How to Teach Analytical Skills to Students
Along with the core information taught in any course, professors are bound to try and build confidence and employable skills within their students. Another thing educators should seek to develop, and which is often overlooked, is the growth of analytical skills.
What are the Core Analytical Skills?
Before they can teach analytical skills, it’s a good idea for educators to first familiarize themselves with the main five and how they are beneficial to students.
- Communication - Identifying problems and suggesting solutions, explaining the results of your analysis, having good oral presentation skills, and being able to express oneself in the written form all fall under communication skills
- Creativity - Sometimes students must think innovatively to find a solution, by reverse engineering a problem, thinking outside the box, and recognising that the most obvious solution might not be the best one
- Critical Thinking - Being able to stop, assess, think rationally and make a judgement about a person, event, object, or problem is key to being a good critical thinker. It involves looking at all of the available data in an unbiased way and finding a solution through this route
- Data Analysis - Understanding a massive amount of data and information and spotting the trends and patterns within it is what makes a good analyser of data. It’s not only numbers and financial situations where this is useful, data analysis is key for many roles, such as teachers, police, and marketers
- Research - analytical skills are related to research in the sense that research requires time, commitment, interest, patience, and curiosity. By rushing to a solution and failing to do adequate research, the room for error is much greater
Now let’s look at some methods for taking the five concepts above and transferring them over to the mind of your students.
Keep Asking “Why?”
It might seem a simple answer, but it’s an effective one. If your students form an opinion, ask them why. Keep going, press them to think analytically and justify their conclusions. If possible, ask them to research and prove their why, or present data points or evidence that could support their argument. If the data doesn’t exist, ask them to get creative.
There are plenty of analysis assignment examples that you can find on the internet to get your student’s analytical brains switched on. Have a quick search and consider how you can adjust your upcoming lesson plans to incorporate this concept.
Group Analysis Work
Educators needn’t be the only ones to teach analytical skills to their students. As a collective, their students form an incredible analytical group, with each student offering some of the skills required for great group analysis. Knowing this, professors, teachers, and other trainers can leverage group situations to have students look at each other’s work and identify evidence, quality analysis, and examples of critical thinking.
It’s important to note that simply performing one of the 5 analytical skills is not enough to be deemed a good analytical thinker. It’s the combination of all or several skills, and how they are used. For example, being able to identify and analyse data or evidence is not enough, the students must be taught to connect that data back to the central point to bolster their argument.
Using Business Simulations to Develop Analytical Skills
Here at StratX, we are convinced that business simulations offer the most effective, engaging, and enjoyable way to develop analytical skills. It’s like a cheat code for personal development. Business simulations allow students to jump ahead rapidly by giving them interesting, challenging, and innovative situations that provoke skills they might not have tested much or considered improving before.
For example, our simulations offer the benefit of enhanced teamwork, so students not only have to think analytically about how decisions affect themselves, but how the outcomes affect their teammates, competitors, the business they are representing, and the customers. They are tasked with analysing and debating decisions and where they might lead them based on the information available.
Professors who guide their students towards or through simulations will do well to encourage competitive thinking about how a sudden change can have great impacts. This dynamic approach to learning forces creative thought through time-sensitive scenarios, and really challenges participants to think creatively about outcomes and repercussions.
Business leaders and professors have successfully leveraged our business simulations to develop analytical skills among their colleagues and students. These success stories shine a light on what scenario-based learning can accomplish.
Regular Practice and Analytical Gameplay
As well as business simulations, there are other games that are good at helping students to practise their analytical skills. It’s no secret that chess masters are often academic geniuses and vice versa, and that’s because of the high level of strategy that this game invites to the table. Chess asks its players to think many moves ahead and consider the decisions of themselves and their opponents, considering dozens of potential outcomes to create a probability index for each move. This is why this game captures the imagination so well. Unfortunately, it requires two people who are both versed in its ways.
A Sudoku is a great one-player game that asks the participant to evaluate not only the given data, but the clear data gaps, and glean information more from what is missing than from what is present. This game is great practice for analytical skills and like with most things, the player gets better with practice, eventually being able to start the game with fewer data points and more complex arrangements, proving the development of their analytical skills and improved understanding of trends and patterns.
We can’t stress enough how important analytical skills are for your students. The foundation for finding a solution to a problem comes from any one of the 5 core analytical skills (or a combination). These skills also help people to make rational and definitive decisions, as well as design strategies and action plans moving forward.
All professions require analytical skills in some form, though some industries have higher requirements than others. To help your students maximise their employability and professional utility upon graduating, you will do them a great service by embedding analytical skill development into your courses and teaching methodologies.