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Critical Thinking and Dialogue: Effects of Student Questions to Foster Critical Thinking in Group Discussions of Secondary-Aged Students

Sat, April 14, 8:15 to 9:45am, New York Hilton Midtown, Floor: Concourse Level, Concourse E Room


A purpose of the study was to trial a model of critical thinking and dialogue developed for secondary aged students that incorporated a traditional model of critical thinking, namely arguments, high level questioning and encouraged a sociology viewpoint as a point of difference. In recent years, particularly in educational research, group discussions have focused on social and individual modes of thinking and reasoning (Wegerif, Fujit, Doney, Perez Linares, Richards, & van Rhyan 2017). Key to this research is the understanding that talking and engaging in argument is a social mode of thinking which supports knowledge construction and critique. However, what seemed to be missing from the literature is the view of critical thinking as collective, dialogic exercise drawing on socio-political issues.
This study employed a quasi-experimental design, with 17 intervention and 17 non intervention classes matched with similar ability in senior secondary classes in English and Geography classes across various socio economic environments. Teachers from the intervention classes participated in a one-day professional development, and the Principal Investigator taught all of the intervention classes the same model of critical thinking and dialogue for fidelity purposes and to model to the teachers how to teach and maintain the key elements. All students participated in15 minute audio recorded conversations at baseline and then two further group discussions.

Questionnaires were filled in by all students at each point of data gathering. Following the collection of each group discussions, the students were given a copy of the transcripts of their groups discussions and asked to critique their conversations in terms of how well they thought they had talked to each other.
Transcripts were coded using the coding method developed for the project (Author-on-Paper4). Results show that the students in the intervention classes, interacted with each other using uptake questions, were able to use argument with conclusions and reasons, and explored who in society would take a different stance to their position more than the non intervention classes. All classes responded better when the students were motivated with the provocation or statement to discuss and discussions remained largely off topic when students were disinterested in the topic. There were no significant differences between the intervention classes and the non intervention classes in their abilities to identify quality discussions when shown transcripts, opportunity to review these transcripts seemed to benefit all groups.

These findings show that senior secondary students respond to a taught structure of talk, with the taught model of talk students were more likely to habitually consider who would challenge their views and habitually. This is important because more than concerned with how an individual or group is able to think logically, analytically, and with reason should be the concern with the recognition of the hierarchical structures in society and the consideration of wider perspectives and ethical consequences (Apple, 2010; Freire, 1970, Hooks, 1994, 2010; Postman & Weigartner, 1969). These skills have - so far - remained largely ignored in the assessment of critical thinking and dialogue.