, especially when it comes to balancing both breadth and depth. Worksheets and strategies for this section can help students organize information to find themes and connections as well as to identify biases and assumptions, evaluate sources, and address contradictions. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

VISUAL THINKING:

Students don’t always realize the previous knowledge that they might have about a subject, or their own ability to be critical thinkers. Having students look and observe their surroundings, or images that you provide, can be an empowering way for them to recognize the knowledge that they bring to a situation or lesson. Download PDF.

MAPPING AND DIAGRAMMING:

Concept mapping can be an effective way to help students gather, organize, and test their knowledge. Similar to mind mapping, which is primarily a brainstorming tool, concept mapping has a specific drive to map connections and interdependencies. Concept mapping requires the inclusion of linking words that indicate relationships (correlational, causal or otherwise) as a key component to the process. Concept mapping can also identify gaps in student knowledge. Download PDF.

CRITICAL READING:

The beginning of all critical and creative thinking is being able to assess and question the information that you are given. Challenging students to be more independent, critical and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. This resource sheet will give you strategies for encouraging critical reading in your class. Download PDF.


WRITING TO THINK:

Students can be apprehensive about putting words on paper because of the seemingly “final” nature of the written word. Encouraging them to see writing as a process can be accomplished through lower-stakes iterative exercises. Writing to think encourages students to interpret abstract concepts and associations and make them more concrete. It can be a reflective tool, as well as a means by which to support the thinking process, helping students gain more clarity. Download PDF.

SYNTHESIS MATRIX:

Oftentimes in the research process, students can become overwhelmed with the diversity of information they have found. Strategies to organize information and research can help students start to see patterns in their work, as well as where there might be gaps. It also opens up opportunities for critical discussion in the classroom about how content is being gathered, interpreted, and ultimately used in support of an argument. Download PDF.

LOTUS BLOSSOM:

Students can be apprehensive to take risks, or to consider ideas and connections that are outside of their immediate and current knowledge-base. The Lotus Blossom can be an effective tool to help stretch students’ minds to look for additional supporting evidence for their arguments, or to encourage free association during a brainstorming process. Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, a Japanese business consultant, the Lotus Blossom is easy to create and use in a variety of ways. Download PDF.


PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.

ACTIVE LISTENING:

Active listening embedded in classroom discussions can help both students and teachers practice reflecting on what is being communicated and trying to interpret and better understand others’ ideas. For students, it can help them stay engaged in discussions and connect the relevance of other students’ work to their own. Active listening can prompt students to ask provocative questions, and help students evaluate how their own experience colors their reaction to others’ ideas. Download PDF.

REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

Synthesizing and Generating Ideas

Giving students tools and strategies to help connect their ideas and research into a clear, precise and novel argument can not only help with their ability to craft articulate messages, but also give them confidence in taking risks with new ideas. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

VISUAL THINKING:

Students don’t always realize the previous knowledge that they might have about a subject, or their own ability to be critical thinkers. Having students look and observe their surroundings, or images that you provide, can be an empowering way for them to recognize the knowledge that they bring to a situation or lesson. Download PDF.

MAPPING AND DIAGRAMMING:

Concept mapping can be an effective way to help students gather, organize, and test their knowledge. Similar to mind mapping, which is primarily a brainstorming tool, concept mapping has a specific drive to map connections and interdependencies. Concept mapping requires the inclusion of linking words that indicate relationships (correlational, causal or otherwise) as a key component to the process. Concept mapping can also identify gaps in student knowledge. Download PDF.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process. Download PDF.


CRITICAL READING:

The beginning of all critical and creative thinking is being able to assess and question the information that you are given. Challenging students to be more independent, critical and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. This resource sheet will give you strategies for encouraging critical reading in your class. Download PDF.

WRITING TO THINK:

Students can be apprehensive about putting words on paper because of the seemingly “final” nature of the written word. Encouraging them to see writing as a process can be accomplished through lower-stakes iterative exercises. Writing to think encourages students to interpret abstract concepts and associations and make them more concrete. It can be a reflective tool, as well as a means by which to support the thinking process, helping students gain more clarity. Download PDF.

