Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

The development of an online tool for scaffolding critical thinking (#192)

Lesley-Jane Eales-Reynolds 1 , Colin Clarke 1
  1. Kingston University London, Kingston, United Kingdom

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Critical thinking is a core feature of Western Higher Education and graduate employability, (Halpern, 1999). The Web Resource Appraisal Process (WRAP) web 2.0 tool was developed to scaffold healthcare student’s production of critical reviews (Eales-Reynolds et al, 2012). In 2011, we set out to re-design the tool to enable its use across disciplines and enhance critical thinking (CT) development through the production of a range of authentic assessment (AA) artefacts This paper considers the challenges of developing educational applications that are pedagogically sound and user friendly

Surveys informed the team’s understanding of academics’ and students’ perceptions of AA and CT. Emergent concepts were elaborated through focus groups and workshops at International conferences.  A literature review informed our theoretical framework for developing CT. The outcomes of this primary and secondary research informed the development of the Authentic Assessment for Critical Thinking Skills (AACTS) tool by two Masters students. 

Our data highlighted the different perceptions of CT and AA held by students and academics, emphasizing the need for a clearly defined model of CT to underpin the tool development.

The AACTS tool made certain assumptions about how students work, providing an environment that presented problems in a highly structured format. It allowed academics to directly input content. Trials demonstrated that our assumptions were ill informed and from the academic’s perspective, the tool was not user friendly. Despite our theoretical framework identifying the need for a social constructivist pedagogy, the resultant tool design was behaviourist. Our subsequent development – Critica- with expert software and design specialists facilitates the development of CT through the use of structured AAs, peer and tutor feedback and group work. Our journey demonstrates the difficulties of designing and developing quality, effective educational applications that are pedagogically sound. 

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 In this paper we explore the challenges of designing and using Web 2.0 technologies to support the development of critical thinking skills in a flexible and adaptable way. The challenges in understanding pedagogies which are effective on line and how design principles can be used to provide a user friendly environment that encourages and scaffolds learning are myriad and highly relevant to today’s needs to provide learning in diverse places. Critical thinking comprises a set of skills identified as key to employability and numerous reports suggest that Higher Education is failing to meet expectations in this regard. This paper will address some of the design issues that complicate the issue still further

  1. Halpern, DF. 1999. Teaching for Critical Thinking: Helping college students develop the skills and dispositions of a critical thinker. New Directions for teaching and learning, 80, pp 69-74.
  2. Eales-Reynolds, LJ., Gillham,D., Grech, C., Clarke,C, Cornell, J (2012) A study of the development of critical thinking skills using an innovative Web 2.0 tool. Nurse Education Today, 32, 752-756.