# Analytical Thinking in Teaching

Nowadays, success in learning or teaching is not about memorizing facts, cramming, or repeating learned information but about real understanding.

Where does the real understanding come from? It comes from critical thinking and analysis. It allows you to deepen your topic comprehension, solve problems, and make effective decisions.

Today we are going to explore what is analytical thinking and how to practice it. Its importance in learning and how we tutors can foster it in our classroom.

## What is Analytical Thinking

Imagine you are solving a puzzle. The puzzle is a beautiful picture broken into small pieces you must match.

To solve it you look at each piece, compare it with the other pieces, and then combine them to make the whole picture. This process is like analytical thinking.

However, at its core, analytical thinking involves breaking down complex information into smaller pieces, rather than starting from the small ones. Then you would try to understand each piece and make logical connections.

Which in other words is a way of looking at things by breaking them into smaller pieces, understanding each of them, and figuring out how they fit together.

In education, analytical thinking goes beyond finding the right answer. It involves understanding why an answer is correct or incorrect and how various pieces of information fit together. It requires students to evaluate, synthesize, and apply knowledge.

## Developing Analytical Thinking

When teaching, tutors encounter many problems or situations when we need to clarify ambiguities.

Imagine your student is not doing well in tests at school or work. So, first of all, you would need to identify the problem: why exactly is he not doing well? And what can you do to help him change this situation?

And this is where analytical thinking comes into place.

### Define the problem

Hence, you can start asking yourself questions like: What is the problem or situation? Why is it important to solve this? What are the knowns and unknowns? What assumptions am I making?

Let’s say we have answered all or some of these questions. And conclude that the main problem in tests failing is the low performance of your student. So, now you need to understand why your student is performing poorly.

### Break down the problem

When you start analyzing why, you naturally need to break the problem into smaller parts, as a tutor, look at both sides involved in the process, you and your student.

When it comes to your student, the test can be too difficult for his level yet, or his study habits are not very effective, or he is getting lost without your support.

Hence, it would potentially answer our question of why, during the lessons, the student performs well and at tests, the other way around.

Also, when it comes to you, look at the learning materials you provide to your students and the teaching methods you use. Sometimes, a simple adjustment can fully change the outcome.

It might be that you will quickly find the solution at this stage, or you can continue to the third stage of collecting and analyzing information.

### Collect and analyze information

So, since we have identified the key parts of the problem, we need to collect data that informs each area. And understand every piece to solve the whole puzzle.

For instance, you can ask your student about his study habits. How much time does he study? Many students also study or do homework right before the lesson.

Hence, the breaks between information repetition may be too big, and they may have many questions or mistakes in their homework. And by helping them solve them, you may unwillingly provide too much unnecessary support.

Also, the student may say he doesn’t study enough, and you might see that poor study habits are part of the problem. Or the learning materials are too difficult for your student if the study time is not the issue.

For teaching methods, review whether your approach is interactive enough and think about other teaching methods or techniques you could use in this case.

Not so long ago, I also had an issue with one of my students performing low on vocabulary tests. My student's parent contacted me asking if we could dedicate more time to the vocabulary due to the low performance.

I started to analyze why my student was still performing poorly if we had already spent so much time on it, and during the lessons, I saw an effective result.

So, I asked for a copy of the tests. When analyzing them, I also noticed that there are some words we have never gone through in the books we used. It raised my suspicion that for these specific tests, there were other materials required to use.

Having asked, it turned out that I was right, and the child simply did not share with me all the materials used to study. Hence, sometimes, it is not about the process or your tutoring approach or skills.

### Look for patterns and connections

The next step in analytical thinking of the problem is to look for patterns and connections. Analyze the data you have gathered to identify patterns, trends, and correlations.

Look at how pieces are connected and if some parts of the problem influence the others.

For instance, you can see that the reason your student doesn’t study enough is because he does not understand the material. So, it is not about the study habits anymore. It is about needing better resources.

In this case, you can search and try different materials, explanations, and more exercises of different kinds.

### Come up with solutions

Now that you understand the problem and how the parts fit, the next step is to come up with solutions.

