Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publisher

Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.

Comments

Originally published in the Proceedings of the EDU-COM 2008 International Conference. Sustainability in Higher Education: Directions for Change, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 19-21 November 2008.

Abstract

Sustainability in higher education is an interesting idea because the nature of the concept changes depending on the viewpoint of the stakeholder. For an academic, a key aspect of sustainability is about facilitating life-long learning. One way to do that is to provide students with opportunities to think for themselves and to nurture that ability. This paper describes the second stage of a research programme whose focus was critical thinking (CT) and explores how information technology (IT) Masters-level students model problems. Results from a prior study suggested that IT students appear to improve their problem-solving ability by undertaking structured CT exercises. This study provides some validation of the first study and suggests future directions for the research programme. Critical thinking, as taught in a university setting, is often structured as a formal logic subject. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with teaching students logic, that does not necessarily equate to critical thinking, and also raises the question of the place of lateral thinking. The assessment of critical thinking skills is also somewhat problematic. There are several generic assessment tools available but if critical thinking is discipline-specific, then such tools may not be particularly useful. The solution used in this research is to apply a formal critical thinking assessment instrument in a pre/post treatment experiment, the treatment being the CT exercises. This study evaluated the CT skills of Masters-level students. The participants were a class of coursework Masters students at an Australian university. Two tests were administered that targeted CT skills regarded as essential elements in a university education. The research design was a classic pre/post treatment experiment, with the treatment being the CT exercises. The results indicate that the students‘ problem-solving ability improved over time which suggests that the exercises were effective, thus validating (in part) the initial study.

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