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How do we find what we’re looking for? Critical thinking in the university curriculum. UCD Fellows in Teaching and Academic Development Tom O’Connor Aoife Ahern Gerry MacRuairc Martin McNamara. Fellowships in Teaching and Academic Development .

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how do we find what we re looking for critical thinking in the university curriculum

How do we find what we’re looking for? Critical thinking in the university curriculum

UCD Fellows in Teaching and Academic Development

Tom O’Connor

Aoife Ahern

Gerry MacRuairc

Martin McNamara

fellowships in teaching and academic development
Fellowships in Teaching and Academic Development
  • Initiative under Strategic Innovation Fund
  • Purpose: Conduct research which is of strategic importance to the development of teaching and learning in UCD
  • 2009-2011 (7 fellows)
  • http://www.ucd.ie/fellows/
teaching for transitions graduate attributes
Teaching for transitions: Graduate Attributes
  • Need for universities to clarify the nature of the education they provide and clarifying the contributions of their graduates to society
  • Impetus to describe graduate attributes;
    • Employers
    • Policy makers
    • Professional groups/organisations
    • Local: UCD education strategy
  • What are they?
    • Qualities, skills and understanding gained as a result of university education
    • Generic and beyond purely disciplinary boundaries
    • Prepares graduate not only for employment but as agents for social good
  • Tensions: ‘skills’ versus ‘attributes’, Generic versus specific.

(Bowden et al 2000Barrie 2006, 2007, Jones 2009)

critical thinking
Critical thinking
  • Considered a (the) key graduate attribute
  • Difficulty in definition:
    • Cognitive skill
    • Linked variously to logic, problem solving, scepticism examining evidence, exploring contradictions/complexities, development of argument, open mindedness.
    • 3 tiered model (Barnett 1997)
      • Critical thinking (learning generally to problem solve)
      • Critical thought (using this skill to interrogate a body of knowledge)
      • Critique (meta-criticism, can go beyond the discipline)

(Pithers & Soden 2000, Davies 2006,Jones 2007a,2007b, 2009)

critical thinking1
Critical thinking
  • Discipline specific or a generic attribute?
    • Linked to epistemic culture (Jones 2007)
    • ‘Generalists’ versus the ‘specifists’ (Davies 2006)
  • Teaching and learning implications
    • (How) Can it be taught or learned?
    • Is it a subject in itself or incorporated within disciplinary knowledge
    • Curriculum design and delivery strategies
the project
The Project

Aim:

  • Explore the understandings and realisation of critical thinking in the university curriculum

Objectives:

  • Elicit and explore academics’ understanding of critical thinking as a generic graduate attribute;
  • Elicit and explore academics’ understandings of critical thinking within the context of their discipline or subject area;
  • Examine how academics’ understandings of critical thinking are realised in curriculum design.
the project1
The Project
  • Multi-method qualitative study, approaching 10 schools.
    • Semi structured interviews with 10 subject experts to elicit their views on critical thinking
    • Semi structured interviews with 20 module coordinators as to how critical thinking is incorporated into their module
    • Documentary analysis of 20 module descriptors looking for presence of critical thinking
    • Documentary analysis of 3 pieces of student work (from each module above, 60 in total)
projected outcomes
Projected outcomes
  • Provide a general insight of critical thinking as a attribute of university education in UCD.
  • Provide an insight into academics’ understanding of critical thinking as a generic graduate attribute and detailing the manner in which critical thinking is positioned and developed within a disciplinary context.
  • Provide an insight into the realisation of critical thinking in the curriculum
  • Recommendations with regard to:

(a) Module design and structure,

(b) Teaching and learning strategies,

(c) Assessment strategies.

references
References
  • Barrie S. (2006) Understanding what we mane by the generic attributes if graduates. Higher Education 51 pp 215-241
  • Barrie S. (2007) A conceptual framework for the teaching and learning of generic graduate attributes. Studies in Higher Education 32(4) pp 439-458.
  • Barnett R. (1997) Higher Education: A critical business. Open University Press, Buckingham.
  • Davies W. M. (2006) An ‘infusion approach to critical thinking; Moore on the critical thinking debate. Higher Education Research and Development 25(2) pp 179-193.
  • Jones A. ( 2007) Multiplicities or manna from heaven? Critical thinking and the disciplinary context, Australian Journal of Education Vol. 51, No. 1, 84–103.
  • Jones A. (2007) Looking over our shoulders: Critical thinking and ontological insecurity in higher education, London Review of Education.
  • Jones A. (2009) Generic attribute as espoused theory: the importance of context. Higher Education 58 p175-191.
  • Maton K. (2009) Cumulative and segmented learning: exploring the role ofcurriculum structures in knowledge-building in British Journal of Sociology of Education 30(1) pp 43–57
  • Pithers R.T & Soden R (2000) Critical thinking in education: a review. Educational Research (42)3
  • Pitman T. & Broomhall S. (2000) Australian universities, generic skills and lifelong learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education 28(4) pp 439-458.
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