IT Teachers' Experience of Teaching-Learning Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking

By Bailey, Roxanne; Mentz, Elsa | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2015 | Go to article overview

IT Teachers' Experience of Teaching-Learning Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking


Bailey, Roxanne, Mentz, Elsa, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

In the South African context, Information Technology (IT) is an elective subject that learners in high school can take in Grade 10 to 12. The subject is divided into five core areas of which software development (computer programming) makes up 60% (Department of Basic Education, 2012). Learners taking IT struggle mostly with the software development side of the subject, as computer programming is generally seen as a difficult task (Robins, Rountree, & Rountree, 2003). In the light of the main challenge being programming, it is important for IT teachers to shift their focus from teaching IT learners the memorization of programming syntax to equipping learners with the necessary skills conducive to successful computer programming. One suggested strategy for promoting computer programming skills is developing critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills can be developed by implementing several teaching-learning strategies of which deliberate critical thinking strategies as well as cooperative learning are only a few. The research problem informing this article is the fact that the IT curriculum provides no specific teaching-learning strategies although learners are expected to be developed into critical and creative individuals who can successfully achieve the set objectives of the subject (Department of Basic Education, 2012). In the current study we attempted to empower IT teachers with teaching-learning strategies that they can implement in order to promote critical thinking in their classes. The article reports on IT teachers' experience of the implementation of suggested critical thinking strategies in their classes by implementing a qualitative research design within an interpretivist research paradigm. A phenomenological research methodology was implemented as the researchers' main objective was to understand the IT teachers' experience.

Relevant Literature

Defining Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has its foundations in the work of philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Gutek (2009) notes that Socrates used questioning to facilitate learning in his students. During these sessions, his students were required to question, criticize and redevelop definitions (Gutek, 2009). Although Socrates was the master of Plato and Aristotle, these latter two philosophers also adapted strategies that served as pioneering work for critical thinking. Plato focused his teachings on getting students to distinguish between true and false claims (Leigh, 2007) whereas Aristotle emphasized the ability to identify different viewpoints (Halx & Reybold, 2005). In later years, Dewey (1910) developed his reflective thinking, which served as the first close definition of critical thinking and critical thinking is often used interchangeably with the term reflective thinking. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues formulated a taxonomy to illustrate the cognitive domain (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956). This taxonomy closely relates to critical thinking. According to Bloom et al. (1956), this taxonomy is used to set learning objectives for intellectual abilities and skills, which they continue to say is synonymous with critical thinking, reflective thinking or problem solving.

More recently, several different views of critical thinking came to the fore in the body of scholarship (Bloom et al., 1956; Ennis, 1964; Glaser, 1941). The most cited definition of critical thinking and the one used in this study is that of Facione (1990). Facione (1990, p. 3) defines critical thinking as a "purposeful, self-regulatory judgment that results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual consideration upon which that judgment is based."

Importance of Critical Thinking

Hyslop-Margison (2003), Halpern (2003) and Tiwari, Lai, So, and Yuen (2006) emphasize the importance of critical thinking skills as it is seen as one of the most important skills to be successful in life. …

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