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- PublicationCritical thinking in the university curriculumThis paper describes a multi-qualitative study undertaken to examine the issue of critical thinking as a graduate attribute. Critical thinking is a graduate attribute that many courses claim to produce in students. However, it is important to understand how academics define and describe critical thinking and whether their understandings of critical thinking differ, depending on their discipline or subject area. The paper describes a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with academics involved in teaching and learning in a number of disciplines, including engineering. The objective of these interviews is to look at how different disciplines define critical thinking and how they teach critical thinking in their courses. In addition the paper describes how a selection of modules particularly concerned with the acquisition and development of critical thinking will be chosen, and the interviews that will be carried out with module coordinators about the module design and assessment, recognition and measurement of critical thinking.
- PublicationInterpreting critical thinking for engineering education - the views of employers and academicsThird level educators are increasingly being called on to clarify the nature of the education they provide and the contribution of their graduates to society. There is therefore considerable interest in the generic attributes of graduates (Jones 2009), and how educational institutions can describe the quality of their graduates in ways that are meaningful to a wide range of stakeholders, including employers, professional groups and policy makers (Barrie 2006). Critical thinking is considered by some to be the primary graduate attribute yet difficulties remain in arriving at precise definitions of the concept and how it is theorised for educational practice. This paper addresses this issue and offers a theoretical framework for critical thinking as it applies to engineering education. The paper will describe: a series of interviews and documentary analysis of course work and course descriptors in the university that examine the perspective of academics from various disciplines and students of critical thinking. Together these data have been used with Karl Maton’s Legitimation Code Theory to develop a model of critical thinking. Also described are plans for a series of interviews which draws upon the views of employers in engineering regarding the employability of university graduates and the importance of critical thinking as an attribute for newly qualified engineers. A key finding is that critical thinking, rather than being a static attribute which is at the pinnacle of student attainment, is a dynamic concept which requires educators to guide their students through cycles of engagement with grounded descriptive knowledge and knowledge which is abstract and obtuse.