Analysing Critically

Alternative Mind Portrait

This strategy enables students to examine a topic or issue from more than one perspective. It can also identify perspectives that are silent or missing from a text. Draw two head silhouettes. Represent one perspective inside the first head and another perspective inside the second head by writing or drawing ideas that delineate that person’s perspective. More can be added by labeling ideas around the outside of the head. Students share their mind and alternative mind portraits with a partner.

Analytical Lenses

Students analyse an event from different perspectives by putting on a lens through which to interpret it. Consider a range of perspectives:

  • Feminism
  • Ageism
  • Religious beliefs
  • Marxism
  • Indigenous culture


Consequences Consistency
  • What are the consequences of believing this?
  • How consistent is the information?
  • What assumption have been made here?
  • How accurate is the data or information?
Main Points
  • What is the meaning of this?
  • What are the main points?
Point of View
  • What prejudice is being shown here?
  • What other points of view could be expressed?
  • What evidence is there to support the position or claims?
  • What examples are there to back-up the position or claims?
  • How relevant is the position or claims?
  • How reliable is the information, writer or source?

Consensus 1-3-6

Students generate a list of ideas about a topic or in response to a text. They then work in groups of three to combine their ideas into one list of statements but which is limited to a set number, e.g. 5 statements. They then discuss why items will be retained, discarded or modified as they finalise their list. Two groups of three then join and repeat the process. Complete the activity with a reflection.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Evaluating the consequences of an action.

Action: ……….








To help you in your cost-benefit analysis, you may wish to score costs and benefits. The ‘bottom line’ question is: do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Critical Assessment Tool

For assessing a proposition, organising your thoughts when making a decision, or comparing the advantages and disadvantages of something.

A PMI for Proposition: …………





A PCI for Decision: …………




You may wish to give each of the positives a score +1 to +5, and the negatives -1 to -5 to help you with an overall assessment.

Critical Lenses

Explore specific points of view through a variety of specific lenses: environmentalist, Indigenous person, feminist, Marxist, historian, scientist, and people from different age groups, socio-economic backgrounds and careers/jobs. Use a PCQ to record their points of view.

Critical Literacy and Multiliteracies

Discuss what’s behind a text.

How does the text work to position a reader. How does it emphasise the author/creator’s choices (purpose)? What effects is it intended to have on audiences?

  • How does money, power, self-interest come into it?
  • How does idealism, morality, principle come into it?
  • How does ideology, propaganda, rhetoric come into it?
  • Who wins and who loses?

Critique: A Writing Frame

Write an article, such as an ‘opinion’ piece for a newspaper, or a review for a journal. The frame for writing a critique may include the following elements:

  • The field: what is the topic or issue being address?
  • Proponent 1: What is their case? What is their perspective? What are their interests?
  • Proponent 2: What is their case? What is their perspective? What are their interests? How is this different from the case put by proponent 1? (And the same for proponent 3 etc.)
  • Truth assessment: which perspectives are likely to be closest to the truth? Consider:
    • The facts: what is correct, misleadingly presented, incorrect?
    • Logic: which arguments are clear, persuasive, flawed or poor?
    • Perspective: how do the proponents’ interests affect their case? Are they neutral, balanced or biased?
  • The reviewer’s perspective: what your own perspective? How does this affect your assessment?

DEAF Thinking – Describe, Evaluate Analyse, Future Action

Describe: outline the scope and nature of the learning experience.

Evaluate: discern the strengths and weaknesses of the experience.

Analyse: reflect on the reasons why some aspects of the experience were successful or alternatively did not work well.

Future action: suggest changes for the future.


Arrange a formal debate on an issue.

Proposition: ‘That ……. ‘

  • Affirmative Speaker 1: Defines the proposition from the affirmative point of view.
  • Negative Speaker 1: Defines the proposition from the negative point of view.
  • Affirmative Speaker 2: Outlines the case for the affirmative.
  • Negative Speaker 2: Outlines the case for the negative
  • Affirmative Speaker 3: Rebuts the case made by the speakers for the negative.
  • Negative Speaker 3: Rebuts the case made by the speakers for the affirmative.
  • Affirmative Speaker 4: Summarises and closes the case for the affirmative.
  • Negative Speaker 4: Summarises and closes the case for the negative.

Four Corners

Students take a stance on a topic or statement by using to stand in a corner of the room. Each corner represents a different opinion:

  • Agree
  • Strongly agree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly disagree

To prepare, write statements in a definitive manner. Controversial statements evoke more varied responses. Label each corner of the room with a sign stating strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. Engage the students in the strategy by sharing the first controversial statement. Students may first be required to write a short passage explaining their position on the topic. Then students report to the corner of the room that best matches their personal viewpoint.

The teacher can randomly call on students in each corner to share why they chose the given position. Otherwise, each corner’s group can discuss the statement and develop a collective response to be shared. Alternatively, the teacher can assign different groups to debate each other. For example, the agree and disagree students can debate while the strongly agree and strongly disagree students do the same. Another option is to have each group research their position and present a persuasive speech to the rest of the class supporting their position. After the groups have shared their information, it is interesting to repeat the activity with the same controversial statement. Have students reflect on their position now, and if it has changed.

