Need a way to teach critical thinking and problem-solving? Learn to tackle problems and make decisions. This session offers strategies to assess ideas and arguments. Discover resources to teach middle schoolers about fact-checking and critical thinking.

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(updated 1/30/24)

AI MegaPrompts for Critical Thinking

Find links to THREE critical thinking megaprompts. Feel free to adopt them for your own. Be sure to cite the original authors and mention them when you use their work. Please keep in mind that if a megaprompt doesn't work perfectly, that's probably due to my poor prompt construction and does NOT reflect in an way on the original authors. 

Or, we can blame it on the chatbot's hallucinations. ;-)

Quote to Ponder

“If we teach only the findings and products of science – no matter how useful and even inspiring they may be – without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience?” -Carl Sagan

Examples of Testable Claims

Consider using FLOATER or CRITICal Thinking Made Simple infographics to assist you assessing the veracity of claims made in these videos. The CRITIC infographic appears below the videos. Adapted from TCEA Responds: Science Denial, Flat Earth, and the Power of Questioning blog entry; read it for more details.

Critical Thinking: Myth vs Reality

Myth #1: Teaching Critical Thinking Takes Time Away from Core Content

Myth #2: Critical Thinking Skills Develop Naturally Without Explicit Instruction

Myth #3: Some Students Just Aren't Good at Critical Thinking

Myth #4: Critical Thinking is Just for Older Students

Myth #5: Critical Thinking is Only About Logic and Reasoning

CRITICal Thinking Made Simple

The infographic below was adapted from Wayne R. Bartz' article (read article) from Skeptical Inquirer Sept/Oct 2002, pp. 42-44 with elements of Melanie Trecek-King’s FLOATER, and others featured in TCEA's blog on science denial. It was put into this infographic format by Miguel Guhlin as a way to simplify and add context.


What claim is being made? Is the claim testable or falsifiable? What evidence is available? 


Who is making the claim and why? Is it someone you trust or based on a belief you hold dear? If so, double-check yourself.  Watch out for biases.


What is the information or evidence behind this? Is it anecdotal or a story? Or is it a single event or based on lots of events/observations? Assess level of scientific evidence available. 


How can the claim be tested?  How can you move from a hypothesis (none to little evidence to theory with absolute confirmation)? Is rapid prototyping an option? How will you experiment?


Has the claim been tested by others? Are the results of the test, replicable or reproducible by others? 


What explanation, if any, is being suggested? Is this a conclusion that can change with fresh evidence or information? Is the explanation free from bias or self-deception?

View Full Size or Get a Copy of the Infographic

The Silph Booster (Pseudoscience Example)

Why Do We Think As We Do?

Believing is easier than knowing. Pseudoscience relies on beliefs that sound scientific but are not. That’s because we seek to affirm what we believe or our worldview. 

Why do people do that? Beth Daley and 

Most of our worldview lies in deep and shallow culture (see Zaretta Hammond's The Culture Tree). If someone we trust tells us something, we're inclined to believe it.

Biases All of Us Have

Quote to Ponder

"Do anecdotes reflect the evidence? Find anecdotes that best represent the evidence, that are exemplars of the concept, and use it to explain the concept" says Melanie Trecek-King, Thinking is Power

"It's Flat, isn't it?"

A lack of critical thinking in the classroom may reflect a low level of trust in general. Consider this:

Many people don’t trust the society around them, most notably the representatives of that society. That trust often falls even further when it comes to elite representatives of that society, which include government officials, members of academia, and scientists like me. By claiming that Earth is flat, people are really expressing a deep distrust of scientists and science itself. So if you find yourself talking to a flat-Earther, skip the evidence and arguments and ask yourself how you can build trust. (source)

Quote to Ponder

"We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress" says Richard Feynman

Three Cognitive Styles

People tend to rely on three cognitive styles that are essential for evaluating, and conspiracy theories result from a lack of one or more of these three cognitive styles (source).

Analytic thinking

This involves breaking complex tasks down into manageable parts to reach a working solution.

Think of computational thinking or George Polya’s approach.

Critical Thinking

A mode of thinking that involves raising questions and problems, gathering relevant data, interpreting that information to reach a well-reasoned conclusion and solution, then testing that solution in an iterative process. You might enjoy TCEA’s blog entry on Design Thinking or Engineering Design Process.

Scientific Reasoning

This involves observing something, developing an explanation of what is happening, and creating an experiment to test your explanation. 

Quote to Ponder

“You have to disentangle the details. You have to hold up every one independently, and ask, “How do we know this detail?” Where are all these details coming from? Where did that specific detail come from?”

― Eliezer Yudkowsky as cited in “Life is Simple: How Occam’s Razor Set Science Free and Shapes the Universe”

Where the Details Come From

In education, how do we find science-based conclusions that are based on research and evidence? Let's take a few moments to review some key ideas and see.

Problems with Doing Your Own Research

Research is a systematic process of investigation. Evidence is collected and evaluated in an unbiased manner. Those methods have to be available to other scientists for replication.

It is an attempt to understand reality, and recognize how biased and flawed the human brain is. Real research is about trying to prove yourself wrong, NOT right.

Consider the Dunning-Krueger Effect...when those who are least competent at a task overestimate their abilities. If you're incompetent, you can't recognize how incompetent you are. (Source: Melanie Trecek-King)

How To Teach Critical Thinking

“Why don’t kids know critical thinking or scientific reasoning?" asks Professor of Biology, Melanie Trecek-King. She encourages teachers and students to engage in scientific skepticism:

How To Fact Check

Dealing with Disinformation

Wendy Cook suggests this simple formula for what to do when the need for debunking arrives:

Teaching Critical Thinking: Resources For You

Thinking is Power is a TERRIFIC resource.

Fill out an email form to get these Critical Thinking Cards, Fallacies and Biases wall posters, and more, from School of Thought. Shared under Creative Commons. 

Civic Online Reasoning has free lessons and videos.

Books for You and/or Your Students