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ERIC Number: ED540334
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 217
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-2671-3413-4
Faculty Conceptualizations and Approaches to Assessing Critical Thinking in the Humanities and Natural Sciences--A Grounded Theory Study
Nicholas, Mark C.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Cincinnati
Empirical research on how faculty across disciplines conceptualize or assess CT is scarce. This investigation focused on a group of 14 faculty drawn from multiple disciplines in the humanities and natural sciences. Using in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, assessment artifacts and qualitative coding strategies, this study examined how faculty conceptualized the term CT and how they assessed for CT in general education. The study adopted an exploratory approach to study faculty conceptualizations of CT and hence did not use an operational definition of CT. This study found that that disciplinary approaches, ontological assumptions and personal epistemologies influenced the way faculty from the natural sciences and humanities conceptualized CT. The findings revealed that within disciplinary, educational contexts, faculty took a faceted approach to CT focusing on aspects of CT that were most relevant to their disciplinary needs. Faculty also held assumptions on the ontology of CT that influenced their understanding on the properties of the term. Faculty across disciplinary lines generally worked under the assumption that CT was dependent on context. Unanimity also emerged that CT was integrated with disciplinary content and other learning outcomes. The ontological assumptions that faculty held on CT were found to influence pedagogy and assessment of CT. The study found that faculty used implicit approaches to both teach and assess CT. Hence they had no way of knowing the efficacy of their approaches; leading to what I called the hopeful pedagogy. Although many have speculated on the relationship between CT and personal epistemology, this study represents one of the first empirical works to examine these speculations in the context of how faculty as assessors of CT, made their judgments. I found that when gauging whether thinking was critical or evaluating the premises of arguments, faculty drew from their personal epistemologies to make such judgments. Beliefs that faculty held on the nature of knowledge, the relationship between the knower and the known, and the criteria they used to justify knowledge claims influenced their judgments of the outcome of the critical thinking process. It was difficult to argue from the data whether the nature of disciplinary approaches and methods cultivated and reinforced personal epistemology or whether it was the reverse. The study found a mismatch between approaches used to assess CT in widely used standardized tests, general education programs and in national efforts for accountability versus the approaches used by faculty to assess CT. It raised questions on the efficacy and continued use of discipline-general approaches to assess CT in all students irrespective of discipline and called for a complex, multi-disciplinary approach with multiple forms of assessment. Given findings of how faculty approached CT, the value of a liberal general education lies not in the generality of CT but its multidisciplinarity. The findings of this study have implications for the assessment of CT, faculty development, and for conceptual understandings of CT. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A