Integrating Critical Thinking and Memorandum Writing into Course Curriculum Using the Internet as a Research Tool

Article excerpt

Employers seek job candidates with critically thinking abilities, great written and oral communication skills, and honesty, among other characteristics. Research supports the need to develop those qualities and business faculty are charged with the task of developing and improving them. As a result faculty are continually searching for new and interesting tools to use in the classroom to reinforce a student's critical thinking, writing and problem solving abilities. This paper seeks to provide the business faculty instructor with a useful research assignment designed to improve students' research, critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills. The assignment design is also useful for faculty in any discipline.

Introduction

Faculty are charged with the requirements of conveying specialized topic content to students, but also with developing student growth in a variety of other personal qualities useful in a student's future career and life. Communication skills and critical thinking are two of these life skills. In fact, communication skills, both written and oral, are the most important quality employers seek in the "ideal candidate." Other skills and qualities included in the top ten personal qualities and skills employers seek in job candidates are honesty and integrity; analytical and problem-solving skills; computer skills; and flexibility and adaptability (Why do employers, 2007).

"Almost everyone agrees that one of the main goals of education, at whatever level, is to help develop general thinking skills, particularly critical-thinking skills" according to Tim van Gelder in Teaching Critical Thinking, Some Lessons From Cognitive Science (2005). Critical thinking, or reflective thinking, as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (AACSB) refers to it, is of critical importance and is indentified in AACSB Standard 15 as an important outcome of undergraduate business programs (AACSB, 2003). Van Gelder goes on to say that students don't acquire these skills as much as they should but, "[t]he difficult part is knowing what to do about it" (2005). Debra McGregor in Developing Thinking; Developing Learning, provides some guidance about what to do buy stating schools and colleges are being encouraged to make greater use of thinking skills in the classroom and student learning assignments (2006). Use of case studies requiring critical thinking, the Internet, and writing assignments are all important to the educational advancement of students.

This paper provides a research case assignment that is designed to provide greater depth of understanding of a particular legal issue, sharpen students' writing competencies (specifically, memorandum writing), enhance utilization of the Internet as a research tool and improve students' ability to think critically. Also provided are the assessment criteria, memorandum writing guidelines in the form of a sample memorandum, and teaching notes. The assignment requires students to think critically, reason, analyze and make recommendations. Students also learn adaptability and flexibility in situations where there may be multiple correct solutions. The scenario simulates a real world situation that could arise in a variety of work place settings. The assignment presented in this paper involves a legal issue because "legal reasoning offers a natural venue for developing and practicing critical thinking because arguments and counterarguments are the foundation of legal discourse" (Browne and Keeley, 2003, ix). The assignment is intended to be used not only in undergraduate business law courses (e.g., Legal Environment of Business), but may also be appropriate for use in other business courses.

Internet Utilization and Memorandum Writing

Using Internet research memo writing assignments gives students the opportunity to practice, apply and refine their research, writing, and critical thinking skills. …