Embedding Critical Thinking in IS Curricula
Theda Thomas, Timothy Davis, Alanah Kazlauskas, Australian Catholic University, Australia
JITE-Research Volume 6, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute
It is important for students to develop critical thinking and other higher-order thinking skills during their tertiary studies. Along with the ability to think critically comes the need to develop students’ meta-cognitive skills. These abilities work together to enable students to control, monitor, and regulate their own cognitive processes and improve their ability to comprehend and solve problems. This paper proposes the use of scaffolding as a method of helping students to develop their critical thinking and meta-cognitive skills within the IS curriculum. Scaffolding enables students to undertake tasks that they might not have been able to tackle without the scaffolding. It allows the learners to focus on the aspects of the task that they can manage, while still keeping an understanding of the task as a whole. As the scaffolding is gradually removed, the student should be able to work more independently and apply the new skills effectively. The paper shows how the scaffolding of the process of critical thinking can be used in the early stages of the IS curriculum to enable students to first learn, then gain confidence, in using the techniques that they need to apply independently in the latter stages of the curriculum. Some of the topics covered and where skills were developed included writing essays (in particular essays that include argument), critical and analytical thinking in programming, and the use of problem-solving techniques in systems analysis and design. In the section on critical and analytical thinking in programming, we show how we taught students to think logically and then how this was applied in programming. The task of testing algorithms was scaffolded to enable the students to learn how to evaluate a program and create test data. The paper then shows how the lecturer developed students’ meta-cognitive skills by phrasing SQL questions that made the students conscious of their thinking and helped them to link what they were currently doing with their previous knowledge. The paper goes on to show how the conventional problem-solving techniques that are often taught to school children can be used in systems analysis and design. These techniques help the student to consider the whole picture and to understand the relationships between the different parts of the system and how it interacts with the rest of the world. Lastly, the paper describes how the students were taught to write and argue when writing an academic essay. The first assessment task was carefully scaffolded to help the students understand the need to put forward an argument, substantiate that argument and to minimize plagiarism. The scaffolding was once again removed to enable students to write without the help by their third year
Thomas, T., Davis, T. & Kazlauskas, A. (2007). Embedding Critical Thinking in IS Curricula. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 6(1), 327-346. Informing Science Institute.
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