Critical thinking involves actively analyzing and evaluating information: thinking about a topic in an objective way. These skills are important for success in school and in life. Learning critical thinking can help students to expand their perspectives and increase their decision making ability. A survey by the Reboot Foundation showed that “More than 95 percent of Americans maintain that critical thinking skills are necessary.” So practicing these crucial skills should be an educational priority.
The Reboot Foundation, which “develops practical tools for parents, teachers, and others interested in cultivating a capacity for critical thinking,” collaborated with Indiana University to determine simple ways to include critical thinking practice in lessons. The conclusion of this study was that the analogy strategy had an effect on students’ critical thinking skills. “Academic analogies are useful for teaching and learning because they require students to analyze a thing (or things), and then transfer that analysis to another thing. This kind of transfer requires understanding.”
Practicing analogies for critical thinking extends beyond vocabulary study in English class. One study showed that “Analogy in biology learning had an effect on students’ critical thinking skills.” According to an MIT article, “Analogies can help people make sense of technological change and other innovations. Whether in life or in the workplace, people rely on analogies to comprehend change and find similarities in the unfamiliar.”
Although the College Board eliminated analogies on the SAT in 2005, graduate school admissions tests still include them. “The Miller Analogies Test (MAT)) assesses the analytical thinking ability of graduate school candidates — an ability that is critical for success in both graduate school and professional life.” The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) also have sections that include analogical thinking.
Providing practice in critical thinking should take place long before graduate school. Incorporating simple analogy practice in elementary school is an excellent start.