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Enhancing college students’ critical thinking skills in cooperative groups


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Paper presented at the 1st International Conference on Technology and Innovation in Learning, Teaching and Education (TECH-EDU 2018), June 20-22, 2018, Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Enhancing college students’ critical thinking skills in cooperative groups

  1. 1. Enhancing college students’ critical thinking skills in cooperative groups HELENA SILVA JOSÉ LOPES CAROLINE DOMINGUEZ. UNIVERSITY OF TRÁS-OS-MONTES AND ALTO DOURO, PORTUGAL
  2. 2. Context
  3. 3. CT concept “Critical thinking generally leads to well-informed, more reasoned decision making processes and is considered vital to the success of a democratic society” Pascarella, Wang, Trolian, & Blaich (2013) “Critical thinking includes the capacity for interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation and self-regulation “ Facione (1990)
  4. 4. Paradoxe Despite critical thinking importance (World Economic Forum, 2015), although significant percentages of college students successfully complete requirements for graduation, they do not progress, as expected, in the development of their critical thinking skills (Arum & Roksa, 2011) => Teaching/Learning strategies desadequate?
  5. 5. Cooperative learning and critical thinking Learning strategy which stimulates students, to collectively (in small groups), in an organized way, to perform some tasks, confront (and negotiate) their ideas for the sake of a common goal : - Analyse information - Synthesise - Negotiate to reach an agreement (divergent ideas discussed) (Brown, 2001; Johnson & Johnson, 1999, Laal & Ghodsi, 2012; Barkley, Cross, & Major, 2014) Features of cooperative groups : positive interdependence, individual and collective responsibility; stimulating interaction (preferencially face to face); social skills; process of group evaluation, common objectives, coordinated activities (Johnson & Johnson, 1999).
  6. 6. Benefits of Cooperative learning Discussion, interaction => CT development Exley (1998) e Paul e Elder (2001) Social skills
  7. 7. Cooperative learning, higher education and CT: a gap to be filled - A promising and effective instructional approach Tinto (1997) - Little evidence drawn from experimental research supporting that cooperative learning influences positively college students’ cognitive development in general and critical-thinking skills in particular. Goodman (2011); Loes (2009); Notar & Padgett (2010)
  8. 8. Is there any statistically significant difference between the development of college students’ critical thinking skills using a cooperative learning approach and using a traditional lecture-based approach? Research question
  9. 9. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Design A nonequivalent control group pretest–posttest design was used in this quasi- experimental study. Participants 41 students from two classes of a public university from the North of Portugal divided in two groups of the 3rd year college, one undergraduate course in Psychology (control group with 22 students) and the other in Basic Education (experimental group with 19 students). Regarding gender, 87.8% were females and ages ranged between 19 and 37 (M= 20.8; SD= 3.18).
  10. 10. Measures Critical Thinking Test (CTT) ( Lopes, Silva, & Morais, 2017) Ex and Post test The respondent is asked to answer in a written way a set of six questions, which refer to different cognitive tasks, requiring for their appreciation and resolution, the use of a critical thinking skills, taking in consideration the revised Bloom’s taxonomy (2001) and Facione’s critical thinking skills classification (1990): (i) interpretation (ii) analysis (iii) explanation (iv) evaluation (v) synthesis (vi) production/creation The test total score ranges from 0 to 25 points
  11. 11. Procedure A 13-weeks period of experimental instruction (in a total of 13 lessons, lasting 120 minutes each) focusing on learning critical thinking took place in the experimental group. For the control group, the lessons were explained using a more traditional lecture-based approach in which the preponderant role was assigned to the teacher. Both, the experimental group and the control group took the pretest in the first week and completed the posttest (same test as the pretest) in week 13.
