Critical thinking skills

(Not relevant to this topic)       Developing critical thinking      Resources     
    Sourcing & analysing information      

Developing critical thinking

First year students may not feel confident enough about their skills and knowledge to develop an independent approach to learning. They also may not have an understanding of how to appraise their research materials and develop their analytical and critical thinking. Furthermore, for some students, their cultural background may inhibit the expression of criticism or individual opinion.

Critical thinking

You can use your unit of study (UoS) to help your students develop self-evaluation and critical evaluation skills, and to gain confidence in their own research skills.

  • Encourage students to participate in tutorials and demonstration classes. Make sure your sessional staff are also engaging the more reticent students.
  • Encourage your students to take risks when choosing their research or essay topics.
  • Get your first year students into the library as many will take the easy route and rely on the internet to source information. You can do this by setting tasks and exercises that require library knowledge. See Information literacy skills.
  • Provide models of critical thinking within the discipline.
  • Demonstrate how students can use one expert to critique another.

Learning to source & analyse information

One way for students to develop their critical thinking skills is through learning how to source and analyse information, and to use it effectively in the assessment tasks.

As coordinator of a UoS you can design your unit to develop your student’s ability to source the information they require.

  • Make research skills a weekly habit through designing research tasks and embedding these in the semester schedule.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Library resources, if you are new to the University. See their page on How the library supports your teaching.
  • Make sure the students are familiar with library resources and the ways in which their faculty librarians can help them develop research skills. The Library’s Research and information skills page is a good place for them to start.
  • Set assignments or tasks that require students to access material not contained in their text books. This encourages them to use the library resources.
  • Remind students regularly of the importance of avoiding plagiarism. This is something they need to keep in mind when researching and note-taking. See Academic honesty.
  • Use your eLearning site to promote research skills. For more information on designing eLearning tasks see Blended learning.


The Learning Centre has a range of courses which help students with their skills in critical reading, analysis and developing an argument.

“Developing a critical voice: liberating student’s thinking”, from the Higher Education Academy’s Escalate resource, discusses how to encourage students to analyse and develop their own ideas.

Idea Paper #37: Helping Your Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills, from the Idea Centre, discusses strategies teachers can use to improve the development and assessment of students' thinking skills.

The Merlot Pedagogy portal has some excellent resources from various universities that will help you to develop learning activities that will enhance critical thinking.

See also our other sections on Academic skills development.