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Or is it, rather, that they’re teaching something they call “critical thinking” but which really isn’t? Traditionally, the “critical” part of the term “critical thinking” has referred not to the act of criticizing, or finding fault, but rather to the ability to be objective.“Critical,” in this context, means “open-minded,” seeking out, evaluating and weighing all the available evidence.
The test required students to analyze and interpret information; to draw accurate and warranted inferences; and to evaluate inferences and explain why they represent strong reasoning or weak reasoning.
Although other types of interventions have generated little or no improvement in student scores on this test, the Florida Atlantic researchers found that taking part in the antibiotic-finding CURE did significantly increase students’ critical-thinking scores—while the scores of students who were enrolled in a traditional cookbook-style lab stayed the same or actually declined.
“But because this course taught us to question our results and look for possible sources of errors, I developed a more critical eye when interpreting experimental results.” Remarked another student: “I am happy that errors occurred in the process, because troubleshooting them really helped me develop greater critical thinking skills, instead of just following the protocol.” conducted at Florida Atlantic University, where undergraduates were challenged to discover new antibiotics produced by soil bacteria that the students isolated from local habitats.
Researchers at the university gave participating students a critical-thinking test before and after they worked on identifying novel antibiotics (an undertaking that, not incidentally, addresses a worldwide health threat: the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics).
One that seems to be working: asking undergraduates to conduct actual scientific research.
It may seem implausible or impractical to expect college students to carry out authentic experiments—as opposed to “cookbook” lab exercises with a preordained result.Fresh approaches and bold innovations are needed to make sure that our nation’s students can grapple with the complexity of the world we’re bequeathing them.More than six years have passed since Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa rocked the academic world with their landmark book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.In 2010, the Noel-Levitz Employer Satisfaction Survey of over 900 employers identified “critical thinking [as] the academic skill with the second largest negative gap between performance satisfaction and expectation.” Four years later, a follow-up study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found little progress, concluding that “employers…give students very low grades on nearly all of the 17 learning outcomes explored in the study”—including critical thinking—and that students “judge themselves to be far better prepared for post-college success than do employers.” As recently as May of 2016, professional services firms Pay Scale and Future Workplace reported that 60 percent of employers believe new college graduates lack critical thinking skills, based on their survey of over 76,000 managers and executives.Clearly, colleges and universities across the country aren’t adequately teaching thinking skills, despite loudly insisting, to anyone who will listen, that they are. Is it simply that colleges are lazily falling down on the job?It means being “analytical,” breaking an issue down into its component parts and examining each in relation to the whole.Above all, it means “dispassionate,” recognizing when and how emotions influence judgment and having the mental discipline to distinguish between subjective feelings and objective reason—then prioritizing the latter over the former.But that’s exactly what Generally understood, CUREs have five defining characteristics.First, they contain an element of discovery: the student scientists are bringing brand-new data to light.of a p53 student-research project conducted by biologists at Stanford University found that the experience helped shift undergraduates’ conceptions of what it means to “think like a scientist,” from novice to more expert-like.Using a set of open-ended written prompts, the authors found that by the end of the course, students identified experimental repetition, data analysis and collaboration as important elements of thinking like a scientist.