Critical and Creative Thinking Strategies Can Prepare Students for Career and College Readiness

A modern complexity in the discussion on educating students in American school systems is how to prepare students for the unknown and unexpected and for careers that do not yet exist. To address the inability to deal with the changing and uncontrollable shifts in the environment, growing popularity in the real-world focus on preparing individuals for volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous or (VUCA) situations that respond to the realities and explanations of matters not yet occurring. A current curriculum that focuses extensively on narrow pieces of knowledge rather than broad scope is persistent in the discourse of what to teach children in schools. As a result of the limited curriculum focus, David Perkins posited that “90% of what we typically teach is a waste of time.” Current curriculum trends appear rooted in discussions of methods over the broad scope of how to educate for the unknown and unexpected to the expected and to provide agile ways of thinking about more significant measures to prepare children based on how people live their lives. 

Critical thinking and creative thinking (also known as creativity) are often ill-defined, and the broad scope of these two constructs is often unassociated. Critical thinking and creative thinking are complementary skills required for problem-solving and generating new ideas. As complementary constructs, critical thinking is a metacognitive strategy, and creative thinking is a by-product or outcome of critical thinking.  

Assisting students to use their minds well for the unexpected is at a critical juncture in this VUCA world. Strategies found in the framework of critical and creative thinking offer insight into preparing students for both college and career readiness. Such strategies support the application of the framework as quality questioning, design thinking, project-based learning, and skilled trades. Teacher and district-level collaboration are essential to supporting student development through these critical strategies.


The American educational system has faced competing ideas on relevance and purpose since the beginning of formal education. The differing perspectives have varied based on the social climate for which major influencers have prescribed how schools should instruct children and where funding should come from to support schools. The ideas dominating the discussions focus on education categories: funding public schools through taxes, teaching students based on civic roles and responsibilities, and increasing academic rigor. One prominent advocacy was John Dewey’s 20th-century contention that traditional schools were not effectively preparing and developing children for their roles in society. Other later 20th-century pressures on the American school system responded to feelings of inadequate academic rigor and accountability. The 20th into 21st-century criticisms of the American school system take on a view that schools leave to be desired the way to prepare students for the unknown and ensure students are career-ready through higher education or trade schools.  

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Shawn C. Boone & Marcia Hill
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
Educational Leadership ASCD
Publication Language: 
Boyer's Domain: