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How to Teach Decision-Making Skills

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Over the years, the education system has been under intense scrutiny, especially at the secondary and higher education levels. While teaching personal finance and its intricacies has been a crucial focus, there's another paramount objective: empowering students with effective decision-making skills.

The significance of this cannot be overstated, especially considering that some neuroscientists estimate we make a staggering 35,000 decisions every single day, on average. But here's the burning question: How can we effectively teach decision-making to higher education students, and what impact will it have on shaping the future generation of adults? Let's explore the answers that lie ahead.The education system has been widely discussed and scrutinised for many years now, particularly at secondary level and in higher education. 


#1. Teach Critical Thinking and its Role in Decision Making

In simple terms, decision making is the process that leads us to reach actionable conclusions and choose one particular outcome over another.

However, reaching this point involves a number of cognitive processes, while your ability to make sound decisions also relies heavily on critical thinking.

The relationship between critical thinking and decision making is pivotal, while helping students to understand this can also equip them to achieve their objectives more effectively over time.

To explain this succinctly, let’s say that a group of students are asked to work in groups to complete a science project. This will come with its own unique objectives, and the groups will have to collaborate and decide how best to achieve such goals.

This is the act of decision making, but for it to be truly effective, students must think critically and analytically to ensure that they work efficiently. This could involve appraising the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals within each group, for example, in order to determine who’s best placed to carry out specific tasks.

This type of process has a direct impact on the quality of your decisions and the ultimate success or failure of the project, and teaching this to students can create a way of thinking that stands them in good stead going forward.


#2. Leverage Experiential Learning

The way in which students are taught also impacts their decision making skills, with greater understanding, awareness and levels of knowledge retention all contributing to the attainment of more confident and assured resolutions.

This is why experiential learning can be so important, as this is proven to drive higher rates of knowledge retention and helps students to understand concepts on a much deeper level. According to some studies, the knowledge retention rate achieved through experiential learning can be as high as 90%, compared to just 5% for traditional learning methods.

The reason for this is simple; as experiential learning describes the process of learning through experience and actually carrying out specific tasks. As a result, students can learn through the act of ‘doing’ and bridge the often cavernous gap between theoretical knowledge and practical experience, which remains a key obstacle to effective and informed decision making.

Many experiential learning providers use simulations to drive optimal results, with StratX Simulations one of the market leaders in this field. 

Here, you’ll find various iterations of business simulation software covering disciplines such as marketing, strategy, sales and innovation, ensuring that students learn through practical projects and the application of key theoretical concepts.

This certainly creates a stronger and broader base of knowledge from which to make associated decisions, while reinforcing underlying decision making skills and increasing the levels of confidence showcased by individuals.


#3. Make Your Students Good Listeners

As I’ve already touched on, good decision making relies on your ability to think critically and consider different factors analytically before arriving at a conclusion.

However, this doesn’t completely negate the impact of personal bias, which may be innate and unconscious and influence the decisions that we take without our knowledge.

One way to counter this is to encourage good listening skills among your students. This certainly creates a more open mind and may help to challenge any conscious or unconscious biases, while it produces another insight that can inform your decisions further.

This may have an incremental effect rather than a seismic one, but in order to arrive at any kind of educated decision, we must be open to as many viewpoints and arguments as humanly possible.


#4. Promote Mindfulness and the Art of Thinking

While critical and analytical thinking may be central to the act of sound decision-making, so too is the basic art of thinking itself.

All too often, we rush our decisions or make them under duress, preventing us from considering all of our options in detail and potentially impairing our judgment. 

So, it’s important to promote mindfulness among students at all times, ensuring that they slow down, take their time and think carefully regardless of the situation that’s unfolding around them.

Obviously, there may be occasions where you have less time and have to make a decision more quickly, but mindfulness (which is a technique that prompts you to notice what’s going on around you in real-time) can help drive effective decision making in relatively short timeframes. 

Certainly, mindfulness creates a solid and long-lasting foundation from which students can make decisions, whether it helps them to identify the most relevant factors at play or simply ensures they arrive at the best possible conclusion even when operating under pressure.


#5. Don’t be Afraid to Let Students Struggle

At its core, teaching is a vocation, and one that attracts teachers with an empathetic mindset and nurturing nature.

Because of this, some teachers may find it hard to let their students struggle with particular questions and challenges, instinctively opting to step in and rescue them rather than see them suffer under pressure.

However, decision making skills tend to grow stronger with practice and experience, particularly in instances where decisions have to be taken both independently and in relation to a complex situation.

At the same time, students can learn a great deal from the consequences of poor decisions, whether this is in terms of how they came to a particular conclusion or the subsequent outcomes.

So, while teachers may find it counterintuitive or against their instincts, it’s often better to let students grapple with particular challenges and put their burgeoning decision making skills to the test without any intervention.



In conclusion, teaching effective decision-making skills is vital for the future of students. To achieve this, focus on critical thinking, leverage experiential learning like StratX Simulations, promote active listening, encourage mindfulness, and let students face challenges independently. Empower the leaders of tomorrow with a free demo of one of our simulations and prepare them for a world of endless possibilities.