This presentation was delivered at the joint HEA/UKCISA Internationalisation of Pedagogy and Curriculum in Higher Education Conference that took place at the University of Warwick on 16th and 17th June 2011.
Academic programmes implicitly require critical thinking, and increasingly the requirement for critical thinking is explicit as part of autonomous and inquiry based learning. Because of the different cultural and learning backgrounds across a global student group, there is not a single, uniform understanding of and approach to critical thinking. This presentation describes research conducted to explore engineering students conceptualisation of critical thinking, with a view to using the findings to contribute to improved design of academic programmes.
Research subjects were a cross-institutional, global group of masters level engineering students; the investigation spanned two separate academic cohorts each in two different institutions. A set of attributes giving evidence of critical thinking was determined from the literature (Castle, Colucciello and Profetto-McGrath). A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to provide insights into emerging themes. Focus groups were used to identify key themes, and questionnaires will be used to further explore those themes and confirm initial findings. Statistical measures of analysis such as variance and correlation of ranks will highlight similarities and differences in how groups of students conceptualise critical thinking. The preliminary research has confirmed an inconsistent development of critical thinking attributes.