Developing Critical Thinking Skills in First Year Australian University Students
This study reports the self-perceived development of critical thinking skills amongst first year university students. The participants in this pilot study were a convenient sample of 33 students enrolled in a bachelor degree at an Australian university. The critical thinking survey devised by Sofo (2007) was provided to students at the beginning of the semester, and again following the delivery of a three-part intervention involving (a) instruction and awareness-raising through small group activities, (b) the development of skills regarding implicit and explicit assumptions and (c) the completion of a reflective learning log. The results reveal that statistically significant improvements occurred on fourteen of the nineteen items assessed through the survey. These findings indicate that the combination of specific instruction and skill development techniques including small group work, lecture-style instruction and tailored assessment all contributed to the development of critical thinking skills in first year university students. The opportunity exists for the pilot study to now be extended to a full study involving a larger sample and including a more thorough analysis of first year students enrolled in the same degree, followed by a comparative analysis of a wider selection of students (such as those from differing disciplines). There is also potential to explore the similarities and differences between post-graduates or those students undertaking their second or third year of undergraduate tertiary study.
Keywords: Critical Thinking, Skill Development, University Student, Self-perception
Dr. Michelle Berzins
Faculty of Education, University of Canberra
Prof. Francesco Sofo
Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Canberra