Skills of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking and related literacies are viewed as essential soft, work or life skills to be taught and learnt by school students, apprentices, trainees, university students, employees and broader society, but how?

Following is parts of an article from The Conversation focusing upon argumentation, logic, psychology and the nature of science to help people understand and analyse the world round us in an age of fake news, conspiracy theories, anti-science and anti-education sentiments.

‘How to teach all students to think critically

December 18, 2014 2.27pm AEDT

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills.

The new course would be an elective next year and mandatory in 2016 with the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for education and students Shirley Alexander saying the aim is to give students some maths “critical thinking” skills.

This is a worthwhile goal, but what about critical thinking in general?

Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?

So what should any mandatory first year course in critical thinking look like? There is no single answer to that, but let me suggest a structure with four key areas:

 

Argumentation

The most powerful framework for learning to think well in a manner that is transferable across contexts is argumentation.  Arguing, as opposed to simply disagreeing, is the process of intellectual engagement with an issue and an opponent with the intention of developing a position justified by rational analysis and inference.

 

Logic

Logic is fundamental to rationality. It is difficult to see how you could value critical thinking without also embracing logic.  People generally speak of formal logic – basically the logic of deduction – and informal logic – also called induction.  Deduction is most of what goes on in mathematics or Suduko puzzles and induction is usually about generalising or analogising and is integral to the processes of science.

 

Psychology

One of the great insights of psychology over the past few decades is the realisation that thinking is not so much something we do, as something that happens to us. We are not as in control of our decision-making as we think we are.  We are masses of cognitive biases as much as we are rational beings. This does not mean we are flawed, it just means we don’t think in the nice, linear way that educators often like to think we do.

 

The Nature of Science

Learning about what the differences are between hypotheses, theories and laws, for example, can help people understand why science has credibility without having to teach them what a molecule is, or about Newton’s laws of motion.  Understanding some basic statistics also goes a long way to making students feel more empowered to tackle difficult or complex issues. It’s not about mastering the content, but about understanding the process.’

 

This article is from 2014, however it is unclear what Federal and State Education Departments are doing to include the explicit teaching and learning of critical thinking skills to students via curricula and syllabi?

For more articles about university teaching and learning skills click through.

 

 

 

 

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Why students copy, plagiarise, collude or cheat?

Student copying, plagiarism and collusion challenge academic integrity and ethics, but why does it exist?

The following article from The Conversation outlines issues but does not address those related to cross cultural or social issues, pedagogy of top down content and encouraging teacher or lecturer centred rote learning and regurgitation of content with only lower to mid-level skills or outcomes according to Bloom’s taxonomy.

15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?

October 18, 2018 3.55pm AEDT

New research on plagiarism at university has revealed students are surprisingly unconcerned about a practice known as “contract cheating”.

The term “contract cheating” was coined in 2006, and describes students paying for completed assessments. At that time, concerns over the outsourcing of assessments were in their infancy, but today, contract cheating is big business.

In 2017 alone, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported more than 20,000 students had bought professionally written essays from the country’s two largest essay-writing services.

According to a 2018 study, as many as 31 million university students worldwide are paying third parties to complete their assessments. This staggering figure was drawn by reviewing 65 studies on contract cheating. Since 2014, as many as 15.7% of surveyed students admitted to outsourcing their assignments and essays.

The growth in contract cheating speaks volumes about the modern view of education as a commodity…..

…..One key problem for overhauling assessment design is the troubling proliferation of casual labour in universities. The development of assessments is rarely, if ever, accounted for in casual teaching rates.

Turnitin works to reduce students’ work into patterns and algorithms, weeding out supposed cheats and frauds. But a more considered response must take into account the complex reasons students turn to these services in the first place.

Understanding why students are willing to pay for assessments might also illuminate a problem at the heart of tertiary education – one that is related to our present repackaging of knowledge as a resource to be bought, rather than an ennobling pursuit that is worthy of all the energy, time, and attention teachers and students can devote to it.’

 

In the case of many international students it’s having them relearning how to learn, through eliciting content, building knowledge and developing higher level skills through student centred interaction and collaboration supported by personal responsibility, i.e. ‘andragogy’ for adult learners.

For more articles about andragogy for adult learning click through.

 

 

ID Instructional Design Models in Education

Cognitivism and Connectivism Learning Theory page as part of an EdX Instructional Design course.

Cognitivism is student centred learning via an existing knowledge base and building upon it according to learner preferences, how they organise memory, how information is linked, learning how to learn, problem-solving and the student learning journey is supported by clear instructions and information (Hanna, 2017).

Further, there is the Three-Stage Information Processing Model including Sensory Register to assess inputs, Short-Term Memory where input can be stored e.g. 20 seconds and then Long-Term Memory and Storage retrievable by linkages that have been developed (Mergel, 1998).