The four corners teaching strategy also can be adapted into a simple game format that allows all students the opportunity to move around the classroom. For this modification, label the four corners of the room one, two, three and four. Also make four slips of paper that are labeled with the corresponding numbers. Have all students go to a corner of the classroom. The teacher draws a numbered slip of paper and asks a question to the given corner. If the students in the corner are able to answer the question correctly, students move around the room to another corner. If the students answered incorrectly, all students in that corner must return to their seats. Play continues until one student wins the game.

Another option is to use the four corners strategy for multiple choice questions. With this option, label each corner A, B, C or D. Ask a question and give four options. Students report to the option they believe is correct. All students who chose the right answer continue to play while others take their seats.

Moot Court

Try a person or an organisation in a moot court.

Case: ….. v. …….

  • The Plaintiff or Petitioner presents their opening argument. Make sure you cover: the facts, the law or rules and the application of the law or rules to your case.
  • The Plaintiff or Petitioner calls witnesses, and questions them in support of their case.
  • The Defendant or Respondent presents their rebuttal covering the facts, the law or rules and the application of the law or rules to this case.
  • The Defendant or Respondent cross-examines the Plaintiff or Petitioner’s witnesses, and introduces new witnesses.
  • The Plaintiff or Petitioner cross-examines the Defendant or Respondent’s witnesses.
  • The Defendant or Respondent presents their closing arguments.
  • The Plaintiff or Petitioner presents their closing arguments.
  • The Judges may seek clarification on certain points at any time. At the end of the case, they deliberate and present their decision. A jury may also make a decision on issues of fact, having been advised on the law or rules by the judge.


PCQ (Pros, Cons, Questions) is useful for students to consider a topic in more depth and to consider different perspectives, for example on an environmental issue such as the culling of kangaroos.







Indigenous person



Ask students to stand in someone else’s shoes or to try to get into someone else’s head in order to understand how someone might think and feel as well as look at issues/problems/experiences from different perspectives. Provide students with guiding questions so they can reflect on the different perspective. Also consider which perspectives are missing or not heard.

Point of View Interviews

Students develop questions to explore the points of view of characters in fiction or real people in history or word issues. Other students research the person and then participate in an interview. These can also be ‘hot-seat’ interviews in which one student takes on the role of the character and other students take turns to question the character, relating to events in the story.


Create an online or paper-based opinion poll to assess the range of points of view on a topic.

  1. Create a the questions for the poll, including yes/no answers, multiple choice and rating scales.
  2. Decide on your sample: What kinds of people are you polling? How many are you polling?
  3. Conduct the poll – online, or on paper, or face-to-face.
  4. Collate the poll results and write a report.

Risk Assessment

Assessing and planning for risks.

Risk: …………

1. What are the hazards?

2. Who might be harmed?

3. What are our existing precautions or control measures?

4. What more could we do?

5. Are we doing enough? What more should we do?

Self Reflection Tools

Support students to access their thinking through a variety of self reflection tools including reflective diaries, blogs and wikis, learning portfolios, reflective journals, learning journals, concept maps, drawing metaphors, role plays and reflective exercises. Use prompts to scaffold the reflections. For example, ‘What did you learn?’, ‘How do you know that you have learnt it?’ and ‘How will you use that learning again?’ to ensure that students make the connections between their learning in one situation and the wider world. Reflection circles or Circle Time can be used for whole class reflections. Reflection circles occur when the whole class sits in a circle facing each other. The teacher is an active participant in this process. The reflection circle needs to have a focus which can be drawn from the reflective questions examples, learning goals or share time. It is important that class norms or protocols are established to ensure that all class members’ opinions are valued and that the culture is supportive. Students take it in turns to respond to the questions asked or to share their learning. They also use this time to ask questions of other students.

Six Thinking Hats


Neutral thinking – facts, data, information


Emotional ‘gut reaction’ thinking with no judgement or justification


Critical judgement of ideas – what are the negatives


Positive perspectives


New ideas, possibilities and creative alternatives


Control of the thinking; thinking about the thinking

Assign hats to individuals or groups – they can even wear them – to develop and to evaluate ideas. Use the hats in different sequences according to context.

SWOT Analysis

Assessing the strategic position of an organisation, community or group.

Organisation, Community or Group: …………

  • Advantages
  • Things you do well
  • Skills
  • Available resources
  • Other people’s positive perceptions
  • Disadvantages
  • Things you do badly and areas for improvement
  • Skills needed but not available
  • Resources needed but not easily accessed
  • Other people’s negative perceptions
  • Favourable aspects of the environment
  • Encouraging trends
  • Things you could do which would have a positive effect
  • Difficulties and problems
  • The obstacles you face
  • Dangers
  • Costs and resource availability









Who Gains? Who Loses

Who stands to gain?

Who stands to lose?

What are the environmental consequences?

What are the financial implications?

What are the effects on the community?

What are your questions?

Y Chart – Evaluative

Analysing the way something seems. What it:

  • Says it is
  • Looks and sounds like
  • Seems like (to me, to us … good, bad, helpful, unhelpful)

Consider other perspectives on the text. Use a Pros/Cons/Questions (PCQ) analysis from a variety of perspectives.

An extension of the Y chart is the X chart which includes What it thinks like.

Laying it on the Line

Cross Impact Grid

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