SYNTHESIS MATRIX:

Oftentimes in the research process, students can become overwhelmed with the diversity of information they have found. Strategies to organize information and research can help students start to see patterns in their work, as well as where there might be gaps. It also opens up opportunities for critical discussion in the classroom about how content is being gathered, interpreted, and ultimately used in support of an argument. Download PDF.


LATERAL THINKING:

Being able to think divergently is particularly important when trying to help students consider a problem or concept in a new way. For instance, maybe making inroads into new forms of waste management isn’t about teaching people how to recycle, but getting people to buy less. Using analogies can be effective ways to challenge biases and assumptions. They can be used to help students think of new solutions to existing problems, to try out a new process, or to understand a new concept in terms of existing ones. Download PDF.

MORPHOLOGIES:

Morphological thinking was first introduced by Fritz Zwicky, an astrophysicist, as a way to categorize and consider “all possible alternatives” within a particular system or problem. Morphologies can help students in the brainstorming phase through forcing associations that they would not normally make, and to take risks in their thinking through short, iterative exercises. Alternatively, they are also good for pulling apart a problem and looking at each element of it in isolation as well as combination.Download PDF.

PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.


REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

LOTUS BLOSSOM:

Students can be apprehensive to take risks, or to consider ideas and connections that are outside of their immediate and current knowledge-base. The Lotus Blossom can be an effective tool to help stretch students’ minds to look for additional supporting evidence for their arguments, or to encourage free association during a brainstorming process. Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, a Japanese business consultant, the Lotus Blossom is easy to create and use in a variety of ways. Download PDF.

Considering Alternatives

Students can become overwhelmed with the amount of information that they have gathered through the critical and creative thinking process, and connected to projects and assignments that ask them to come up with new and innovative solutions to existing problems. Strategies that help them organize and visualize the multiplicity of perspectives and ideas can help manage thinking and connections throughout this process. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

MAPPING AND DIAGRAMMING:

Concept mapping can be an effective way to help students gather, organize, and test their knowledge. Similar to mind mapping, which is primarily a brainstorming tool, concept mapping has a specific drive to map connections and interdependencies. Concept mapping requires the inclusion of linking words that indicate relationships (correlational, causal or otherwise) as a key component to the process. Concept mapping can also identify gaps in student knowledge. Download PDF.

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process. Download PDF.

CRITICAL READING:

The beginning of all critical and creative thinking is being able to assess and question the information that you are given. Challenging students to be more independent, critical and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. This resource sheet will give you strategies for encouraging critical reading in your class. Download PDF.


SYNTHESIS MATRIX:

Oftentimes in the research process, students can become overwhelmed with the diversity of information they have found. Strategies to organize information and research can help students start to see patterns in their work, as well as where there might be gaps. It also opens up opportunities for critical discussion in the classroom about how content is being gathered, interpreted, and ultimately used in support of an argument. Download PDF.

LATERAL THINKING:

Being able to think divergently is particularly important when trying to help students consider a problem or concept in a new way. For instance, maybe making inroads into new forms of waste management isn’t about teaching people how to recycle, but getting people to buy less. Using analogies can be effective ways to challenge biases and assumptions. They can be used to help students think of new solutions to existing problems, to try out a new process, or to understand a new concept in terms of existing ones. Download PDF.

MORPHOLOGIES:

Morphological thinking was first introduced by Fritz Zwicky, an astrophysicist, as a way to categorize and consider “all possible alternatives” within a particular system or problem. Morphologies can help students in the brainstorming phase through forcing associations that they would not normally make, and to take risks in their thinking through short, iterative exercises. Alternatively, they are also good for pulling apart a problem and looking at each element of it in isolation as well as combination.Download PDF.


PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.

REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

LOTUS BLOSSOM:

Students can be apprehensive to take risks, or to consider ideas and connections that are outside of their immediate and current knowledge-base. The Lotus Blossom can be an effective tool to help stretch students’ minds to look for additional supporting evidence for their arguments, or to encourage free association during a brainstorming process. Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, a Japanese business consultant, the Lotus Blossom is easy to create and use in a variety of ways. Download PDF.