  12. 12. Methodology Result s Pre-test/Post- test (Lopes, Silva, & Morais, 2017) 13 lessons, lasting 120 minutes each 19 E students: cooperative learning 22 C : lectured based Intervention
  13. 13. Intervention 1) The teacher organized heterogeneous groups of four or five students; 2) He assigned roles to the different members of the group. The roles were rotating and were adjusted to the activities goals; 3) In the 13 lessons, the students in cooperative groups 3.a.) analyzed pedagogical scenarios, which entailed problem solving and 3.b.) read and analyzed papers on teaching-learning methods in which they had to develop the respective concept maps; 4) Works were exchanged between groups in order to give and receive feedback (peer feedback); 5) The teacher gave feedback to the work of each group after peer feedback; 6) Students improved the work carried out, incorporating feedback from colleagues (peer feedback) and teacher’s; 7) A final oral presentation was carried out by each group to the whole class; 8) A reflection on the functioning of the group (group process), strengths, weaknesses, and improvement strategies was made.
  14. 14. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Groups Critical Thinking Test N Mean SD Mean differences Effect size (Cohen d) Experimental Pre-test 19 11.37 2.95 t(18) = -6.54, p < .001 d= 1.66 Post-test 16.53 3.27 Control Pre-test 22 13.68 2.95 t(21) = 1.86, p= 0.76 d= -0.5 Post-test 12.05 3.54 COMPARISON OF SCORE MEANS, STANDARD DEVIATIONS, MEAN DIFFERENCES, EFFECT SIZE FROM THE CRITICAL THINKING PRE TO POST-TEST BETWEEN EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS
  15. 15. Experimental Group (n= 19) Questio n CT skill M pre-test SD M post-test SD M difference 1 Interpreta tion 1.26 1.04 1.74 .73 .48 2a Analysis 2.11 .31 2.16 .5 .05 2b Analysis 1.05 .4 1.63 .59 .58 3 Explanati on 1.26 .99 2.42 .96 1.16 4 Evaluatio n .68 .47 1,42 .69 .74 5 Synthesis 1.32 1.1 2.47 .96 1.15 6 Fluency 1.53 .69 1.42 .69 -.11 6 Flexibility .95 .4 1.95 .78 1 6 Originality 1.16 .76 1.95 .8 .79 Score CTT 11.37 2.95 16.53 3.27 5.16 MEANS, STANDARD DEVIATIONS AND MEAN DIFFERENCES IN CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS TEST FOR PRE-TEST AND POST-TEST FOR EXPERIMENTAL AND CONTROL GROUPS Control group (n= 22) M pre-test SD M post-test SD M difference 1.09 1.06 1.36 1 .27 2.05 .375 2.23 .42 .18 .86 .71 1.05 .89 .19 1.59 .66 1.81 .95 .22 1.05 .66 .95 .65 -.1 1.23 1.11 1.64 1.32 .41 1.45 .67 .82 .5 -.63 1.77 .42 .77 .42 -1 2.27 .55 1.55 .91 -.72 13.68 2.95 12.05 3.54 -1.63
  16. 16. CONCLUSIONS Greater improvements in critical thinking skills among the students of the intervention group suggesting clearly that the effects of cooperative learning are very positive. The skills with more significant raise in the experimental group: explanation, synthesis and flexibility (production/creation skills) Explanation: improvement due to the features of the classroom activities involved as well as the active student participation, meaningful interaction with material, and student-to-student verbal interaction.
  17. 17. The practical implications Professors may be able to increase student critical thinking skills by including cooperative learning approaches. They will thus enhance an important part of students’ education contributing for their effective integration into society and the workplace as “better” thinking future citizens.
  18. 18. Future investigation The impact of the cooperative learning approach throughout the academic course, comparing the gains in critical thinking between students who learn with cooperative approaches and others who do not. Effects of cooperative learning on the development of critical thinking dispositions versus a more traditional pedagogical approach
  19. 19. Acknowledgements This work was supported by the ‘Critical Thinking Across the European Higher Education Curricula - CRITHINKEDU’ project, with the reference number 2016-1- PT01-KA203-022808, funded by the European Commission/EACEA, through the ERASMUS+ Programme and also by National Funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., under the project UID/CED/00194/2013.