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ERIC Number: EJ1116614
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar-8
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: EISSN-1554-8244
EISSN: N/A
Writing as Situated Thinking in General Education
Merrill, Yvonne
Across the Disciplines, v1 Mar 2004
Both curricular reformers and writing specialists believe a connection exists between critical thinking and writing, however two obstacles have prevented any conclusion from emerging. One is that there is no established shared understanding of what "critical thinking" means. The other is that no one knows how to measure it, even though all educators want it. This article describes a pilot workshop where 12 selected faculty members were assigned to two kinds of working groups: (1) intra-disciplinary, and (2) interdisciplinary. Each faculty member participated in both kinds of groups. In both groups, they shared their writing assignments to accomplish two goals: (1) identify the kinds of thinking these assignments entailed because the were dissatisfied with the quality of thinking their students showed in the tasks they assigned; and (2) find ways to stage the thinking/writing assignments limiting the number of thinking operations they had to perform. simultaneously. Researchers arrived at these goals by asking participants to write and answer the following question: "Why do we write and ask students to write in the university?" Most said they themselves wrote to clarify their thinking and to share their knowledge with peers, but none mentioned they used writing to help students clarify thinking and solve problems collaboratively with peers. Though they said they wanted students to demonstrate "critical thinking," they found their assignments generally only asked students to recall and interpret information in specific ways they had been taught. They rarely asked open-ended questions or entertained genuine interpretations. The results took an entire semester for the first group of faculty to arrive at the definitions that were decided to be critical thinking skills students need to demonstrate in order to succeed in college. Researchers saw a need for both faculty and students to participate in interdisciplinary discussions due to mutually exclusive languages across some disciplines. By the end of the first semester, the participants were able to agree on common definitions of commonly required thinking skills. The skills were very concise and have had buy-in from every other group of core instructors in succeeding workshops because, as the first group said, no one had ever discussed these things with them, so they hadn't consciously thought about them. Every workshop participant wrote on his or her evaluation that they "learned so much," from their interdisciplinary groups, "were stimulated by the cross-disciplinary discussions," and "knew a lot more about thinking and learning than they had ever dreamed."
WAC Clearinghouse. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. Tel: 970-491-3132; Web site: http://wac.colostate.edu
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Arizona
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A