Application of andragogy for adult learning versus pedagogy for school.

Adult Learning Theories in Higher Education (Image copyright Pexels)

Connectivism is like social learning through others or networks, identify patterns, knowledge based round networks and exemplified in complex learning e.g. round information and technology (Ibid.).

Both can be used for the same education and exemplars, by using both theories to support instructional design, student centred activity and learning, building upon knowledge and experience for inexact outcomes; as opposed to behavioural focus.

In the first case, cognitivism using a course e.g. ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’,  focus upon one learning outcome, ‘ability to analyse (digital) marketing and communication’

Rather than present information or content activities which maybe new and/or overwhelming, assess the knowledge level before training, then drive instruction and achievement of learning objectives via learners and learner centred activity (but monitored an assessed closely).

Instructional Design for Adult Learners in ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’:

Preview by using images to elicit key words, channels etc. related to conventional marketing and communication.

Presentation repeat preview to include digital also and elicit the elements.

Practice by learners listing both types of elements in a small business example marketing and communications; report back to class.

Production in pairs for their own business, assist each other, compare notes then present to each other/class.

Wrap-up Class discussion and/or milling activity to compare with other learners’ ‘production’ and feedback on key points, rules or issues.

Connectivism can be applied to the same course area and learning outcome, not just in the direct learning environment but post learning, i.e. back in the workplace and business environment.  Accordingly, if learners are mostly small business people, already responsible for marketing and communications and sharing a desire to improve application of digital in their business practice, they should be motivated for connectivism.

Within the formal learning, connectivism would fit cognitivism approach above, with symmetry in each phase, but especially with increase in learner interactivity with production and wrap up or review.  Connectivism can then also be followed up informally by learners remaining in communication with each other (e.g. WhatsApp or LinkedIn Group), industry sector networking opportunities and/or local chamber of commerce.

Andrew Smith Melbourne LinkedIn Profile

 

Reference List (Harvard):

 

Hanna, M. (2017) Learning Theory Matrix. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8d28/2833c35fb8b9ea74bf2c930cea22fb1e0fad.pdf (Accessed on: 16 November 2017).

Mergel, B. (1998) Instructional Design & Learning Theory.  Available at: http://etad.usask.ca/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#Cognitivism(Accessed on: 17 November 2017).

 

Copying and Plagiarism at University

Copying and plagiarism have always been apparent for various reasons and manifested in many ways.  Reasons can include rote learning via pedagogy versus andragogy, not coping or under time pressure which can lead to short cuts that can be easily identified by software such as Turnitin.

From Henrietta Cook in The Sydney Morning Herald:

How unis can beat the cheats by finding ‘fingerprints’ in their essays.

The tell tale signs of a cheat could be lurking in a comma or a seemingly innocuous double space after a full stop.

As universities grapple with a rise in contract cheating – which involves students outsourcing their assessments – technology is clamping down on the unethical practice by monitoring students’ unique writing styles.

The software, which has been created by US-based company Turnitin and will be launched later this year, is being developed and tested at Australian institutions including Deakin University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong and the University of Queensland.

Forensic linguists – the experts who scrutinise ransom notes and suspicious wills – helped identify 70 different factors that feed into a person’s unique writing style.

These include the use of commas, parentheses and dashes, how they list examples and whether they double space after a full stop…

…. Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said universities were continually coming up with new ways to detect cheating.

“There’s a clear message to all students in this: if you try to cheat, it’s very likely that you’ll get caught. So just don’t do it.”’

 

Advice for students (and institutions) would be learn how to write academically (should be compulsory in all university foundation and/or bachelor degree programs), plan well with time management to include good research of references or sources, use required referencing system (correctly) included in process of note taking, paraphrasing and synthesis, have draft for checking by lecturers, tutors or learning advisors, for feedback.

Further, institutions could provide a generic TurnitIn point for students to check essay or report drafts and be rewarded for process, as well as grade outcomes.

For more articles and blogs about teaching, learning and assessment click through.

TAE40116 Certificate IV Training Assessment Package – ASQA Review Submission

Submission for TAE40116 Training Package Review

 

Written by Andrew Smith; submitted 3 April 2018

Introduction

There has been much discussion amongst training practitioners about the updated TAE Training Package.  One of the main issues has been the perception that it has been designed for quality administration and assessment while neglecting quality of actual training delivery and learning.

ASQA Australian Skills Quality Authority Certificate IV Training and Assessment TAE40116 Review

TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – ASQA Review (Image copyright ASQA)

This has been experienced by the writer currently upgrading BSZ to TAE via a registered training organisation (RTO) by distance learning; PO Box with ‘assessors’ and ‘trainers’ based offshore.  Further, the delivery is based upon basic pedagogy of presentation of content, regurgitation of content according to instructions while seemingly unable to offer explanations or insight for trainees, especially delivery and learning skills based upon andragogy.

