Over the past three years, UTPB's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), a study required by SACS, centered on critical thinking. While UTPB's faculty all teach critical thinking at the college level. However, when asked to define critical thinking, many provided very different criteria. To unify the concept of critical thinking across the campus community, the QEP committee adopted Richard Paul and Linda Elder's model for critical thinking which involves eight elements: Purpose, Question at Issue, Information, Interpretation and Inference, Concepts, Assumptions, Implications and Consequences, and Point of View. By using this model, the committee hoped to provide terms that would become universal to unify the concept of critical thinking here at UTPB.
The QEP Study:
As part of the QEP, the university implemented critical thinking modules in select sections of ENGL 1301 and 1302 ( a total of four test sections and at least four control sections each semester). Only the results of those students who completed ENGL 1301 and 1302 sequentially in one academic year were considered for the study. All composition students took the Critical Thinking Assessment Test at the beginning of ENGL 1301 in the fall semester and at the end of English 1302. In addition students completed four essay assignments framing the two courses to provide intermediate assessments. The researchers discovered a significant difference between those who received the Paul and Elder critical thinking instruction in comparison to those who did not, proving that the Paul and Elder model yielded measurable critical thinking results.
Campus Wide Implementation:
With the methodology tested, the QEP committee moved on to the second stage of the QEP which was to implement the model across the campus community. With luck, the new general education requirements now included critical thinking and UTPB's General Education Objective Committee asked the QEP chair to define critical thinking and provide sample assignments and assessments. The chair utilized the information gathered during the two year QEP study and provided definitions related to Paul and Elder's model. The faculty at large approved these definitions which will now serve as the basis for assessing critical thinking in General Education courses.
Critical Thinking Faculty Learning Community:
The final stage of the QEP is to create a faculty learning community in which faculty can access resources for implementing and assessing critical thinking in their courses. This organization page contains information about Paul and Elder's model, sample assignments, as well as sample assessments and rubrics. Feel free to engage in discussions and share ideas in the community here!