You can ask yourself the following questions: How feasible is this solution? What resources would be required? What are the potential risks? And how will you measure success?

When we try to solve the low-test performance, we could try to change the teaching method and conduct more interactive lessons.

Otherwise, offer easier study materials and help your student develop better study habits. Or even try and implement all the solutions.

The most important that you put your solutions into practice and see which ones work and which ones don’t. It’s like putting that puzzle piece in place to check if it fits.

Let’s say you decided to change your teaching method, give better study materials, and help your student plan his study time. After the next test, see if his score will improve.

### Learn and reflect

When you have successfully solved the problem, reflect on what you have learned from it. Next time, you will solve similar “puzzles” faster.

For instance, let’s imagine the best solution was to change the teaching method. In this case, you will know that this specific method works better than the one you practiced before. You can also test it with other students and see if it works better for them, too.

## Exercises to Improve Analytical Thinking

There are also some exercises that can help you master analytical thinking.

**First, take any problem,** it can be big or small and, in any area, not obligatory in teaching. Practice breaking it down into smaller pieces. This will build your ability to see things clearly.

So, how it works: as we did above, you start by clearly stating the issue. Mind that the clearer the initial understanding of the problem, the easier it will be to break it down.

Then, you divide the problem into pieces and think about what factors might contribute to the issue and how each plays a role. And analyze each part to find the root causes.

Let’s take the same example and go through each exercise step:

Problem: The student failed the test.

Breakdown of the problem:

- Understanding of the material: did my student grasp the subject?
- Study habits: how much effort did my student put into studying, was it just during our lessons? Did he study enough independently?
- Attendance: did my student attend all the classes regularly or not? How long were the gaps between lessons etc.?
- External factors: were there any personal or family issues that affected the test performance?

You can continue asking such questions to break down the problem. Afterward, you can address each piece individually.

Always gather as much information as you can. Data serves as the foundation for logical conclusions. The more relevant information you have on the problem, the clearer it becomes. Hence you can devise better solutions.

Remember this problem I had with my student failing vocabulary tests? I collected tests and their results.

I even dived deeper to understand the main issues with the words. Was it a simple gap in knowledge or spelling or anything else?

So, in this case, I could even analyze what didn’t work in that specific case and how I could prevent the possible future issues.

Try to predict what is causing the problem, so to say, develop hypotheses. They force you to think critically about potential causes and solutions to problems.

Then test your theories. Testing strengthens analytical thinking by examining whether your assumptions hold up under scrutiny.

You can implement a solution or gather more information to see if the hypothesis is correct. In case it is wrong, just adjust your approach and test again.

Another effective exercise** **is to **engage in discussing the problem **with others. It will offer you new perspectives. Often, simply explaining your reasoning helps you clarify your own thinking and reveals gaps in logic.

On top of that, a person you are talking to may have faced a similar problem and can help you refine your conclusions.

Also, **visualize the problem**. One of the ways you can do it is mind mapping. Where you can visually break down the problem and related factors.

An exercise you can do on the go is **critical reading**. We read a lot each day, so it can benefit you both ways: better remember information and develop analytical thinking. So, when reading an article or a post, try to summarize the main argument, identify assumptions, and critique the logic.

And the last exercise, also my favorite one, is to **keep learning**. Continuous learning improves your analytical thinking. It gives you new tools, knowledge, and perspectives to draw from when solving problems.

You can learn new methods, techniques, and theories that are related to your field. Also, do not close yourself to learning something completely different. Frequently, solutions existing in other fields can be refined and successfully applied in your field.

And once you learn it, immediately apply it to your problem-solving efforts to solidify your understanding.

For example, **play strategy games**. On the one hand, gaming and logic sound strange, right? No, games are built on logic, well, maybe not all of them. But games like chess or Sudoku will require you to think ahead and consider different variables, which improves critical thinking.

Analytical thinking is not an innate skill. But it can be developed through consistent practice. By constantly practicing the steps above you can sharpen your ability to approach complex issues systematically and develop analytical thinking.

### Written by Liudmyla M.

Experienced Tutor with over 12 years of teaching both online and offline. Passionate about helping students achieve their goals through personalized and practical methods.