To inculcate thinking, the "thinking" (a task or an engagement) has to be incorporated into curriculum design and assessment. Students can be taught how to argue or to validate or falsify an argument. Regardless of the level, students must be compelled to keep a reflective journal and to submit a weekly reflection.
To many students, the task of reflecting is difficult. Therefore, they can be guided with open ended questions. Answering these questions usher them to critical thinking and to develop analytic skills.
Another approach that I use is to give students four thinking hats, namely: EXPLORE, UNDERSTAND, CREATE, and SHARE (no particular order). The other approach is to ask them to draw a mind map and then to elaborate on it. Also effective is to ask students to think of a topic to share and to conceive the topic as a capital T where the horizontal line provides the scope to EXPLORE and the vertical line the depth to UNDERSTAND.
Regardless of approach, timely feedback is important to motivate them to continue their efforts.
"Cognition" is a term signifying general mental operations, such as pattern recognition, language processing, etc. "Thinking," on the other hand, is subsumed under "cognition," but it is a problematic term because of the difficulty in determining just what "thinking" is. At this point, there is a growing consensus that "thinking" occurs only during problem solving activities. What most people engage in when they believe that they are "thinking" is actually just reminiscence. When not engaged in problem solving, the brain enters what is known as its "default state," in which no thinking occurs.
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