Reaching Reasoned Conclusions

Considering whether conclusions are logical, coherent, well-formulated and deep can be challenging for students throughout the critical and creative thinking process. Strategies that help students challenge their own assumptions and recognize how their research and biases have informed the conclusions that they do draw strengthen their final conclusions and arguments. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

MAPPING AND DIAGRAMMING:

Concept mapping can be an effective way to help students gather, organize, and test their knowledge. Similar to mind mapping, which is primarily a brainstorming tool, concept mapping has a specific drive to map connections and interdependencies. Concept mapping requires the inclusion of linking words that indicate relationships (correlational, causal or otherwise) as a key component to the process. Concept mapping can also identify gaps in student knowledge. Download PDF. a href='https://think.dasa.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2018/05/NCSU_THNK_VisualThinking_Mapping.pdf'>

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process. Download PDF.

CRITICAL READING:

The beginning of all critical and creative thinking is being able to assess and question the information that you are given. Challenging students to be more independent, critical and thoughtful readers is a fundamental stepping stone in life-long learning. This resource sheet will give you strategies for encouraging critical reading in your class. Download PDF.


WRITING TO THINK:

Students can be apprehensive about putting words on paper because of the seemingly “final” nature of the written word. Encouraging them to see writing as a process can be accomplished through lower-stakes iterative exercises. Writing to think encourages students to interpret abstract concepts and associations and make them more concrete. It can be a reflective tool, as well as a means by which to support the thinking process, helping students gain more clarity. Download PDF.

PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.

REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

Effectively Communicating

The ability to articulate and communicate ideas is paramount to the critical and creative process for students to make contributions to the domain in which they’re entering and working. Teaching strategy worksheets that address this stage of the process are:

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process. Download PDF.

WRITING TO THINK:

Students can be apprehensive about putting words on paper because of the seemingly “final” nature of the written word. Encouraging them to see writing as a process can be accomplished through lower-stakes iterative exercises. Writing to think encourages students to interpret abstract concepts and associations and make them more concrete. It can be a reflective tool, as well as a means by which to support the thinking process, helping students gain more clarity. Download PDF.

PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.


REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.

Reflection and Integrated Strategies

Many of the teaching strategies are not unique to only one stage of the process and particularly useful when integrated throughout the entire cycle. Teaching strategy worksheets that are particularly instrumental in this way are:

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING:

Encouraging discussion and interaction among students in the classroom is one of the most effective teaching strategies for learner-centered teaching. Terry Doyle, author of Learner-Centered Teaching argues that “discussion elicits higher levels of reflective thinking and creative problem solving…”(90). Yet simply making time for discussion is often not enough. Giving students structure through which to start conversations can be a critical part of an effective discussion process. Download PDF.

PEER REVIEW:

Peer reviews are an important opportunity for students to provide critical, constructive, and coherent evaluation of the work of others. Peer reviews can be constructed as ways for students to share knowledge, to learn about other’s experiences, and processes and to develop ideas more fully. Students might be uncomfortable giving an evaluation that they perceive as “negative,” so setting the stage for what is expected in the evaluation is critical. Download PDF.

REFLECTING:

Prompting students to reflect on their thinking and learning helps both teachers and students better understand how they are processing information, what is resonating, what is clear/unclear, and how they are using both critical and creative thinking in their process. Oftentimes these thinking processes are so embedded in the assignment or project output that they can be difficult to isolate and evaluate. Reflection is a critical method through which you “see” what students are thinking. Download PDF.


ACTIVE LISTENING:

Active listening embedded in classroom discussions can help both students and teachers practice reflecting on what is being communicated and trying to interpret and better understand others’ ideas. For students, it can help them stay engaged in discussions and connect the relevance of other students’ work to their own. Active listening can prompt students to ask provocative questions, and help students evaluate how their own experience colors their reaction to others’ ideas. Download PDF.