Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. To submit questions, use this form or #helpstudentsthrive. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

The Best Ways to Teach Students How to Think (Not What to Think)

By Angela Duckworth — June 16, 2021 2 min read
How do I help students develop better judgment?

How do I help students develop better judgment?

You’ll want to teach kids by example how to think for themselves. Here’s something I wrote about the topic recently for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

My dad taught me how to think.

Not what to think—but how.

I was in 7th grade when we started a ritual of sneaking out of the house early on Saturday mornings, letting my mom sleep late, and walking 10 blocks to the neighborhood diner. We’d settle into a booth and order our usual (two eggs, over easy, with home fries and bacon).

Eating always took less time than the walk there and back. For one thing, my dad walked ponderously, as if thinking took so much attention that only a very little bit was left over to direct his feet to keep moving forward. For another, Dad would come to a full stop whenever he thought especially hard about what we were discussing. It could take forever to get to breakfast.

Often, we’d talk about whatever was on Dad’s mind—thermodynamics, the economy, his work. Wherever our conversations started, their destinations were, unlike the diner, neither planned nor foreseen at the start.

As I grew older, our conversations more often started with my preoccupations—the meaning of life, the difference between science and art, what made a person charismatic.

Once, I asked my dad whether he believed in life after death. He stopped, looked at me, and exclaimed, “Good question!” Then he rubbed the bridge of his nose and thought aloud, arguing both sides, and concluding in the end … well, I can’t remember what he concluded, but whatever it was, he would not have said it was decisive, certain, or true.

Dad would have fully admitted that his judgment was not a fact but the best possible answer he could come up with at the moment. He would have enjoyed my taking the opposite position, and he would have tried sincerely to see my perspective.

Are you teaching the young people in your life how to think? When you face a problem that requires judgment, how many of these things are true?

  • I try not to jump to conclusions.
  • I am aware that this is a matter of judgment: I ask myself what someone I trust would think of this problem.
  • I independently ask several people for their judgment and I consider their reasons.
  • I try to separate my hopes and fears from the facts and beliefs supporting the judgment.

Don’t believe for a minute that children should be seen but not heard or that “because I said so” is a sufficient explanation for your own judgments.

Do engage young people in authentic discussions that, by example, teach them how to think. And check out Character Lab’s new Judgment Playbook, co-authored by Danny Kahneman and Olivier Sibony, on how to model, celebrate, and enable this character strength. As with each of our Playbooks, we will be adding Tips over time—all based on scientific research.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion Q&A Collections: Cooperative & Collaborative Learning
Ten years of links containing advice from 50 teachers on how to incorporate cooperative and collaborative learning in the classroom.
2 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Four Favorite Physical Education Instructional Strategies—Recommended by Teachers!
Differentiated instruction is among the favorite strategies three educators employ in teaching physical education.
9 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Q&A Collections: Implementing the Common Core
Ten years of posts sharing lots of advice and experiences related to applying the Common Core State Standards.
4 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Teaching Opinion Q&A Collections: Student Motivation & Social-Emotional Learning
Links to 10 years of posts on helping to create the conditions where student intrinsic motivation can thrive.
20 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty