Susan Hippensteele: Critical Thinking and Science Literacy Course Impact on Student Retention and Graduation
Critical Thinking and ScienceLiteracy Course Impact onStudent Retention and GraduationSusan K. Hippensteele, Ph.D., J.D.University of Hawai`i at Manoa
What are we doing?1) developing and evaluating “best practices” pedagogy for teaching critical thinking and science literacy through applied multidisciplinary general education courses,2) building a broad multidisciplinary community of faculty with expertise in critical thinking and science literacy pedagogy that „closes the loop between teaching, learning, and assessment, and3) evaluating the impact of freshman completion of a critical thinking and science literacy course on retention and progress to degree.
1. SOCS 150: Street Science: Analyzing and Applying Evidence in Daily Life Multi-disciplinary critical thinking and science literacy course Large enrollment (170 max) with Friday tutorial Six instructors from psychology, anthropology, economics, and women‟s studies Introduction to logic followed by 2-week problem based units; final research paper project Interactive classroom activities, individual and small group homework and quizzes, no content memorization—all skill based and applied problem- solving
2. Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) developed by Tennessee Tech University (TTU) Used to assess critical thinking skill acquisition within SOCS 150 and control classes Non discipline-specific, tests applied problem-solving skills similar to those confronted in daily life 15 question, primarily short answer essay test; 1 hour or less Faculty scored on-site using carefully crafted rubric developed by TTU Faculty scoring sessions (7-8 hours) interactive and important feature of faculty development aspect of project http://www.tntech.edu/cat/home/
Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) Evaluating Information: Separate factual information from inferences, interpret numerical relationships in graphs, understand the limitations of correlational data, evaluate evidence and identify inappropriate conclusions. Creative Thinking: Identify alternative interpretations for data or observations, identify new information that might support or contradict a hypothesis, explain how new information can change a problem. Learning and Problem Solving: Separate relevant from irrelevant information, Integrate information to solve problems, learn and apply new information, use mathematical skills to solve real-world problems. Communication: Communicate ideas effectively
SAMPLE DISCLOSED CAT QUESTIONA scientist working at a government agency believes that an ingredient commonly used in breadcauses criminal behavior. To support his theory the scientist notes the following evidence. 99.9% of the people who committed crimes consumed bread prior to committing crimes crime rates are extremely low in areas where bread is not consumedDo the data presented by the scientist strongly support their theory? Yes___ No___Are there other explanations for the data besides the scientist‟s theory? If so, describe._____________________________________________________________________________What kind of additional information or evidence would support the scientist‟s theory?_____________________________________________________________________________ Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning, 2007, 2010
3. Manoa Institutional Research Office Our broad hypothesis is that freshman enrolled in a multidisciplinary general education course that teaches scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills to understand and evaluate real-world issues will be better prepared to succeed in college. To test this hypothesis we have written a grant to conduct a longitudinal study to develop and assess a student progress to degree model that allows us to examine the impact of various early academic experiences, including SOCS 150, on student academic decision-making and success.
Why are we doing it? The original motive for developing SOCS 150 was to better prepare students for upper division coursework in multiple disciplines, i.e., introduce them to basic scientific reasoning, problem solving, information literacy, evidence evaluation, debunking false claims and misrepresentations of data After being trained to score the CAT we realized the potential of our model for promoting broader institutional change and decided to use the course as a laboratory for undergraduate education research at UHM
What do we hope to achieve? We expect our multidisciplinary courses to enhance science literacy and critical thinking skills and improve retention in multiple disciplines on our campus. Both our course and research model are widely adaptable to any college curriculum. The student data tracking system we plan to design can serve as a model to other campuses seeking to evaluate the impact of courses or specific student academic experiences on retention, progress to degree, and graduation.