At thinkLaw we’re on a mission to support and foster the development of critical thinking skills in ALL students. As part of our work this past fall, we surveyed over 800 middle and high school students. We asked them about their critical thinking skills and habits. Student voices matter.  It’s important that the adults making decisions take the time to hear what they have to say.  

We’re sharing with you these results and our reflections on the student responses over the next few days in a five-part blog series titled, “The State of Critical Thinking.” This is the second part of that series. To read the first part on defining critical thinking click here.  

Part 2: Persevering When Thinking Gets Hard

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways it wouldn’t work.”  Thomas Edison

If you study the work of humanity’s greatest thinkers and innovators they all have a common thread: perseverance through failure. They all continued to persevere when times got tough and problems were hard to solve. When I was teaching math I would tell my students that sometimes mathematicians will spend years working on one problem. Yet, in my class, many students would work on a problem less than 3 seconds before writing down a big, fat IDK.

Students in today’s classrooms, have access to the entirety of the world’s knowledge through the phones in their pockets. The Google Era has provided a double edged sword for educators. On one hand we have access to more information and resources than ever before- you’re reading this very article online. But on the other hand, students have grown more reluctant to seek out answers without assistance. Technology has created a crutch that alleviates the tension of productive struggle.

In our first post we talked about the importance of critical thinking dispositions. Dispositions are the habits and mindsets that students use to apply their toolbox of critical thinking skills. Today’s post will focus on the critical thinking disposition of perseverance.

What Students are Saying: Perseverance

In our survey we asked students what they do when they’re faced with a difficult problem. About 2 out of 3 students lacked the perseverance to persist through the problem-solving process. 4% of these students reported that they would just give up immediately, and another 60% would give up after a few minutes to ask for help from a teacher (36%) or a peer (24%).

While there is a time and place to ask for help, we’ve all had students in our classroom who start asking for help before they’ve even put their name on their papers There is value in productive struggle. A student can possess all of the critical thinking skills in the world but without the disposition of perseverance they won’t get very far academically or in life.  

In 2018 we need to commit to stop limiting our critical thinking instruction to just critical thinking skills. We need to focus on developing critical thinking dispositions alongside critical thinking skills.  

How would you rate the perseverance level of your students?  What do you do to foster the development of perseverance in your class?  

We want to hear from you! Join the discussion on twitter by mentioning us @thinklawus or in our Critical Thinking Champions Facebook group.  

Check out Part 1: What is Critical Thinking


To order a critical thinking assessment for your students or to learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team or call us now at (702) 318-7512. Join us on our next webinar; Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students

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