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Theory and practice in critical thinking A level and the evacuation of knowledge thesis

Theory and practice in critical thinking A level and the evacuation of knowledge thesis
Theory and practice in critical thinking A level and the evacuation of knowledge thesis
The concept of critical thinking has been influential in curriculum policy and practice across sectors of UK education and has been identified as a key consideration in recent consultations about A level reform. The purpose of this study is to describe the meanings attributed to critical thinking in expert accounts and to compare these with policy maker and participant meanings in the context of A level Critical Thinking. A distinctive feature is the attention given to underlying epistemological and ontological assumptions of these accounts. The prevailing concept of critical thinking is of a universally applicable set of skills and dispositions for assessing reasoning and evidence, which derives from the informal logic movement and rests on a fallibilist epistemology. This contrasts with discipline specific concepts. In social realist theory critical thinking has been associated with ‘soft genericism’ and implicated in an ‘evacuation of knowledge’. A critique and extension of this theory is proposed which differentiates between multiple forms and functions of critical thinking in the curriculum. Evidence on student views was gathered in a mixed methods case study, supplemented by a teacher response activity. Students attributed high value to critical thinking and were confident in their ability to apply skills to academic and life situations; whilst they felt that these skills were not taught in other subjects. In apparent contradiction, teachers suggested correspondence between the skills expected for high performance across subjects and those in A level Critical Thinking. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of subject specific contextualising to depth of critical evaluation. It was concluded that knowledge and critical thinking are complementary rather than conflicting forces in education and that a differently conceived critical thinking based on social constructionist epistemology is compatible with and essential to the knowledge curriculum envisaged by social realists.
University of Southampton
Howarth, Mark
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Howarth, Mark
9b79b039-8294-4326-be62-4a72b7c60f8e
Dyke, Martin
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(2012) Theory and practice in critical thinking A level and the evacuation of knowledge thesis. University of Southampton, Southampton Education School, Doctoral Thesis, 260pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The concept of critical thinking has been influential in curriculum policy and practice across sectors of UK education and has been identified as a key consideration in recent consultations about A level reform. The purpose of this study is to describe the meanings attributed to critical thinking in expert accounts and to compare these with policy maker and participant meanings in the context of A level Critical Thinking. A distinctive feature is the attention given to underlying epistemological and ontological assumptions of these accounts. The prevailing concept of critical thinking is of a universally applicable set of skills and dispositions for assessing reasoning and evidence, which derives from the informal logic movement and rests on a fallibilist epistemology. This contrasts with discipline specific concepts. In social realist theory critical thinking has been associated with ‘soft genericism’ and implicated in an ‘evacuation of knowledge’. A critique and extension of this theory is proposed which differentiates between multiple forms and functions of critical thinking in the curriculum. Evidence on student views was gathered in a mixed methods case study, supplemented by a teacher response activity. Students attributed high value to critical thinking and were confident in their ability to apply skills to academic and life situations; whilst they felt that these skills were not taught in other subjects. In apparent contradiction, teachers suggested correspondence between the skills expected for high performance across subjects and those in A level Critical Thinking. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of subject specific contextualising to depth of critical evaluation. It was concluded that knowledge and critical thinking are complementary rather than conflicting forces in education and that a differently conceived critical thinking based on social constructionist epistemology is compatible with and essential to the knowledge curriculum envisaged by social realists.

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Published date: October 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Southampton Education School

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 345954
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/345954
PURE UUID: 8d682b24-7984-4342-b515-526ee5ea573a

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Date deposited: 26 Feb 2013 12:49
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 05:06

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