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 Address.” This is the fourth part of that series. If you need to catch up, you can read the first part on defining critical thinking, the second post about perseverance, and the third post on inquisitiveness.  

Part 4: I Got This

A favorite conversation among my homeroom class was how many selfies they had on their phone. I couldn’t believe the numbers that were being reported. 1,000. 2,000. 3,000. I taught math so I asked the students to figure out how many pictures a DAY they were taking of themselves. For some students it was upward of 40 photos a day. What an interesting phenomenon. Why do students take so many photos of themselves? At the risk of oversimplifying, they like the attention. They like to put photos of themselves out into the world and are confident, sometimes erroneously, that they will receive some sort of positive feedback in return.

While many students like to, at least portray, a high level of confidence in their virtual lives that confidence doesn’t always carry over into their academic lives. In our critical thinking survey we asked students to rate their level of agreement to the following statement. “If I’m not sure that I am correct, I don’t like to share my answers in front of the class.” 68% of the students agreed that fear of failure holds them back!

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 and third posts focused on the critical thinking dispositions of perseverance and inquisitiveness. Today we’ll focus on confidence.

What Students Are Saying: Confidence

Student perception of what is considered “smart” affects their academic confidence levels. We asked students to rate their agreement to the statement, “Smart people answer questions very quickly.”  Over half of students surveyed agreed.  

When asked to rate their own levels of persuasiveness, less than half of surveyed students agreed or strongly agreed that they could make others understand their point of view in an argument.

Students who believe in themselves are more likely to take risks. They tend to be more willing to share answers and engage in debate. We want all of our students to feel confident in their ability to critically think.  As student confidence increases, so will student risk-taking. Like all critical thinking dispositions, self-confidence is context dependent and confidence often doesn’t reach across all areas of a student’s life. This year you can commit to increasing student critical thinking self-confidence.

Join the conversation.

Why do you think students struggle with critical thinking self confidence? How do you foster the development of self-confidence in your classroom?  

Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter @thinklawus

Join us next week for the final part in our five part series where we’ll be reflecting on the critical thinking disposition of maturity.


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