Critically Thinking About Ways to Improve Critical Thinking

ALEC Dr. Kim Dooley, Dr. Barry Boyd, Jenna Kurten (left to right)

Dr. Kim Dooley, Dr. Barry Boyd, Jenna Kurten (left to right)

A recent study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) revealed that 81 percent of employers believe that critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills are quite important when selecting college graduates as new employees. Unfortunately, a vast majority of universities fall flat when it comes to teaching this learning outcome to students. At the moment, very few methods have been developed to teach critical thinking skills and the ones in place only scratch the surface.

Dr. Barry Boyd, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC), Dr. Kim Dooley, professor and associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Jenna Kurten, program manager are working to change this by researching better ways to assess how well students are learning critical thinking skills.

The group was honored with the E.B. Knight Journal Award by the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) association for their work titled, “An Evaluative Study on Intentional Teaching Strategies to Improve Critical Thinking”. The researchers were the first ever recipients from Texas A&M University.

The article documents the quest of educating students on how to think critically, provides an in-depth look at how critical thinking is currently evaluated by instructors and offers a new method in order to implement intentional strategies for teaching critical thinking.

This method is being put into effect by informing educators to be better prepared on the intricacies of critical thinking and purposely implementing these practices within their classrooms. Although professors may actively be making improvements to better teach critical thinking, it is still very difficult to see if a return on investment is actually happening.

Dooley contributed to the project through the help of her data collection course. The course titled qualitative research methods, provided data that was essential to developing a new way to assess critical thinking skills.

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