# Critical Thinking: A Guide to Skillful Reasoning

#### Research

###### Summary

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This study sought ways to implement the Critical Thinking Model in the classroom. The research team developed weekly announcements and badges to award students who demonstrated one or more steps to critical thinking in the discussion boards. Each week an announcement was posted to the class and the same information was posted to the first discussion board of that week. Each announcement / DB post described one step in the critical thinking model. Throughout the ensuing week, faculty spotlighted students who demonstrated critical thinking by awarding badges in the discussion boards to those who demonstrated one ore more of the steps outlined in the model.

At the end of the course, students were asked to complete a survey of their experience with the Critical Thinking Model and materials. Below is a summary of our findings.

###### Discussion

The Critical Thinking Model study involved 32 sections (28 undergraduate and 4 graduate sections, with a total of 666 students. The study was conducted in the following courses: POL 201, HIS 206, HIS 379, HSM 315, HSM 320, EDU 601, and EDU 644.

In the treatment group, one or two steps in the Six-Step Critical Thinking Model were posted weekly to the Announcements and the same message was posted to the first discussion board of each week. During the week, faculty also provided badges to students who demonstrated any of the steps of critical thinking in each of the discussion boards. The badges included a graphic and a small description of the step. There was also a badge for an overall Critical Thinker.

Data was captured from all Week 4 First Discussion Boards within each of the 32 sections. Using qualitative analysis methods, qualitative codes began to emerge around each of the steps of critical thinking. These codes were refined and are now used to describe the elements of each step. In the website, these codes became our “What to look for” bullets in the Evaluating Critical Thinking section. Faculty and students alike can use these keys when determining elements of critical thinking in student writing.

Below are the descriptive analytics around student success: 1) course final score, 2) course letter grades, 3) fail rate and 4) grades higher than C- (which was considered statistically significant at p<.01). We are cautiously optimistic that the materials did make a difference in student success.

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Figure 1: Average grade for students in the Critical Thinking Pilot courses has shifted from 76.7% to 79.0%.

Figure 2: There was a slight shift in average letter grades from a C+ to a B- for undergraduate students.

Figure 3: Data described a 5% lower fail rate among undergraduate students in the treatment group.

Figure 4: Critical Thinking materials seemed to support at-risk undergraduate students, with the treatment group showing an 8.3% increase in students receiving a grade above a C-, a statistically significant difference.