Teacher Learning Community

Fall 2016 TLC: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills - Activity 3 Resources

Course leader:

Teacher Quality Standards

  • QS III: Teachers plan and deliver effective instruction and create an environment that facilitates learning for their students.
    • Element D: Teachers establish and communicate high expectations and use processes to support the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Structures for Problem Solving and Higher Order Thinking

Essential Question: How do teachers support students in developing critical-thinking and problem solving skills and persisting in the application of these skills in their learning?

In activity two, you designed lessons that promoted and encouraged critical thinking. This activity will extend those efforts to include opportunities for students to apply deep thinking and solve challenging problems. Planned learning experiences should  allow students to creatively approach problems in a way that encourages the asking of thought provoking questions, relates prior knowledge to new information, and reexamines beliefs in a logical fashion, all leading to valid conclusions. In order to do so, you will examine one of three learning structures that lend themselves to “students applying higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills to address challenging issues”: whole class discussion, collaboration or non-linguistic representations.   



This short article provides classroom and student rules and goals for successful Socratic Seminars. 

This article by Robert Marzano describes the importance of using nonlinguistic strategies to help transfer knowledge and process information.  Tips and examples are included in the text.   

This resource provides templates of different graphic organizers.  

In this research spotlight from the National Education Association, studies on cooperative learning are presented with research supporting the use of cooperative learning in the classroom.  

This Editorial from the Foundation for Critical Thinking discusses the importance of active engagement and collaboration by students to enhance learning.  

This excerpt from "Teachers Guide to Accompany Minds-On Physics" explains ways that collaborative group work can work in a science classroom.  Most of these ideas can be used in other content areas as well.  

This resource has 7 graphic organizer ideas to help students show how they are critically thinking.  

This classroom example shows the intentional scaffolding involved in teaching students to analyze text.  The teacher takes students through making observations, finding patterns and drawing conclusions from text.  This process pushes students from concrete to abstract thinking with the end result being a thesis statement.

This article examines how to encourage and structure student-to-student discourse. 

This podcast discusses the ways that good questions can drive cognitive rigor in terms of Webb's Depth of Knowledge and Bloom's Taxonomy.


The highlights of this reading, which is an excerpt from the book Getting to Got It: Helping Struggling Students Learn How to Learn, revolve around the cognitive structures, or “the basic mental processes” used to make sense of new information. Examples of these patterns of thoughts are provided, focusing on real classroom situations and how teachers have helped their students move from getting it to got it!

"Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Proffitt, from 2-Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., guides her students through a problem-based math task in which they individually and collaboratively grapple with a multiplication problem. At the conclusion of the 80-minute period, pairs of students represent their thinking to their peers."

This post provides a list of discussion strategies complete with links to videos showing classroom examples of each strategy.


This resource features dozens of ideas of how to deeply engage students in thinking. Although written with an eye towards literacy strategies, many of these suggestions can be used in any content area or grade level.

In this video, Mrs. Susie demonstrates how she encourages her 4th graders to take ownership of their learning through math talks.

This video highlights teacher Becki Cope's use of cooperative groups during a science lesson.

This article gives examples of question stems that might be used to promote and assess critical thinking with students.

This article addresses the essential question: "What does critical thinking look and sound like in the elementary classroom?" The author outlines several different strategies to support critical thinking including collaborative learning, inquiry, questioning, and problem solving.

This blog post provides practical suggestions for increasing students' thinking beyond basic recall.  This article is appropriate for teachers of students of all ages.

This video shows a class discussion in which students are analyzing text and posing questions to enhance understanding. Students cite text evidence to support their answers.

This reference sheet provides examples of structures that can be used to facilitate student interaction and collaboration.

The video features the ways in which collaborative learning drives both English and math instruction at The College Preparatory School in California.

This article discusses the value of and methods to apply Socratic questioning. The art of Socratic questioning is important for the critical thinker because the art of questioning is important to excellence of thought. What the word ‘Socratic’ adds is “systematicity”, “depth”, and a keen interest in assessing the truth or plausibility of things. There are specific strategies to aid in lesson planning as well as student-teacher discussion examples.

This NCTE one page strategy guide explains Socratic seminars and offers practical methods for applying the approach in your classroom to help students investigate multiple perspectives in a text.  The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions.  Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.  They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly. Use this strategy to improve literacy development.