The Use of Assessment Strategies to Develop Critical Thinking Skills in Science. Dr Megan H. Hargreaves & Dr Al T. Grenfell,Faculty of Science, Queensland University of Technology
The ACTS Project • Background • Science Faculty Project • Participants from all Schools & Sections • Various projects undertaken • Supported by T&L Large Research Grant • Overarching Theme • Building Critical Thinking Skills into the curriculum • Designing Assessment strategies to “drive” the learning
Underlying premises • Assessment as a motivator of learning • Not simply WHAT is learned but HOW • Critical thinking • Analysing, investigating alternatives, examining conclusions • SOLO levels of Critical thinking skills • Scaled approach: students should improve their level of CTS throughout their studies • Research (Inquiry) learning • Uses real-life problems, and real research techniques to stimulate CT approach
Critical Thinking Skills in Science • Designing experiments and testing hypotheses • Analysing arguments • Solving problems • Thinking creatively Halpern, D.F. (1997). Critical thinking across the curriculum: a brief edition of thought and knowledge. New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum.
The Microbiology component • Units taken in second and third year • “Stream” of units included in ACTS • Basic CT skills introduced in Micro 1 & 2 • Problem Solving in Laboratory classes • Application to “real-life” situations • Skills built on for Advanced units • Environmental Microbiology: Research project • Bacterial Pathogenesis: Clinical Case Studies
The Research Inquiry • Preparation • Students form groups of 2-3 (Allocated to a tutor) • Identify a problem within the defined parameters of the study • Form a hypothesis • Identify previous knowledge, knowledge gaps • Write a proposal, project plan, materials list • Performance • Groups collect environmental samples, analyse them, record results • Pondering (Reporting) • Group members collaborate to produce a written report in the form of a Journal Article • Report must include: • Short literature review, material and methods, results • Discussion of significance of results, in relation to the hypothesis, alternative hypotheses that might be considered, future research
Marking for Critical Thinking Skills • Is the question at issue well stated? Is it clear and unbiased? Does the expression of the question do justice to the complexity of the matter at issue? • Does the writer cite relevant evidence, experiences and/or information essential to the issue? • Does the writer clarify key concepts when necessary? • Does the writer show a sensitivity to what he or she is assuming or taking for granted? (Insofar as those assumptions might reasonably be questioned)? • Does the writer develop a definite line of reasoning, explaining well how he/she is arriving at his/her conclusions? • Is the writer’s reasoning well-supported? Centre for Critical Thinking, Sonoma State University, California. A sample assignment format. Available online at http://www.criticalthinking.org/University/univclass/AssignFormat.html
Outcomes • Feedback • The research project is a very valuable experience for future work • The project is great for practical hands-on experience and getting thinking about scientific reports • Group assignment was very interesting: we really got into it. It made me feel like I was a real scientist • Student projects are a valuable insight into the “real-world” of this field • Survey • Students perceived an increase in their CT skills to SOLO levels 3-4 (Relational to Extended abstract) • Marking • Critical thinking criteria clearly demonstrated in majority of project reports