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An assessment of the infusion of critical thinking skills into content instruction

Irene Sherry Kaplan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Previous critical thinking studies dealt primarily with results of programs presented ancillary to academic subjects. Notable educators in the field have advocated for assessing efforts to infuse, through direct instruction, critical thinking skills and processes across the content areas. This study constitutes such an evaluation and demonstrates that infusion warrants further investigation. An extensive review of the literature pointed to agreement among educators as well as business leaders that improving the quality of student thinking is a fundamental objective as we prepare our students for the workplace of the twenty-first century. Students must be prepared to gather, evaluate and apply information for effective problem-solving. Two similar communities in a North Carolina school district were compared. One taught critical thinking via infusion; the other did not teach critical thinking. The researcher interviewed three teachers whose classes served as the experimental group. A post test survey was administered to teachers of the experimental group. Teachers' anecdotal comments suggested that learning was observed in the thinking skills taught and that the infused instruction strategy would be the one of choice for further instruction. An assessment instrument was developed in two forms, a pre and a post test format, and administered to students in experimental and control groups. Open-ended prompts were utilized for data collection and analysis. Direct instruction in decision-making and comparing and contrasting was presented to students in the experimental group. Rubrics were constructed so that raters could measure prompts holistically. A "t" test was performed and results were analyzed for gains. The difference between pre and post test decision-making scores was statistically significant at the.001 level. However, the difference between pre and post test compare and contrast scores was not statistically significant. Given the discrepancy between teacher testimony and experimental and control group achievement data, possible explanations were offered. Further study could include address additional variables, different modes of assessment, number and type of practice sessions between pre and post testing, comparison between results utilizing the direct infusion strategy versus add-on programming, expansion to other thinking skills, depth of internalization of learning, and teacher preparation and professional development opportunities.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Kaplan, Irene Sherry, "An assessment of the infusion of critical thinking skills into content instruction" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737548.