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 2006 International Conference. Engagement and Empowerment: New Opportunities for Growth in Higher Education, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 22-24 November 2006.

Abstract

This paper describes the results of a research programme whose focus was critical thinking and explores how information technology (IT) postgraduate students model problems. Some results from the programme show that IT students appear to improve their problem-solving ability by undertaking structured critical thinking exercises. An AC Nielsen survey commissioned by DETYA in 2000 sought to gauge employer satisfaction with graduates using a variety of methods including questionnaires, focus groups and in-depth interviews. A key finding was that ‗the skills employers consider to be most important in graduates are creativity and flair, enthusiasm and the capacity for independent and critical thinking‘. Similar conclusions were drawn in earlier work from the UK and USA. Generally, critical thinking, if it is taught in a university, is taught as a formal or symbolic logic subject, usually by the philosophy or mathematics department. While there is nothing inherently wrong with teaching students the syllogisms of Aristotle, as formal logic has its uses, that does not necessarily equate to critical 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. One solution is to use a formal critical thinking assessment instruments in a pre/post treatment experiment, the treatment being the exercises. This study evaluated the critical thinking skills of Masters-level students. The participants were a class of coursework Master students at an Australasian university. These students were administered two Mensa-style tests that targeted critical thinking skills regarded as essential elements in a university education. The design was a classic pre/post treatment experiment, with the treatment being the intervening structured critical thinking exercises. The results indicate that the students‘ problem-solving ability improved over time which suggests that the exercises were effective.

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