Sunday, April 6, 2014

Critical Thinking Skills Evidenced in Graduate Students Blogs

To supplement this week's readings, I first set out with the goal to find some helpful blogging tips. After coming across numerous questionable links, for posts such "101 Blogging Tips," I decided to go in a different direction. I thought it might be intersting to see if research into blogging in the classroom has yielded any positive findings. To that end, I submit to you the article "Critical Thinking Skills Evidenced in Graduate Students Blogs" by Holly Reed Cain, Vivana Giraud, Nicole L.P. Stedman, and Brittany L. Adams.

The article presents a study of graduate and PhD students in an Agriculture Studies program, who were asked to contribute their own blog posts with reflections on class materials. The students were placed into two groups, one with a guided blog post assignment, and the other being allowed to contribute posts with self-selected response styles.

The study's purpose was to see if students displayed the six reflective types of thinking outlined by Facione in 1990 (p. 72). Critical thinking was evidenced by "(a) Interpretation, (b) Analysis, (c) Evaluation, (d) Inference, (e) Explanation, and (f) Self-Regulation" (p.75). Without dissecting the results too in-depth, the findings showed that the students in this study displayed more critical thinking in the "guided reflection" blog posts.

While this information may not come as a surprise, this article is worth examining for at least three reasons. First of all, the literature review and background of the study would provide educators with a strong justification for including blogs in their coursework. Citing a 2008 article by Caspi and Blau, the team of authors mention that when a student was asked to reflect on a discussion board, "the student consequently was more invested into the group discussion because the sense of community he/she felt" (p. 74).

The second reason this study is valuable is that I believe it reflects what our class is doing with this blog. Personally, the weeks when I have to write an article summary are much more time intensive and thought provoking than the weeks when I'm left to find a supplemental piece. Except this week, of course. 

And finally, I believe this article lends itself to a greater discussion of how exactly we can measure critical thinking. If students are asked to expand upon materials using their own reflection, instead of just summarizing, then what are the key points to evaluate? It really makes you think...

Cain, H., Giraud, V., Stedman, N. P., & Adams, B. L. (2012). Critical Thinking Skills Evidenced in Graduate Students Blogs. Journal Of Leadership Education, 11(2), 72-87.

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