Youth Leadership Development - Teach Critical Thinking

Updated: Apr 29

The ability to think critically about problems and situations is a bonus in the workplace. At the same time, critical thinking is an essential life skill. With that said, the remainder of this discussion presents three innovative ways to teach it in the classroom.

3 Instructional Methods

  • Case Studies

Leadership in Turbulent Times focuses on the leadership and crisis management strategies of four presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson). Why am I mentioning this good read? The book contains four excellent case studies for your students to dissect. What’s more, they learn about four leadership styles. I think they will enjoy learning about each president’s background and how they ended up in the White House.

Another recommendation is to skim the newspaper and website to find interesting tidbits on corporations, people, and world issues. In any event, you’re provoking critical thinking. Either discuss the case study as a class or break the class into small groups.

  • Film

The use of film is both entertainment and education. Therefore, select a movie that deals with crisis management, leadership, values, responsibility, etc. Decide how you want to use the feature – show the entire movie or clips.

Regarding legal and moral issues, I recommend The Post and Chappaquiddick. While the former deals with the New York Times and Washington Post publishing articles about the Vietnam War based on a stolen classified report, the latter deals with Senator Ted Kennedy leaving the scene of an accident and not reporting it until hours later; the passenger in his car drowned. Show the movie, break down the legal and moral issues, and present discussion questions.

  • Art

Unlike the previous suggestions, this one calls for creativity. By the way, creativity is valued in the workplace. Organizations face challenges that require workers to employ out of the box thinking to solve them.

So, how do you develop an art lesson that teaches critical thinking? In short keep it simple. For example, get some toothpicks, pop-sickle sticks, straws, or Lego blocks. Instruct the students to build a bridge. Sounds easy enough but there’s a catch. No verbal communication is allowed. However, you prepare the written instructions and supply the materials. Also give the students a specific amount of time.

An alternative is breaking the class into small groups and selecting 2 or three students to serve as observers. At the end of the exercise, lead the class in a discussion. What did they experience? How did not being able to speak hinder or strengthen the process? Prepare the list of discussion questions beforehand.

Need more schemes? Click to learn about our new e-Book 55 Activities for Youth Leadership Training. The activities are appropriate for in-school or community programs. In addition to finding great lessons for developing critical thinking skills, you'll have lessons for public speaking, goal setting, problem solving, communication, self-awareness, and more.

Furthermore, our special report on movies provides a variety of good material for the classroom. Click to get your copy today!

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