Skip to main content

«  View All Posts

Health Science | HealthCenter21 | Soft Skills | Critical Thinking

How Can I Teach Critical Thinking to Health Science Students with AES?

September 21st, 2021 | 6 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

Print/Save as PDF

According to the National Healthcareer Association’s 2021 Industry Outlook report, critical thinking is one of the most lacking soft skills in medical professionals today. If you have critical thinking skills as part of your health science course standards, you need to successfully incorporate them into your class routine. You also need to demonstrate how your curriculum and lessons help students cultivate the necessary thinking skills and qualities to succeed in today’s healthcare field.

Because of this, teachers we work with often ask us how they can teach critical thinking to their health science students. 

HealthCenter21 helps your students develop crucial healthcare skills that will serve them throughout their lives and future careers. But you might not be aware of where and how HealthCenter21 can also help you inspire critical thinking in your classes. 

In this article, we’ll detail how HealthCenter21 can help your students hone critical thinking skills by discussing:

  • What are critical thinking skills?
  • How does HealthCenter21 promote critical thinking?
  • Examples Reinforce Phase projects that promote critical thinking

After reading this post, you should better understand how HealthCenter21 helps students gain critical thinking skills during their learning experience.

What are Critical Thinking Skills?


Before getting into the details, it is essential to realize that there is no one universally accepted definition of critical thinking. However, when teachers reference critical thinking, they most often consider the higher-order thinking skills expressed in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a framework for categorizing educational aims and is a valuable tool that teachers can use to measure their students’ intellectual understanding of course material.

Bloom’s Taxonomy traditionally features six levels, divided into lower-order (Remember, Understand, Apply) and higher-order (Analyze, Evaluate, Create) thinking skills. Lower-order skills indicate a more fundamental knowledge of concepts and skills, while higher-order skills denote a more advanced theoretical or applicable understanding.


Many health science certification exams focus their questions around the top 3 tiers on Bloom’s Taxonomy: Analyze, Evaluate, and Create. These are the most highly skilled tiers, and by measuring them, certification exams ensure that students have a critical and applicable understanding of health science material.

HealthCenter21 helps students cultivate critical thinking skills throughout the entire learning process by developing skills in all six categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

How Does HealthCenter21 Promote Critical Thinking?


AES encourages critical thinking throughout the Four Phases of learning in HealthCenter21. The Four Phases help teachers provide students with a well-rounded educational experience that maximizes student engagement and retention:

The Four Phases of our curriculum framework are:

  1. Explore - Teachers lead students in activities designed to pique their interests.
  2. Learn & Practice - Students accomplish most of their learning through digital lessons in HealthCenter21.
  3. Reflect - Teachers guide students through exercises that review and explore critical concepts from the HealthCenter21 eLearning lessons.
  4. Reinforce - Students complete projects that increase their mastery of concepts and skills.

Because HealthCenter21 encourages students to express skills aligned with Bloom’s Taxonomy, students develop as critical thinkers throughout the four phases of the learning process. However, learners have the most significant opportunity to express their critical thinking skills during the Reinforce phase.

Create is the highest order of thinking in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, challenging students to take the information they have learned and synthesize it into a new contribution that demonstrates a deep understanding of the subject material. The Create category moves beyond mere comprehension and analysis of the material to a complex understanding which inspires original work.

When using HealthCenter21, the Reinforce Phase represents your students’ chance to move beyond a basic factual knowledge of the content in each lesson to an advanced proficiency of how these concepts apply to their lives and future careers.

Since the Reinforce Phase helps students apply what they have learned to create new work, this phase allows them to express themselves through projects and presentations. Success with these projects demonstrates students’ ability to think critically about the material from a given unit.

Just like the Create category of Bloom’s Taxonomy involves the highest order of thinking, so does the Reinforce Phase serve as the culmination of the four phases of learning in HealthCenter21.

Examples of Reinforce Projects that Promote Critical Thinking in HealthCenter21


Now that you understand how critical thinking is a part of the HealthCenter21 curriculum system, let’s look closer at some examples of activities from the Reinforce Phase.

Here are four examples of HealthCenter21 projects that inspire critical thinking:

  • Healthcare Innovations Debate
  • Ethics Debate
  • Examining Vital Signs
  • Patient Care Scenarios

Let’s take a closer look at each of these projects to demonstrate how they promote critical thinking.

Healthcare Innovations Debate

Module: Healthcare Systems

For this project, students will research a current healthcare innovation. Using their research, each student will develop two arguments: the first in favor of one innovation and the second against another. Learners will then craft written arguments and responses for a class presentation. They will then debate in front of the class with a student assigned to the opposite topics. Afterward, students reflect on their performance using a self-reflection rubric.

To be successful, students will need to think critically about both their arguments and those of their peers and assess their performance honestly.

Ethics Debate

Module: Legal and Ethical Responsibilities

For the Ethics Debate, learners research an ethical issue related to healthcare. After conducting their research and writing a brief position statement, students will work in pairs to engage in a 20-minute debate according to a modified Lincoln-Douglas debate format.

The Lincoln-Douglas structure will require students to listen and critically analyze their classmates’ arguments to provide constructive arguments, cross-examinations, and rebuttals successfully. Afterward, students will need to reflect on their performance using a rubric.

Examining Vital Signs

Module: Client Status

Keeping track of a patient’s vital signs is an integral part of providing quality healthcare. In this assignment, students will demonstrate what they have learned in the Client Status module by accurately measuring vital signs. Working with a partner, learners will perform three sets of exercises at increasing levels of difficulty. After each workout, students will measure their partners’ vital signs and analyze them according to a chart.

Once they have finished collecting data, students will graph their results and those of other students in the class and write a summary analyzing data trends. To be successful, students will need to be able both to understand data and synthesize it into a reflective response.

Patient Care Scenarios

Module: Nutrition and Elimination

Sometimes providing patients with optimal care requires working in less-than-ideal circumstances. In this activity, students utilize critical thinking skills to overcome real-life challenges in caring for a patient. Given a scenario card, students will practice proper patient procedures taught in the Nutrition and Elimination module while overcoming barriers to successful care.

Students will work in groups of four, including a patient, a healthcare worker, and two recorders. After each activity, the students will change roles so that each student can demonstrate a healthcare skill. Learners will need to think critically to address the challenges facing each patient and reflect on their performance.

Teach Critical Thinking While Preparing Your Students for Their Healthcare Careers

Assisting students in their development as critical thinkers is an important part of your role as a health science instructor. But as you know, this responsibility is only one aspect of your job. You also help your students engage with content, prepare for certification exams, and get ready for successful careers.

To achieve all of your instructional goals, you will need to find ways to promote student understanding, content retention, and long-term development of critical thinking skills.

This is why HealthCenter21 goes beyond critical thinking to help your students comprehensively.

Read more about the HealthCenter21 student experience and how using AES can prepare your students for lasting success:

HealthCenter21 Student Experience