How to develop critical thinking skills using PBL in the online and blended learning environment.

There are a number of ways to teach critical thinking in the online world. An exciting way to teach students high level thinking skills is to have teachers and students do interactive online/real-world learning experiences. This type of teaching gives teachers the opportunity to challenge students to learn the material by touching all levels of learning. In this type of learning environment students will be expected to extend their thinking to the highest level.

This type of  learning is called the Five Points of the Star method of learning and includes the opportunity to do blended and online learning. In order to have the students become highly engaged in their own learning and take the time to be better students, it is necessary to shift into a different paradigm of teaching. To develop high level thinking skills it is important to create an educational setting that allows students to explore and engage in multiple levels of learning. To create this type of student engagement in critical thinking in the online  or blended learning world, students should have five very highly interactive experiences; student-to-student, student-to-teacher, student-to-community, student-to- material, and student-to-technology. If an online or blended learning program/class is able to build this type of learning environment, the students will have one of the most intellectually exciting and memorable encounters of their educational experience.

To teach students critical thinking skills it is best done if the class or program the has the student do some type of inquiry-based, project-based, or problem-based learning. However, you cannot just expect the student to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. The process must begin by introducing the students to these types of learning. It will mean they the students must understand the nature and purpose of critical thinking. Do some sample projects and then be allowed to move forward into a well defined and structured project based learning activity.

Most students do not understand the nature of a cross-curricular activity and that these activities are not isolated classroom experiences. For example, the work might be developed using a thematic structure that at first is organized and developed by the teaching staff and allows students to also work toward developing their own projects and activities. Students will learn how to combine the real-world resources, activities, and online experiences. This is the essence of learning how to do critical thinking and is some of the most valuable lessons students can do. All students, whether high achieving or low level, can master key interactive fundamentals if given the chance. It is the first order of business that the students learn how to do a critical thinking project before moving on to their own topics and assignments. 

The critical thinking process allows teachers to create an interactive, distance education that asks students to do real-world activities that insists a student fully master the content. When students must mentally, emotionally, and physically touch the material they learn the authentic skills they will need to use as they advance into their academic and real-world future.

If students must use all of the academic disciplines to do their work and produce a product that has to be viewed, reviewed, and restructured then they are forced to learn how valuable critical thinking is as a skill they will use later in their lives.

If a school is built on these sound educational principles, it will have one of the most robust learning communities in the online world. It is a type of learning that many students, teachers, and administrators are not accustomed to, and it challenges our traditional drill-and-kill mentality of education.


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Hi Tomas, I read your posting and must say that our point of view is familiar. I agree with you on this point of view. Yes, students can learn more by PBL. I say this from my experience, my students who participate in the projects are better than the others. They can tell their opinion about any problem easily. Although I advised to the education of department let us to bring the projects to our curriculum. But today we only do this after the lesson. I have a question: Do you do PBL as a part of curricular at school? Hope we can share our ideas and will be interesting discussion.


Shukufa Najafova

Ismailli, Azerbaijan


I have had the opportunity to design and teach an online PBL class, taught my Social Studies classes (Government, Law, World History, Criminal Justice, Victims Rights, Civil Liberties, and I have helped develop a Global Lab Class that has done international projects)  in a problem-based atmosphere.

I have been  involved in  coordinating global projects that include environmental literacy, creating digital libraries for schools, and other hands-on and blended learning projects. If I can help in any way please let me know. 


Hi Tomas, thanks for the reply. Is it possible to see the example project?

thanks beforehand



Absolutely, we are currently setting up a "water project" and I will include you in on the details if you wish. 


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