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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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.

Marketing Word of Mouth Push Pull Factors International Student Satisfaction

International Education Marketing – Push and Pull Factors, WOM, Satisfaction & ROI

 

Extract from MBA dissertation:

How do international students’ information seeking behaviour relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education?

 

Some decades ago research highlighted home country ‘push factors’ vs destination ‘pull factors’ considered with following prioritised steps: decide to study abroad, choose destination and then institution; much impacted by WOM (word of mouth) of influencers, peers and family (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).

This model is too simplistic nowadays with many other potential factors or dimensions.  Additionally, it ignores the detailed factors related to how students search for information, that matches an optimal strategy i.e. including WOM amongst friends, more on social media (SM) and MIS (Management Information Systems) to match (Whitler, 2014).

 

Further, in addition to course choice, is the need for increased service and information quality to support students and increase the perception of quality, suggesting a linkage between quality and effective marketing (Russell, 2005).

 

Other issues that have not been addressed include the lack of detailed marketing strategy evaluation to assess effectiveness and direct outcomes, versus return on investment based upon on enrolment outcomes, while ignoring processes in between (Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka, 2006).

 

Good strategy should allow focus upon relevant factors, along with WOM communication for analysis and transmission of marketing messages, through analysis of the information seeking factors making up that phase or dimension.

 

Further, this may include revisiting marketing process based KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), that may not represent the process fully e.g. both existing and prospective student behaviour over time, digital channels or social media carrying WOM, and accordingly maybe invalid?

 

Reference List:

 

Hemsley-Brown J & Oplatka, I (2006) Universities in a competitive global marketplace. International Journal of Public Sector Management. 19(4) pp. 316 – 338. Available at:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513550610669176 (Accessed 18/11/2016).

 

Mazzarol T & Soutar G (2002) Push pull factors influencing international student destination choice.  The International Journal of Education Management. 16(2) pp. 82-90. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513540210418403 (Accessed: 18/11/2016).

 

Russell, M. (2005). Marketing education: a review of service quality perceptions among international students. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. 17(1). pp. 65-77 https://doi.org/10.1108/09596110510577680 (Accessed: 21/03/2017).

 

Whitler, K. (2014) Why word of mouth marketing is the most important social media.  Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2014/07/17/why-word-of-mouth-marketing-is-the-most-important-social-media/#2f76616d54a8 (Accessed: 10/05/2017).

 

 

 

International Education – Experience of Students and Stakeholders

International Education: Experience of Students and Stakeholders – Quality, Marketing and Customer Journey.

Summary of minor research dissertation for Master of Education (Education & Training) awarded in 2002 by Victoria University, Melbourne, related to international education according to former international students and stakeholders leading to a cyclical quality and marketing paradigm.

What is the experience of international students and stakeholders?

International Student Experience (Image copyright Pexels)

Proportionally less funding due to ageing permanent populations and workforces competing for state resources compelled universities and education institutions to attract full fee paying international students to both make up budget short falls, support tax base and subsidise domestic students; temporary immigration to balance government budgets.

Australia has been very successful in attracting students from the Asian region, especially India and China, with commensurate calls for more diversity e.g. students from Europe and Africa.  While quality and marketing are strongly related, research into these factors can assist in more systematic and informed marketing, especially through qualitative insights as opposed to interpretation of solely quantitative data.

Existing research is generally restricted to state sponsored surveys of general student population and institutional level students, already on campus.  Good research should use qualitative techniques e.g. grounded theory, to allow issues or concerns of students and stakeholders emerge without prescribing factors restricting and limiting insight.

Qualitative research methods can achieve validity, simplicity or utility and reliability of factors to be evaluated in international education at the institutional, faculty of course level as part of quality and marketing system.  According to an international education researcher:

“‘If they don’t like our courses, they wouldn’t come would they? I haven’t heard anyone complaining, have you?’

Attitudes such as these, though seldom voiced loudly or publicly, may be covertly present in many higher education institutions. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that all too many institutions see overseas students solely or mainly in financial terms they are also an important educational resource, bringing fresh perspectives to our culture and are by no means simply a lucrative nuisance to be tolerated”

Already we are observing how globalisation exemplified by increasing mobility for travel, study, work and life leads to more competition or choices for international students.  Accordingly, institutions whether international and/or domestic, need to satisfy stakeholders through feedback, comparison and improving performance or quality; not waiting for state sponsored surveys.

To achieve consistent quality of value creation and delivery to the customer, sustained research and feedback from intermediate and final customers is required.  Without ongoing internal and systematic market, social and education research there is a danger of institutions, especially large, losing touch with students and stakeholders therefore not delivering a quality service; thus compromising their survival.

For related articles see Andrew Smith’s profile on Academia.

Learning Theory – Behaviourism – English Language Teaching – CELTA

Learning Theory – Behaviourism – English Language Teaching – CELTA

 

In language learning, and one’s own experience via RSA Cambridge Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) now Cambridge English Teaching to Adults CELTA, is a communicative approach, based mostly on behaviourism, very much stimulus and response.

(Image copyright Pexels)

 English Teaching Model

 

There should be a clear process whether grammar/language structure, new vocabulary, function etc. hence the cyclical PPPP model, Preview, Present, Practice and Produce.

 

An example could be functional language of ‘shopping’ e.g. convenience store:

 

  • Preview via image of shopping, elicit vocabulary, grammar and dialogue (including shopping list) from learners.
  • Present via audio or AV recording, reinforce key structures or phrases, correct pronunciation etc. via concept check questions of random learners. If concept not understood start again.
  • Practice or drill dialogue, e.g. model between instructor and learners, then learners practice dialogue in pairs (with monitoring).  If not correct do again.
  • Production via role play where random students act out situation several times with different partners without assistance, monitored and followed by correction if needed (eliciting correct answer from leaners).
  • Review, if unable to ‘produce’ well, go back and do again.

 

  1. First stimulus comes from the instructor and atmosphere they create for learners to learn in a positive and interactive environment.
  2. Second, stimulus for Preview and Presentation above learners to understand and become interested and motivated in providing a response.
  3. Thirdly when learners do activity with each other and not instructed centred they use stimuli of questions or requests and the other with respond; vice versa.

 

At each phase there should be an observable outcome, especially at the end when all should ‘produce’ the structure well, in this case higher degree of fluency and confidence.

Behaviourism like above is good because it’s active learning, practical, reinforcing, controllable and clear in outcomes.

The negative could be when wanting higher level outcomes e.g. not skills of regurgitation or rote learning but analysis, reflection etc.; learners can be assessed further in written evaluation of their learning through reflection etc.

For related blogs or articles click through Education Training Learning.