Critical Thinking For College Students

An evaluation of a student-research project conducted by biologists at Stanford University found that the experience helped shift undergraduates’ conceptions of what it means to “think like a scientist,” from novice to more expert-like.

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The test required students to analyze and interpret information; to draw accurate and warranted inferences; and to evaluate inferences and explain why they represent strong reasoning or weak reasoning.

Although other types of interventions have generated little or no improvement in student scores on this test, the Florida Atlantic researchers found that taking part in the antibiotic-finding CURE did significantly increase students’ critical-thinking scores—while the scores of students who were enrolled in a traditional cookbook-style lab stayed the same or actually declined.

“The discovery-based, unpredictable nature” of the antibiotics research, the authors speculate, “might engage student attention and curiosity more than standard labs, which may have contributed” to the positive result.

What is clear is that, if we want the next generation of young people to be able to think critically, the same old methods are not sufficient.

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This exploratory, mixed-methods study investigated the relationship between information literacy and critical thinking.

The research question guiding the first portion of the study was: How do information literacy and critical thinking relate in undergraduate students conducting academic research?

Fourth, students learn how to execute professional practices, from using techniques like pipetting to applying meta-theories like the scientific method.

And fifth, the subject of their investigations is “broadly relevant”—of interest to people outside the class and perhaps even worthy of publication in a scientific journal. A bacteriophage is a virus that replicates inside bacteria, and there are millions of them as yet unknown to science.


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