Featured Newsletter Article on Critical Thinking:

How To Improve Critical Thinking Using Educational Technology by Tim van Gelder, Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne.
http://www.philosophy.unimelb.edu.au/reason/ papers/ASCILITE2001.pdf

The Reason! Project in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne has been developing a new approach to teaching critical thinking skills “building afresh from solid foundations in cognitive science.” This article describes the Reason! Able software that has been developed to implement some of this approach

Other Articles:
Critical Discourse in a Student Listserv: Collaboration, Conflict, and Electronic Multivocality by David Elias, Eastern Kentucky University and Deborah Brown, University of Central Oklahoma

This article provides many examples from students’ e-mail listserv entries and since the technology that demonstrate improvements in critical thinking and reflection.

Elias and Brown report that:

“For the past four years we have conducted a listserv on which students (pre-service teachers and graduate teaching assistants) at our respective institutions could e-mail each other to discuss issues raised in class and course readings. In this paper we offer an analysis of selected incidents and recurring themes of the listserv to examine this usage of technology at the intersection of rhetorical and pedagogical theory and the practice of critical reading and writing instruction.”

They began this listserv:
“…in a search for ways to encourage more critical thinking about teaching than what we were getting from our teaching assistants in their teaching logs. The entries in these logs tend to the reportorial mode: they tell what happened; they express frustration, or, less frequently, satisfaction, or whatever emotion accompanied the experience; they sometimes announce plans. Much less frequently in these entries, however, do students critically discuss the theoretical, ethical, and political issues raised by their teaching practices and their own professionalization. “
The results:”We have found that the presence of several different threads of conversation going on simultaneously or in closely overlapping sequences opens rhetorical spaces to a greater range of reflections and ways of reflecting than individual teaching logs could.”

Using Asynchronous Conferencing to Promote Critical Thinking: Two Implementations in Higher Education by Susan J. Sloffer, Bill Dueber and Thomas M. Duffy from Indiana University.

From the Abstract:

“Asynchronous conferencing is emerging as a tool that can create opportunities for collaboration and support the inquiry process. This paper describes one such tool (ACT) designed within a specific pedagogical framework. The overall goal of ACT is to make cognitive processes visible and encourage reflection in students as they engage in critical thinking activities. This study examines the use of ACT within a graduate-level seminar and an upper-level undergraduate sociology course.””In both cases, they reported that students displayed better critical thinking skills than in past semesters. Most interesting was the use of labels: textual, color-coded tags associated with each message.”

Teaching Critical Thinking with Electronic Discussion

The authors, Steven A. Greenlaw, Professor of Economics, Mary Washington College and Stephen B. DeLoach, Professor of Economics, Elon University, discuss introducing electronic discussions as a method of developing critical thinking skills to undergraduate economics students.

Critical Thinking and Interdisciplinarity in Environmental Higher Education: the case for epistemological and values awareness by Peter C. Jones & J. Quentin Merritt, University of Greenwich, London, UK , and Clare Palmer, University of Stirling, UK. http://www.gre.ac.uk/~bj61/talessi/paper1.htm

From the Abstract:

A key learning outcome of most, if not all, higher education is that students should be able to think critically about the subjects they have studied. This applies as much to broad-based undergraduate programmes in environmental higher education as elsewhere. In environmental higher education, this means that students should be able to think critically both within and across the various disciplines that constitute their study programme.

An implication of this is that students need to have an awareness of the epistemological and value-based commitments that are present -though frequently unacknowledged- in all ‘knowledge claims'; and, in particular, that they should be sensitive to the ways in which these commitments often vary within and between different disciplines.

Put another way, it is our view that awareness of epistemological and value-related questions is a prerequisite for critical thinking in environmental higher education. Moreover, in so far as critical thinking across disciplines enables students to integrate knowledges produced within different disciplines, these two kinds of awareness are also prerequisites for interdisciplinarity.

Sites of Interest:

Mission: Critical

Mission: Critical is an interactive instructional site devoted to critical thinking, or applied logic and analysis. Critical thinking is part of the transfer core curriculum recognized at all state-supported institutions of higher education in California. The goal of Mission: Critical is to create a “virtual lab,” capable of familiarizing users with the basic concepts of critical thinking in a self-paced, interactive environment.

Critical Thinking Consortium

At this site in the College and University section, you will find information about events, resources, including instructional guides and lesson plans, books and professional development opportunities sponsored by the consortium.

Events include yearly international conferences on critically thinking. The 24th International Conference on Critical Thinking (http://www.criticalthinking.org/eventsisc/24conf.htm) will be held July 11-14, 2004 in Palo Alto, California. The theme is Teaching Students the Essential Forms of Learning.

Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) Links:Just-in -Time teaching website

This site overviews the basics of the JiTT method, offers resources on the topic, provides examples of JiTT adopters, discusses the impact of the method on student learning, and provides information on JiTT workshops.

Just-in-Time Teaching by William Rozycki, Indiana University

This article, which appeared in the April 1999 issue of Research and Creative Activity, profiles Gregor Novak, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) professor of physics, whose “thirty years of experience and research “ into instructional strategies to motivate students’ interest and understanding of physics has culminated in a Web-based, classroom-linked strategy termed “JiTT” or Just-in-Time Teaching. Novak developed JiTT jointly with Andrew Gavrin, assistant professor of physics at IUPUI, and Evelyn Patterson, associate professor of physics at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado.

‘Just in time teaching’ taking place on campus

This article discusses the ways Brown University physics instructors are using the JiTT methodology in their classes. David Lowe, professor of physics, who has been using the method for a few years, commented:

“I find it lifts up the lower half of the class into the B plus range, those who might be getting B minuses or C’s. It really helps those students who are having trouble organizing their time. For those at the top of the class, it improves their writing.”

“The response is better, the morale in class is much better, student evaluations are much better, and exam results from students at the lower end of the class are much improved,” Lowe said.

Just-in-time Teaching in Economics

This paper discusses the use of JiTT techniques in the winter quarter of 2001 by Marcelo Clerici-Arias in his Prinicples of Economics course at Stanford University. The paper is linked from the JiTT in Economics site http://jitt.stanford.edu/main.htm.

Just in Time Teaching in Physical Science 100

This brief report by Steve Turley, professor of physical sciences at Brigham Young University, describes his adoption of the JiTT teaching technique for the Freshman Academy Section of Physical Science 100 in the Fall of 2002. He also discusses his use of Blackboard quizzes to implement the technique.

Just in Time Syllabus

Shyamala Raman (Saint Joseph College), Jean Shackelford (Bucknell University) and Kim Sosin (University of Nebraska at Omaha) have explored a variant on JiTT called the Just-in-Time Syllabus (JiTS). This site offers information on implementing this kind of syllabus for economics courses, offers examples of online syllabi,

“The Just-in-Time Syllabus (JiTS) is a pedagogical device that enables the Economics instructor to incorporate time-sensitive data, on-line discussions as well as links to freshly-mounted websites into the delivery of most of the undergraduate courses in economics. This method of syllabus construction not only provides the students with a multifaceted arena of on-line materials but also helps to enrich and energize standard textbook presentations.”