At thinkLaw we’re on a mission to support and foster the development of critical thinking skills in ALL students.  As part of our work this past fall we surveyed over 800 middle and high school students. We asked them about their critical thinking skills and habits.    

We’re sharing with you these results and our reflections on the student responses over the next few weeks in a five-part blog series titled, “The State of Critical Thinking.”  This is the third part of that series. To read the first part on defining critical thinking click here and to read the second post about perseverance click here.

Part 3: Inspiring Inquisitiveness

At thinkLaw, we have the privilege of speaking at schools, summits, education conferences all over the country.  This gives us the opportunity to speak to a lot of educators.  A comment that we hear at least once at every professional development session is, “This is all great, but my students don’t like to think.”  The frequency of this complaint made us stop to reflect: Do students today really hate to think?

In searching for answers, we decided to ask students.  As part of our critical thinking survey we asked students to rate the statement, “I like being challenged to think critically”  An overwhelming 88% of students surveyed told us that they do.  Around 6% said that they someone disagreed with that statement and only 7% of students surveyed stated that they disagreed completely.  

If students are saying that they like to be challenged to think critically but teachers are reporting that they do not, where is the disconnect?  Perhaps we should modify the complaint from “My students don’t like to think” to “My students don’t like to think about the material in my class.”  This hits a little closer to home and starts to shift the narrative about critical thinking and our classrooms.

In our first post we talked about the importance of critical thinking dispositions. Dispositions are the habits and mindsets that students use to apply their toolbox of critical thinking. Our second post focused on the critical thinking disposition of perseverance. Today we’ll focus on inquisitiveness.  

The free access to information has led us to a place in education that focuses heavily on rote memorization and spoon-fed learning.  All too often students sit in school all day and are asked to memorize lists of facts. There is a place for memorization in education but the strict focus of making it through a set of course objectives has led us away from inquisitiveness. In eliminating the need for questioning, curiosity has declined.  

What Students are Saying: Inquisitiveness

We know students are thinking critically. They even told us that they like to think deeply.  We asked our students what they think critically about outside of school. Surprisingly 72% reported thinking critically about their friendships, 63% about family issues, 50% about ways to earn money and 48% about health and nutrition. Students expressed less interest in thinking critically about politics or the news.

When asked if school challenged them to think critically most students agreed that it does. But most people in education and career services say that students are lacking critical thinking skills. So where is the disconnect?  

It comes back to the issue of critical thinking dispositions. Students are applying their critical thinking skills within certain contexts but not consistently across different areas.  Again, when we look to the best and brightest minds we see these critical thinking dispositions embodied.  Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents i am only passionately curious.” Let’s start the second half of this school year encouraging our students to be inquisitive!

Join the discussion!  Do you feel the move to standards based education has affected student inquisitiveness?  Why or why not?  How do you promote inquisitiveness in your classroom.  Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter @thinklawus

Join us next time for the 4th installment of our series “The State of Critical Thinking” when we look at the critical thinking disposition of confidence.  


To order a critical thinking assessment for your students or to learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team or call us now at (702) 318-7512. Join us on our next webinar; Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students