Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effect of Instructional Techniques on Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Dispositions in Online Discussion

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effect of Instructional Techniques on Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Dispositions in Online Discussion

Article excerpt

Introduction

Higher order thinking skills like critical thinking, creative thinking and problem solving are considered necessary skills for 21st century individuals. On the other hand, technology competencies like using the Internet and its services effectively and learning in online environments are also skills required for the new generation. Hence, it is necessary and important to examine these dimensions from different points of view in order to develop ideas on the ways to best equip individuals with these skills and to make them more easily cope with emerging technologies and situations.

Although online teaching, or nowadays more commonly called e-Learning, is not a new phenomenon for the education world, few studies deal with both the implementation of instructional strategies and techniques within these virtual environments and the consequences of these various implementations in terms of enhancing critical thinking skills. We have to discover the best instructional techniques for students learning within online environments, as we do for face-to-face learning environments. As educators, we should consider the best practices which enhance students' thinking skills, academic achievement, retention and other important dimensions of student learning. Owing to these facts, this research study was carried out to explore whether or not selected instructional techniques can enhance students' critical thinking skills and critical thinking dispositions. Hence, six instructional techniques were used to conduct discussions in online environments in order to explore the critical thinking skills and critical thinking dispositions of students.

Critical thinking and critical thinking dispositions

Teaching students how to think critically is an essential issue in educational settings (Facione, 2007; [section]endag & Odabas.i, 2009) since critical thinking (CT) is very important to participate effectively in a democratic society with a set of skills in terms of workplace decision making, leadership, clinical judgment that affects directly professional success. As synthesised by Onions (2009) "Critical thinking is a way of thinking, and a set of skills, that encourages an informed, aware, systemic, considered and logical approach to deciding what to believe or do. Critical thinking leads to arguments and conclusions that are valid, substantiated and resistant to criticism" (p. 2). As also stated by MacKnight (2000), teaching CT by using online discussion is an essential approach in terms of enhancement of teaching and learning in electronic forums. Students should enhance their critical thinking abilities in order to cope with the information explosion and other rapid technological changes that we are faced with in recent years and also for the upcoming years.

From a different point of view, Halpern (1999) underlined the importance of addressing student dispositions in terms of critical thinking instruction and stated that "Critical thinking is more than the successful use of the right skill in an appropriate context. It is also an attitude or disposition to recognize when a skill is needed and the willingness to exert the mental effort needed to apply it" (p. 72). Thus it is crucial to explore innovative ways to make our students value both good thinking and the effort that is necessary to use their skills. Yang and Chou (2008) explored the relationship between critical thinking skills (CTS) and critical thinking dispositions (CTD) and investigated the effectiveness of instructional strategies in improving students' CTS and CTD. Although they found a positive relationship between CTS and CTD, they concluded that only the students with high CTS and medium CTD possessed a significant correlation. The researchers also concluded that in terms of effectiveness of the instructional strategies, both CTS and CTD need to be and can be taught and cultivated. Han and Brown (2013) conducted a study which is based on an intervention designed to improve early childhood teacher candidates' critical thinking skills. …

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