Educating preservice teachers to teach for an evaluative view of knowledge and critical thinking in elementary social studies




Ford, Carole

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This one-semester pretest-posttest case study of 3rd and 5th year female preservice teachers at the University of Victoria in British Columbia (N = 8) involved teaching for critical thinking and an evaluative view of knowledge in elementary social studies. Philosophical and psychological perspectives of critical thinking provided an evaluative view of knowledge, intellectual resources, and cognitive tasks for responses to critical challenges about belief and action (Bailin, Case, Coombs, & Daniels, 1993; Facione, 1991; Siegel, 1992). This integrated conception of critical thinking guided instruction, instrument selection, and interpretation of qualitative evidence. Instruction utilized an interactive constructive approach that involved social and pedagogical challenges appropriate to adults students but related to the elementary social studies curriculum. Multiple measures of critical thinking dispositions, view of knowledge, and argument proficiency revealed moderate dispositional strength toward critical thinking, mixed views of knowledge, mixed argument proficiency, and small positive gains over the duration of instruction. Pretest-posttest measures included Facione and Facione's (1992) California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), Kuhn's (1991) interview protocol for view of knowledge and argument proficiency, and a written argument paralleled the posttest interview evidence. Most changes aligned with the nature of instruction and instrumentation. CCTDI entry-level results were aligned with results reported for samples from other college and university studies whereas exit-level results displayed more positive change than reported in other studies. Posttest views of knowledge were mixed (evaluativists = 4, multiplists = 1, absolutists = 3), largely consistent with the pretest, and exhibited more evaluativism than reported in other studies. Proficiency in argument was somewhat less than found in other studies, but increased slightly, particularly the generation of alternative theories over the duration of the study. Compared with interviews, written arguments revealed stronger rebuttals and somewhat weaker use of evidence. Inconsistencies across qualitative results and formal results aligned with the nature of the instruction, assessment tasks, evaluation criteria, and some problematic aspects of instrumentation. Participants stated that interactive constructivism; justification of ideas against explicit criteria, an early emphasis on developing a rationale for teaching to an evaluative view of knowledge; the use of examples, non-examples, and borderline examples to generate criteria for key ideas; and instructor-student interaction to monitor and adjust instruction to maximize clarity were positive features of instruction. An excessive concept load and inadequate compatible prior learning experiences were identified as impediments to clarity.



Critical thinking, Critical thinking in children, Social sciences