Critical Thinking to Support Student Learning in a Digital Learning Environment

Educators must demonstrate a basic understanding of what critical thinking is in the 4Cs framework and use it with digital resources to support learning in their classrooms.
Made by Friday Institute @ NC State

About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator provides evidence of their understanding of critical thinking and outlines and provides evidence of a lesson that uses technology to support students’ use of critical thinking in learning.

Method Components

What are the 4Cs?

The 4Cs for 21st century learning are Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration. They are part of the framework for 21st Century Learning and are designed to support student learning in today’s world and are skills they can use in college and career.

What is critical thinking (and what isn’t it)?

Students’ ability to analyze, interpret, evaluate, make decisions and solve problems. Many have used Bloom’s taxonomy to think about levels of thinking - critical thinking occurs at the analyze, evaluate, and synthesis levels on the taxonomy. Often, educators use these questions to extend the learning of the most advanced students however research shows that these questions actually benefit struggling students and should be used to push deeper levels of understanding for all learners. In general, critical thinking occurs when learners are asked to think deeply about their own learning process (i.e. metacognition) or when they’re asked to think about why or how for a problem or context with many possible outcomes. If there is one right answer, it probably doesn’t get to critical thinking!

Example strategies that use technology to support critical thinking in the classroom:

  • Reflection tools: metacognition and reflection are critical parts of critical thinking. Use digital journals or blogs to ask students to reflect regularly.
  • Providing feedback or critique: This could be via peer review on google docs or by evaluating texts and/or using annotation tools such as Diigo or Markup on OpEds, articles, or other online resources. A tool that can support reflection would be something like flipgrid.
  • For other ideas see the resources section below.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Marin, L. M., & Halpern, D. F. (2011). Pedagogy for developing critical thinking in adolescents: Explicit instruction produces greatest gains. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 6(1), 1-13.
    This article provides research-based strategies for building critical thinking in adolescent students. Relevant to all educators, however, is that it finds that explicitly teaching students how to think critically and use metacognition is the best way for building students' abilities.
  • Bloom, B. S., Englehart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

    This article helps define higher order and critical thinking by the creation of what we now refer to as Bloom's Taxonomy.
  • Bangert-Drowns, R. L., & Bankert, E. (1990, April). Meta-analysis of effects of explicit instruction for critical thinking. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, MA.
    This is a meta-analysis that shows why teaching critical thinking is important for student learning.
  • Dewey, J. (1910/1933). How we think: A restatement of the reflective thinking to the educative process. Boston: Heath.
    This article by John Dewey is a classic piece about teaching and learning and the importance of getting students to think.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn this micro-credential you must receive a "passing" for Parts 1 and 3 and a “Yes” for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(250-word limit)

How do you define critical thinking in a digital classroom?

(250-word limit)

Describe your lesson - how did you use critical thinking and technology together to support students’ learning?

Part 2. Work Examples / Artifacts

Please provide an artifact that demonstrates your use of critical thinking skills and technology to support student learning.

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(500-word limit)

How did technology change students’ ability to think critically? Were you able to create a more meaningful experience for students by utilizing technology? Explain your thinking.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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