Effect of a Model for Critical Thinking on Student Achievement in Primary Source Document Analysis and Interpretation, Argumentative Reasoning, Critical Thinking Dispositions and History Content in a Community College History Course
Abstract of the Study, conducted by Jenny Reed, in partial fulfillment for her dissertation (October 26, 1998)
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This study investigated the effect of integrating Richard Paul's model for critical thinking into a U.S. history course on community college students' 1) abilities to think critically about U.S. history and about everyday issues, 2) dispositions toward thinking critically, and 3) knowledge of history content. This study also examined if age (under 22, 22 and older) or gender moderated the effectiveness of the instructional method.
Four sections of U.S. History, 1877 to the Present, participated in this one-semester study. Two sections were randomly selected to serve as the experimental group and the other two sections served as the control group. The experimental group (n = 29) received approximately 90 minutes of explicit instruction distributed over the semester in using Paul's model for critical thinking to analyze and interpret primary source documents. In addition, the model was integrated into a series of assigned classroom activities. The control group (n = 23) was taught in a more traditional manner.
Students took three pretests and four posttests to measure the effectiveness of the instructional model: a Documents Based Question (DBQ) from an Advanced Placement Examination, the Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test, the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI), and a History Content Exam. The primary statistical analyses were done with 2 (group) x 2 (age) x 2 (gender) ANCOVAs using pretests as covariates. The experimental group scored significantly higher on the DBQ, p = .004, and on the Ennis -Weir, p = .0001. Effect sizes (Cohen's f) were DBQ = .48 and Ennis-Weir = .83. Statistical tests did not indicate significant differences on the CCTDI or on the History Content Exam. No significant differences were found in the effectiveness of the method of instruction by age or gender.
Three major findings emerged from this study: 1) community college students' abilities to think historically and to think critically improved in a single course; 2) community college students' end of term knowledge of history content did not suffer when training in critical thinking abilities was integrated into course material; 3) age and gender did not play significant roles in developing college students' critical thinking abilities.