Understanding the Complex Relationship between Critical Thinking and Science Reasoning among Undergraduate Thesis Writers.
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Developing critical-thinking and scientific reasoning skills are core learning objectives of science education, but little empirical evidence exists regarding the interrelationships between these constructs. Writing effectively fosters students' development of these constructs, and it offers a unique window into studying how they relate. In this study of undergraduate thesis writing in biology at two universities, we examine how scientific reasoning exhibited in writing (assessed using the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol) relates to general and specific critical-thinking skills (assessed using the California Critical Thinking Skills Test), and we consider implications for instruction. We find that scientific reasoning in writing is strongly related to inference, while other aspects of science reasoning that emerge in writing (epistemological considerations, writing conventions, etc.) are not significantly related to critical-thinking skills. Science reasoning in writing is not merely a proxy for critical thinking. In linking features of students' writing to their critical-thinking skills, this study 1) provides a bridge to prior work suggesting that engagement in science writing enhances critical thinking and 2) serves as a foundational step for subsequently determining whether instruction focused explicitly on developing critical-thinking skills (particularly inference) can actually improve students' scientific reasoning in their writing.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1187/cbe.17-03-0052
Publication InfoDowd, Jason E; Thompson, Robert J; Schiff, Leslie A; & Reynolds, Julie A (2018). Understanding the Complex Relationship between Critical Thinking and Science Reasoning among Undergraduate Thesis Writers. CBE life sciences education, 17(1). pp. ar4-ar4. 10.1187/cbe.17-03-0052. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20431.
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Associate Professor of the Practice of the Department of Biology
Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience
My research and teaching interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development and learning. One area of focus has been on the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis. Another area of focus is enhancing undergraduate education through scholarship on teaching and learning and fostering the development of empathy and identity.
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