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Critical Thinking: Lessons from a Continuing Professional Development Initiative in a London Comprehensive Secondary School
This thesis reports on a small-scale exploratory study focusing on the effects on teaching and learning of a continuing professional development project in a London comprehensive secondary school. The research design included multiple interviews and observations of the classes of two teachers, as well as interviews with their students.
Now in the fifth year of a voluntary and internally guided initiative, Lampton School has chosen a model of critical thinking developed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking to be at the heart of their attempts to bring critical thinking more explicitly and systematically into the classroom. The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of this CPD initiative (its structure, processes, and theory), as well as its effect on teachers’ and students’ values, conceptions, and application of critical thinking, and its effect on motivation.
Teachers reported that, though critical thinking had been given lip service in their teacher training courses, they did not understand how to teach for it until the CPD project at Lampton, during which they were introduced to an explicit and systematic framework for critical thinking. Students’ notions of critical thinking were found to rely solely on the extent to which their teachers had introduced it in an explicit, systematic, and sustained manner in the classroom.
Both teachers and students were found to value critical thinking in several directions. Teachers and students evinced various levels of understanding and application of critical thinking, as is to be expected. Those with the most developed conceptions seemed to value critical thinking more highly and articulated more rewards and benefits as a result of its use. Both participating teachers indicated that national assessment measures are not in line with the goal of fostering critical thinking.