Teaching Critical Thinking in Undergraduate Science Courses


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Abstract

This paper reports on the design and evaluation of a project aimed at fostering the critical thinking abilities and dispositions of first year students at an Australian university. Novel paper and pencil problems were designed to foster the range of critical thinking abilities identified by Ennis (1991). Most of these critical thinking tasks relate to applications of chemistry and physics in everyday life. Some of the tasks were developed from information and/or ideas obtained from critical incident interviews with scientists in private and government organisations. The first year university students were required to attempt the tasks in co-operative groups and to interact in these groups in ways aimed at fostering the dispositions of Ennis' ideal critical thinker (Ennis 1996). The project was evaluated from discussions with groups of students, from comments of tutors who observed the students working in groups and from a questionnaire. Evidence obtained from these data indicated that many students considered their thinking skills were enhanced by their experience of attempting the tasks in small co-operative groups.

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