Can we bridge the critical thinking skills gap with online learning?
Do today’s students lack critical thinking skills and what can be done to tackle the problem? Source: Mimi Thian/Unsplash

Do today’s youth lack critical thinking skills? There are reports that suggest they do, and this is worrying, as a lack critical thinking skills can affect their personal and professional lives in the future.

Critical thinking skills involve identifying flaws in people’s arguments or reasoning by weighing evidence and identifying misuse of information. These skills enable students to differentiate fake news from real reports, differentiating fact from opinion and understanding that they cannot take everything they read or hear at face value.

Despite being such as pivotal skill, there are employers that lament that students’ thinking abilities leave much to be desired, suggesting a disconnect between the skills students graduate with from university and those needed in the workplace.

Meanwhile, an article on Psychology Today titled The Emerging Crisis in Critical Thinking noted that many university students struggle with real-world problem solving, highlighting a decline in thinking ability among students.

But EtonX aims to change this.

This British education technology company, a subsidiary of Eton College founded in 2015, aims to bridge the skills gap via its online Critical Thinking Course.

At this year’s Bett Asia Leadership Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, held on March 12 and 13, EtonX noted that their seven-week course for students between the age range of 14 and 20 can help learners who can’t access these types of courses during their regular school hours.

The course uses a combination of interactive learning content and weekly live online group classes to help children learn and practise their critical thinking and evaluation skills. Students will develop skills such as identifying fallacious arguments and learn to use evidence, problem solve, evaluate data and recognise alternative perspectives, as well as confirmation bias.

Additionally, students will evaluate online information and academic course materials and identify poorly constructed arguments, develop an awareness of how emotions and bias can influence their own as well as other’s thinking.

EtonX CEO and Head of Learning Catherine Whitaker says: “The volume and accessibility of information available to teenagers today means skills like detecting bias or flawed reasoning are more important than ever.”

EtonX notes that in a 2014 global survey of a 1,000 teachers, 92 percent said critical thinking is among the key skills for achieving success in higher education, but as many as 85 percent said it was a skill young people lack.

While findings such as these are alarming, does this suggest schools are failing to teach students critical thinking, and can online learning bridge the gap?

Only time will tell.

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