Proposition testing: a strategy to develop critical thinking for essay writing

Edited book (chapter)


Hammer, Sara and Griffiths, Phil. 2015. "Proposition testing: a strategy to develop critical thinking for essay writing." Davies, Martin and Barnett, Ronald (ed.) The Palgrave handbook of critical thinking in higher education. New York, United States. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 247-263
Chapter Title

Proposition testing: a strategy to develop critical thinking for essay writing

Book Chapter CategoryEdited book (chapter)
ERA Publisher ID2865
Book TitleThe Palgrave handbook of critical thinking in higher education
AuthorsHammer, Sara (Author) and Griffiths, Phil (Author)
EditorsDavies, Martin and Barnett, Ronald
Page Range247-263
Chapter Number15
Year2015
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Place of PublicationNew York, United States
ISBN9781137378057
9781349478125
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-37805-7_16
Web Address (URL)http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/the-palgrave-handbook-of-critical-thinking-in-higher-education-martin-davies/?K=9781137378033
Abstract

The thesis-controlled essay is one of the assessment tasks most associated with the development critical thinking by teachers in higher education. In this chapter we question the neat correlation of essays with the development of critical thinking. We argue that an essay can work against the development of students’ critical thinking skills by requiring them to marshal evidence in support of their own argument. In so doing, they potentially omit a crucial stage in the critical thinking process: careful consideration of different positions within a debate.

The chapter argument is based on a three year study of disciplinary novices in one first and one second year politics unit within the Business and Law faculty of an Australian university. Data was collected in the form of student work samples and a combination of interview data and online reflections and feedback about students’ experiences of the assessment scheme. We outline two multi-stage assessment schemes that were designed with the aim of explicitly focusing student effort in the areas of research, critical evaluation, and argument analysis: identifying author arguments and evidence, developing a research program and testing supporting propositions and claims. We found that for a large, first year student cohort in a core subject servicing multiple business degrees, student critical thinking was enhanced by dropping the essay as part of the assessment regime. Where the subject included a major essay as the final assignment, as in our second year course, we found that students’ capacity for critical thinking was enhanced when assessment questions asked student to explicitly examine and engage with rival positions in a debate and test them against available evidence

Keywordsassessment, critical thinking, essay, higher education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390102. Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
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Byline AffiliationsLearning and Teaching Support Unit
School of Commerce
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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