February 15-26. The vPlus Festival is an online festival from Potential Plus UK, full of workshops, webinars and discussions for young people with enquiring minds, their families and schools.


What Young People Really Need to Survive and Thrive in the Modern World – By Alex Elliott

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What Young People Really Need to Survive and Thrive in the Modern World – By Alex Elliott

Critical thinking skills – the ability to think independently and use the information available to us to make good choices – have been important for as long as humans have been making decisions but, today, they are more crucial than ever.

Young people growing up in the 21st Century have a huge amount to grapple with. They have access to more information than they could possibly need or want, and working out which bits are useful to them and how to use them effectively is a mammoth challenge in itself.

To make matters more complicated, a lot of the media we encounter every day is inaccurate and designed to confuse readers or influence them in a particular way; marketing is more sophisticated than ever, and fake news, conspiracy theories and ‘astroturfing’ (orchestrated online campaigns in the guise of comments or posts from independent members of the public) abound.

We set up Oxford Catalyst because we want to give young people the tools to navigate today’s very complex information landscape; we believe strongly that the development of critical thinking skills shouldn’t be left to chance. We help students to:

  • make sense of what they watch, read and hear
  • understand things from a variety of different perspectives (and avoid ‘group think’)
  • develop their own thought-through opinions
  • learn out to communicate their views clearly and effectively to others

These skills, like the muscles in our body, really can be strengthened and developed if you know how but it takes hard work and ongoing practice. We’ve put some free resources on our website to help families work with their children to start developing a critical thinking mindset: they range from 2-min creative thinking exercises that can be done in the car or while walking to school to a short video workshop illustrating how a controversial issue can be approached critically.

If you’d like to find out more about developing critical thinking skills, please come along to the 1-hour workshop that we’re running for 11- to 14-year-olds on 18th February from 2-3pm as part of the vPlus festival. And, in the meantime, if you have any questions or thoughts, please email [email protected] – we’d love to hear from you.

Alex Elliott and Tom Ziessen from Oxford Catalyst will be running the session What is Critical Thinking? and Why it Could be Your Superpower , aimed at Ages 11-14, on Thursday 18th February at 2.00pm.