Using computer-based cognitive tools to enable critical thinking

Grogan, Gerry (2012). Using computer-based cognitive tools to enable critical thinking. University of Birmingham. Ed.D.


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The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) is the Irish national centre for development of best practice in public administration and management. The setting for this study is
the information systems (IS) department of the IPA. In the time frame of this study the IPA undertook an Institute-wide re-appraisal of teaching and learning, including higher order thinking skills and the use of e-learning. The aim was to investigate the relationship between critical thinking and technology and the extent to which computer based tasks could support the development of higher order thinking skills. The research is best described as a small-scale case study in which 17 computer science student subjects participated. The two principal data collection methods used were authentic computer-based critical thinking tasks (COGITASKs) and online discussions (OLD). The COGITASK requires student teams to construct an artefact using authentic general purpose Hypermedia and Modelling tools. On completion of each COGITASK, each individual student records in an OnLine Discussion forum (OLD) a narrative account of their impressions of what they have learned. The COGITASK generates quantitative data on critical thinking performance, the OLD generates qualitative data about student perceptions of their performance on tasks. The data is analysed using exploratory data analysis and content analysis. The analysis is conducted within a theoretical framework that describes critical thinking as constructive, cognitive, metacognitive and knowledgebased. The research is situated in the natural, authentic context of the IPA classroom, since these tasks are an integral part of instruction on the computer science course. Findings indicated that although, overall, students performed well, across tasks they performed less well on some planning, analysis and application aspects requiring deep understanding and metacognition. However, by triangulating performance and perception data, tools did seem to enable development of skills by making visible certain effects. Eight such effects are discussed. Reflecting, the aim throughout to relate theory to practice the study concludes by translating findings into non-prescriptive, practical guidelines for (IPA) teachers.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ed.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ed.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education


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