#CritLit2010 Development of Critical Thinking Skills in online course

In this Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking by Anuradha A. Gokhale

Collaborative learning fosters the development of critical thinking through discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others’ ideas.

For collaborative learning to be effective, the instructor must view teaching as a process of developing and enhancing students’ ability to learn.  The instructor’s role is not to transmit information, but to serve as a facilitator for learning. This involves creating and managing meaningful learning experiences and stimulating students’ thinking through real world problems.

In this Participation and Critical Thinking in Online University Distance Education by Mark Bullen

The results suggest that the emergence of a dynamic and interactive educational process that facilitates critical thinking is contingent on several factors: appropriate course design, instructor intervention, content, and student’s characteristics.

The study concludes that computer conferencing should be given serious consideration by distance educators as a way of facilitating interaction and critical thinking in distance education.

The critics argue, much distance education is rooted in a transmission model that inhibits the development of critical thinking.

Learners passively assimilate knowledge rather than critically examine and construct it, based on their own experiences and previous knowledge (Burg, 1988; Garriso, 1993; Lauzon, 1992)

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Most of the students were generally satisfied with instructor’s participation but, when pressed, several did indicate that greater instructor involvement might have helped stimulate the discussions.

The instructor agreed that student participation may have increased if he had become more involved and tried to provoke more discussion.

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Several factors appear to have had an impact on the students’ ability to use critical thinking skills in their contributions to the discussions: cognitive maturity, the instructor’s style of teaching, the students’ experience with a dialogical style of teaching, and their understanding of critical thinking.

Research conducted using this model found that reflective judgment scores increased consistently with age and educational levels and that college freshmen and seniors tended to view knowledge absolute or uncertain and idiosyncratic to the indiviudal (King & Ktchener, 1994).

Teaching style is another issue that can have an impact on students’ ability to exercise their critical thinking abilities.

Sternberg and Martin (1988) suggest the best approach for facilitating this is a dialogical style of teaching in which there is ongoing interaction between students and the instructors, and that involves discussion, inquiry, and the free exchange of ideas.

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Student characteristics such as their previous experience with distance education or independent study, their cognitive maturity, and their experience with participatory and interactive learning environments seem to be necessary preconditions for the successful implementation of computer conferencing where success is measured by high levels of participation, interaction, and critical thinking.

The above two research cases both stress the important role of instructor as facilitator, who could greatly assist the learners in developing their critical thinking skills by participating in the discussion.

In the case of online course where instructors are encouraging self-directed and collaborative learning using Web 2.0 tools (such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitters, Ning and Moodle etc.), (a) what would be the role of instructors? (b) how would instructors assist the learners in the development of critical thinking skills?  (c) How would critical thinking skills be evaluated?

Finally, what are the factors that would impact on the learner’s development of critical thinking skills in an online course? Which of them are critical success factors?