Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Have you had enough to think? (#191)

Althea Blakey 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

A medical education needs to foster critical thinking as well as essential ‘how to’ skills of practice and the ‘what’ of scientific knowledge, particularly given a complex, 21st century context which demands responsive, adaptable graduates. However, there can be difficulties in teaching critical thinking, not least because of contrasting theories about what critical thinking actually means. Consequently, medical teachers face many challenges to educate students for critical thinking. This presentation will solve this challenge by suggesting practices for those who aim to foster thinking as part of small group work. Practices are based on my in-progress PhD in which I examine what it is to educate for critical thinking using Barnett’s (1997) idea of critical being. In a year- long action research project, I examined what it might be to teach for critical being on the basis that such a focus might be a way forward for critical thinking education. Data included recordings and transcripts from monthly meetings with 5 medical teachers, observations of their developing practice and reflective journals. This presentation will focus on two conclusions from my inductive analysis of these: that thinking development can depend on what teachers do and who they are. Teachers need to be explicit about what thinking they educate for, communicate how thinking might sound in speech, and ask questions likely to elicit it. However, I also found thinking development was dependant on whether a teacher fundamentally believed in that which they taught. Evidence suggests effective teacher development needs to educate teachers to develop excellence in process but also educate them as people. Medical teachers need to learn what it is to think, but ‘have enough to think’ themselves.

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

Relevance to conference theme: Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals

This study is relevant to the conference theme because evidence suggests that to educate our students in excellent practice (e.g. responsive graduates who can think logically, reflectively, etc.) can still depend on not only what we do, but how we do it. Effective teacher practice can thus depend on training that supports them to do so. In the 21st century, we have a much clearer idea of what makes an excellent professional and the ways that medical education is delivered in the 21st century have also broadened from the customary lab and lecture, to various formats that aim at active learning to develop student thinking (such as small group work). The results of this study provide practical ideas to inform teacher practice where we aim to develop the responsive thinking graduate and ways they might be supported to do so.