Critical Thinking: Is that going to be on test


The current generation of college students is a result of the “No Child Left Behind Act”. Educators at the university level are seeing the unintended result of high stakes testing in student attitudes towards learning and study. The K– 12 educational system in the US focuses on mastering tests and accruing points in a course, most often “teaching to the test.” These tests are standardized and critical to promotion and later acceptance into college. It is this activity that provides a basis for student perception of how learning and assessment take place. When these students are challenged with higher order learning or problems that may have more than one correct solution, they become uncomfortable and often retreat. The concept of not being given direct instructions at every level of an activity or an all-encompassing rubric is perceived as being “unfair”. University educators are challenged to support “test-trained” students in a setting that moves the learning activities up to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The educators are further challenged to encourage critical thinking and problem solving in the classroom to as most employers expect these students to graduate with these skills. A professor at a large Midwest land grant institution gave a senior level quality course an activity that challenged the students to define critical thinking and demonstrate it. The results and potential implications are discussed in this article. Eighty- two percent of the students were scheduled to graduate at the end of the semester. Fifty- seven percent did not adequately define critical thinking or demonstrate it. Twenty percent of the students had received offers of employment two months before graduation. The lack of job offers could be reflective of a competitive job market or a lack of readiness of the students for the workforce. We will develop recommendations and further research goals in an attempt to recommend ways to master critical thinking and develop problem solving skills throughout the curriculum in an engineering technology program.

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