All students come to school with experience and knowledge which they can immediately think critically about.
In fact, some of the thinking that they learn to do helps augment and solidify the discipline-specific academic knowledge that they are learning.
They are not intended to be high stakes accountability measures.
Instead, they are designed to give students, teachers, and school leaders discrete formative data on hard to measure skills.
However, I also believe that there are several generalizable skills that elementary school students can learn that have broad applicability to their academic and social lives. We began this work by first defining what we mean by critical thinking.
After a review of the literature and looking at the practice at other schools, we identified five constructs that encompass a set of broadly applicable skills: schema development and activation; effective reasoning; creativity and innovation; problem solving; and decision making.
Thus, the idea of teaching broadly defined, content-neutral critical thinking skills is impossible.
I agree that there are domain-specific thinking skills that students should learn in each discipline.
With this in mind, we have developed a series of short performance tasks around novel discipline-neutral contexts in which students can apply the constructs of thinking.
Through these tasks, we have been able to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their ability to transfer the types of thinking beyond the original classroom setting.