Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

New Teaching Techniques to Improve Critical Thinking. the Diaprove Methodology

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

New Teaching Techniques to Improve Critical Thinking. the Diaprove Methodology

Article excerpt

Introduction

Being able to think better is perhaps one of the most exhilarating projects in our lives, but at the same time one of the most disheartening ones. Exhilarating because we cannot think of anything more interesting to investigate - anything that would bring more benefits- than a mind with maximum capacity to interact with its surroundings in order to meet its goals as best as possible. However, such a project is also disheartening because it is subject to the inverse of the principle for achieving a good investment: "buy cheap and sell dear". By contrast, we "buy very dearly and sell very -cheaply. Our achievements are few and costly with regards to time and effort, and if this were not enough we do not know whether these achievements will endure (that is, our endeavors will have been in vain).

We have been addressing this issue -i.e., checking which factors make us think better- for several years, (Saiz, 2002, 2011; Saiz & Rivas, 2008a, 2008b), and the results are indeed better than what we expected, although very costly (Olivares, Saiz & Rivas, 2013; Rivas, Morales & Saiz, 2014, Rivas & Saiz, 2012; Saiz & Rivas, 2011, 2012; Saiz, Rivas & Olivares, 2015). We have also managed to demonstrate that the effects of proper thinking persist for at least four years (Rivas & Saiz, 2015). The process followed in this study has been to continue building upon previous result. First, we worked on the design of a training methodology that would incorporate most of the teachable aspects that are known to be efficient (see Halpern, 1998, 2014) and that can be applied within a reasonable length of time. With this background, we developed and applied an instructional program -ARDESOS (from the Spanish, equivalent to ARgumentation, DEcision, Solving of problems in daily Situations) (version 1, Saiz & Rivas, 2011, 2012; version 2, Saiz et al, 2015). The aim of the first version of this initiative to intervene in critical thinking was to test the whole program. To accomplish this, we took into account the three criteria of efficacy proposed by Perkins and Grotzer (1997); namely, effect size, persistence, and transfer. Evidendy, in the case of persistence we have had to wait a few years to see whether the effect of our program persisted over time (Rivas & Saiz, 2015). We also used standardized procedures for the evaluation of critical thinking for assessing the changes produced by our teaching initiative as best as possible. After several failed attempts to address different ways of assessing effect size with sufficient psychometric guarantees as regards reliability and validity indices, we have finally developed and validated a test for evaluating critical thinking, namely PENCRISAL (Rivas & Saiz, 2012; Rivas, Morales & Saiz, 2014; Saiz & Rivas, 2008b). However, quantifying these intellectual competencies properly is again a very costly task. There are many tests that measure critical thinking but they provide very limited information owing to the closed response format used (multiple choice answers, true/false...). Accordingly, we needed a measuring instrument that would offer us as much information as possible about the thinking processes that take place when the items of a test are being answered. However, no such test was available (Saiz y Rivas, 2008b) and hence we developed an instrument to meet our requirements; PENCRISAL. Thanks to our initiative, we have been able to detect limitations in our instruction program and implement improvements to increase its efficacy.

In the present work, aimed at increasing the efficacy of critical thinking, it is precisely this change in efficacy that we are seeking in our new methodology for teaching critical thinking. We support and justify this new method empirically as a new way of working in instruction. The process followed was to develop a program, apply it and, finally, assess it. In the first version of the program, our aim was to discern whether it would work as a whole or not; whether it produced changes in our students' way of thinking or not. …

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