Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Level of Critical and Analytical Thinking Skills among Electrical and Electronics Engineering Students, UKM

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Level of Critical and Analytical Thinking Skills among Electrical and Electronics Engineering Students, UKM

Article excerpt

Abstract

The high demand by the industry for graduates capable to critically analyze the causes, content and quality of information and using them effectively to identify and solve engineering problems, has been constantly and incessantly discussed. The inability to think analytically and critically contributes to the increased percentage of unemployed graduates. Additionally, the Malaysian students resort to memorizing and rote learning to find an easy way to get a degree and then find a job. This paper investigates the level of critical and analytical thinking skills among the students in the Department of Electrical, Electronics and Systems Engineering (EESE), Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment (FEBE), UKM. This study was conducted on a group of third year students in Semester 1 2010/2011 using three instruments; the analytical component of MTest model questions by the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) in the selection of prospective students for Teachers College throughout the country, Marbach-Ad and Sokolove's taxonomy (MST) for student questions on a topic discussed in the lecture and the open-ended question posed in the final examination for the microprocessor and microcontroller course. Analysis based on these three techniques provide a rough estimation on the level of analytical and critical thinking skills among students and in this study, it was learned that the critical and analytical thinking skills among these students are at a very moderate level despite their high academic achievement.

Keywords: analytical and critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving skill

1. Introducation

Engineering Accreditation Council (EAC) and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) stipulates that every engineering student should be able to identify, formulate and solve problems. This ability requires a high level of analytical and critical thinking skills. In 2006, it has been reported that 70% of graduates from public universities, 26% from private higher learning institutions and 34% of those graduated from foreign universities are still jobless (Suresh, 2006). It was also reported that the most frequent factors cited for unemployment of the local graduates are lack of communication and critical thinking skills (Ambigapathy & Aniswal, 2005). There is a need for students to think critically and analytically, in whatever discipline they are in. As stated by Scriven & Paul and Elder (2005), critical thinking should more than just to acquire knowledge or skills, it is to further develop and using the skills analytically. It has become a necessary skill where it improves thinking by creating the habit of reflection and questioning in every aspect of life (King, 1995 and Scriven & Paul, 2005).

Fatin (2011) stated that in an interview conducted with 5 senior engineers and lecturers who have been working for more than 15 years, all engineers should be inquisitive, analytical and critical. This is undoubtedly true because all engineers has to deal with models through theoretical concepts, such as physical models of thermodynamic systems, electrical systems, control systems and many others. These models should be applied in a form that can be easily realized in a structured reasoning process.

In addition to addressing and solving technical issues, engineers should also be sentient to environmental, community, social and political issues and at the same time be proficient in economics and management aspects. They need to be able to identify with and examine all the issues that arise, make decisions, be ethical, possess good conduct of work, write report and documented results, and provide professional advice. In solving problems, they need to find the optimal solution taking into account of all aspects. Normally, every problem has constraint, uncertainties and various solutions and there are no formal techniques that can produce the best solution. The importance of analytical and critical thinking skills is evident here, in which engineers are expected to make an assessment by analogy and deduction, and provide justification on the choice made to reduce risk and to avoid failure. …

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