 

What is the TAE Training Package?

 

Description

 

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years. (Department of Education & Training 2018).

At face value the TAE40116 appears to be a relevant and practical qualification for vocational education and training to deliver accredited training packages, assure quality with a focus upon assessment.  However, there have been many criticisms of the package from practitioners, industry and other stakeholders, why?

Issues with TAE Training Package and Delivery

 

According to the Resources Training Council

 

It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains. They do not understand workplaces where training and more importantly the outcomes (assessment) must be fit for purpose to achieve what VET is all about.  VET should be about producing safe, proficient (productive) workers and providing an opportunity for learning to be built on as people move along their chosen career path (Munro 2017).

 

From an experienced VET training practitioner

 

To improve assessment practices of RTOs and improve skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors we need to:

  • Update our regulatory framework and move to a real outcome-based regulation, where relevant industry stakeholders have a say in the registration/re-registration process
  • Support the National Regulator in building the required capabilities to assess compliance in a diverse and complex environment
  • Ensure the National Regulator provides an even-playing-field to RTOs
  • Identify the different issues within the assessment system, and consequently identify gaps in current workforce skills (in all AQF levels not only entry level) and update the TAE training package accordingly (Castillo 2016).

 

Research criticisms have included: one size fits all approach whether novice trainer or an already well experienced and/or qualified trainer or teacher, trainer assessor expertise or skills, questions over subsequent assessment outcomes, lack of depth related to training and learning delivery, no clear development pathway and the skill outcomes from the TAE for practitioners to deliver (Clayton 2009).

The focus of criticism has been directed at sub-optimal education and training pedagogy (learning theory for children and young adults or novices) of both the TAE and practitioners for quality delivery, learning and trainee assessment outcomes.  These revolved round, preparedness of trainers to train, opportunity to learn content knowledge, delivery quality, learning the practice of good teaching or training, learning from experts, then more about planning and assessment (Ibid.)

The latter issue of assessment has been raised within sectors whether validation between providers, or simply better understanding of assessment by practitioners (Halliday-Wynes & Misko 2013)

Further, expert input often hints at what is lacking by focusing upon learning theory or ‘pedagogy’ for children and youth, as opposed to ‘andragogy’ for youth and adults.  The latter would be exemplified by self-directed learning or training, responsibility, experience, motivation to learn and preference for real tasks and problem solving (Educators’ Technology 2013); supported by well skilled trainers.

 

Training Delivery and Learning Quality

 

However, delivery of some TAEs has more to do with education and training or ‘pedagogy’ influence from two generations ago manifested in trainer or teacher directed, or top down.  This assumes trainees have no relevant knowledge or practical input to offer, focus upon systems, processes and assessment round any given package, but not delivery i.e. developing quality training and learning skills.  Additionally, very content driven for good reason, however, it is presented or instructed (not elicited) then regurgitated or replicated for satisfying requirements for assessment, then assumed optimal for the workplace?

The significant size of the VET sector requires standard packages, systems, processes and assessment to be compliant and manageable.  However, the risk is that system quality may be based upon indirect top down paper-based systems and processes of (quality) compliance that are reactive when issues emerge, if discovered.  For example, sub-optimal training and learning, versus proactive measures through more intrusive evaluation of actual training delivery quality or bottom up informing.

Quality maybe improved by intrusive quality assessment through mystery shopping on any given TAE course, dynamic (publicised opportunities) for feedback from trainees and clients, evaluation of specific programs and trainers or evidence of dynamic quality evaluation of skills versus merely possessing a TAE qualification or ‘ticket’.

 

References:

 

Castillo, A 2016, Newly endorsed Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – Same Issues, LinkedIn Pulse, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/newly-endorsed-certificate-iv-training-assessment-amaro-castillo/ >

 

Clayton, B 2009, Practitioner experiences and expectations with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104): A discussion of the issues, NCVER Melbourne, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0023/4658/nr08504r.pdf >

 

Department of Education & Training 2018, MySkills: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.myskills.gov.au/courses/details?Code=TAE40116 >

 

Educators’ Technology 2013, AWESOME CHART ON “PEDAGOGY VS ANDRAGOGY”, viewed 1 April 2018, < http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/awesome-chart-on-pedagogy-vs-andragogy.html >

 

Halliday-Wynes, S & Misko, J 2013, Assessment issues in VET: minimising the level of risk, NCVER, viewed 22 March 2018, < http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/801600/AssessmentIssuesInVET_MinimisingTheLevelOfRisk.pdf >

 

Munro, J 2017, The TAE debacle – a resources sector view, Resources Training Council, viewed 31 January 2018, < http://www.resourcestraining.org.au/news/the-tae-debacle/ >