Classroom Discussions with Student-Led Feedback: a Useful Activity to Enhance Development of Critical Thinking Skills



ABSTRACT:  Critical thinking skills (CTS) are the core learning outcome measures for higher education. Generally, CTS are not extensively developed or practiced during primary and secondary education. As such, early cultivation of CTS is essential for mastery prior to collegiate matriculation. Weekly engagement in 50 min of classroom discussion with student feedback (CDSF) was utilized to develop the CTS of students in an introductory food science course at Purdue Univ. Students' critical thinking ability was assessed longitudinally over a 16-wk semester using the ACT-CAAP™ (Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency) critical thinking test. The ACT-CAAP measures the students' ability to analyze, evaluate, and extend an argument described in a short passage. We hypothesized that the implementation of CDSF for 16 wk would expedite development of CTS for students enrolled in the course. The CDSF intervention significantly increased critical thinking ability for non-native English speaking students as compared to native English speaking students. Students who were classified as sophomore status or above when compared to freshmen and students enrolled as food science majors when compared to other majors also demonstrated increased critical thinking ability. Recitation size also significantly influenced critical thinking ability where students enrolled in a relatively small recitation section had elevated critical thinking when compared to the abilities of those students enrolled in a large recitation. These observations suggest that engaging students in classroom discussions with student-led feedback is a useful instructional technique for developing CTS. Further, the data suggest the development of critical thinking skill among food science majors can be augmented when classroom discussions with student-led feedback are conducted in smaller sized recitations.