Dissertation Abstract

Holistic Design for Critical Thinking Instruction: Case Studies of Instructional Practices

Publication Number:  AATNQ77898
Author:  Miller, Michelle Grace
School:  Concordia University (Canada)
Date:  2003
Pages:  220
Subject:  Higher Education, Curricula, Teaching

This exploratory study uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches to investigate the relationship between critical thinking outcomes and instructional practices. Three associate degree programs in radiologic technology are used as the context for comprehensive review of instructional practices for critical thinking throughout the two year time period. A comprehensive picture of each program's instructional approach is developed and compared with student outcomes in disposition and skill.

Qualitative methods are used to collect data about instructional practices at each site through interviews with faculty and students, classroom observation and document analysis. Consideration is given to planning for instruction, instructional activities, critical thinking processes and implementation strategies. Twenty-five students participate in measurement of their critical thinking outcomes using the California Critical Thinking Skills Test and Disposition Inventory and samples of student work. This small number of participants limits the statistical power of the analysis of outcomes differences.

While students at the three programs perform equally well on skills measures, there are likely differences among the sites in disposition to think critically. There are more marked differences in how the three sites implement certain instructional activities and the choice of activity type than the differences in frequency of use. The study suggests that long term use of the following activities/strategies over the course of the educational program may be associated with greater critical thinking disposition: (a) analysis of real-world problems, (b) performance based problem solving, (c) verbalizing evidence supporting arguments or decisions, (d) extensive writing, (e) attention to classroom environment, and (f) use of group work in and out of the classroom.

Findings suggest that there is a continuum of program development for critical thinking instruction. At one extreme is a site with a nascent view of critical thinking instruction characterized by intuitive practices. At the other extreme is a program that incorporates many of the best practices for critical thinking development, including those that extend learning beyond the classroom. In the middle is a site that is consciously and regularly continuing to adapt classroom practice to improve its ability to encourage critical thinking among its students.

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