How Essay Writing Can Enhance Your Critical Thinking Skills
Learning how to develop ideas in writing is a major challenge for many students. Developing critical thinking means learning to think clearly and form judgments. Writing can be used as a tool to evaluate a student’s ability to develop coherent arguments.
75 percent of American 12th and 8th graders have insufficient writing skills, as estimated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Poor writing skills among students isn’t a new phenomenon, however. Students have always struggled with critical thinking that is both difficult to teach and difficult to learn. Students who cannot think critically have a hard time developing their ideas in writing. Teaching students to develop an original idea and support it is more complicated than teaching them how to avoid spelling errors. Critical thinking involves evaluation, problem solving, and decision making which are all necessary ingredients in a good essay. Here are 8 ways how essay writing can enhance your students’ critical thinking skills:
- Evaluating the reliability of information
When writing essays, students have to evaluate the reliability of the information that they have. Where did it come from, and how it was acquired? Does it serve someone’s interests, and is there a reason to assume that it could biased?
Differentiating between facts and opinions
Evaluating different sources of information is important when presenting arguments. There is a difference between backing up your arguments with facts and opinions. Students will learn that facts are truths that can be proven, whereas opinions are only based on personal experiences, feelings, and beliefs that have not been tested.
Reflecting on information
Writing an essay allows students to understand how they react to information. Do they agree or disagree with it? Does it make them surprised, excited, or confused? And most importantly, why they react that way?
- Making decisions
Decision-making is a crucial part of critical thinking. It concerns how we make the most optimal choice between different alternatives. Students need to make decisions when they’re writing an essay and they have to choose the best way to argue their position.
Every writer encounters problems, and the key to being successful is to have techniques to overcome those problems. A useful technique for students is to break down their problem into smaller parts. Writing an essay becomes easier to manage when they break it down to parts such as title, introduction, body, and ending paragraph.
Using information in different forms
Understanding how information is presented is essential for formulating arguments. Is the information in the form of a graph, table, paragraph, or chart? Why is it presented in this way? Students will learn to utilize information in many different forms.
Before students can draw their own conclusions, they must evaluate arguments from other people. Does the argument make sense in light of all evidence? When formulating their own thoughts in their essays, students will have to evaluate existing arguments. Can they find flaws in them, and is there a way to improve them?
After students have weighed up the evidence and evaluated other arguments, it’s time to present their own arguments. Writing an essay is a good practice for students to learn to present their arguments after forming judgments and making their decisions. Teaching your students to develop their critical thinking through writing essays is one thing but making sure that their language is polished and free of errors is something another. Lucky for your students, there are tools and services that can help them with this stage. The following can be useful for students who need editing for their essays:
- Grammar Girl – a writing blog and podcast offering helpful tips for people who want to improve their writing skills.
- Purdue OWL – an online writing lab that provides guidelines and useful tips for writing and editing your content.
- Readable – a text analysis tool that gives you statistics about the readability of your text.
If you want to read more about how to help your students improve their essay writing skills, you can check our earlier post about tools that can make essay writing easier.
Author Bio: Josh Carlyle is an experienced writer, who covers different topics relating to educational innovations, college life and new technologies in teaching, such as 4 Top eLearning Development Trends To Look Out For and 5 Myths About Business Writing You Probably Still Believe. He has been sharing his knowledge with communities and blogs for more than four years.