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Experienced tutors' deployment of thinking skills and what might be entailed in enhancing such skills

Soden, Rebecca and Maclellan, Effie (2004) Experienced tutors' deployment of thinking skills and what might be entailed in enhancing such skills. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 23 (4). pp. 335-349. ISSN 0260-1370

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Abstract

In the context of research that reports weaknesses in adults' critical thinking skills, the primary aim was to examine adults' use of critical thinking skills that are described in taxonomies and to identify areas for development. Position papers written by an opportunity sample of 32 experienced adult educators formed the data for a descriptive sample survey design intended to reveal participants' use of critical thinking skills. Each 6000-word paper was written during a development programme that supported such skills. A content analysis of the papers revealed that when participants drew on personal and published ideas about learning to derive their proposals for change, they accepted the ideas uncritically, thereby implying that they might find it difficult to help learners to examine ideas critically. The evidence supports research that implies that critical thinking skills are unlikely to develop unless overall course design privileges the development of epistemological understanding (King and Kitchener 1994, Kuhn 1999). A fundamental assumption underlying the study is that this understanding influences effective citizenship and personal development, as well as employability. A proposition that merits attention in future research is that the development of epistemological understanding is largely neglected in current curricula in formal post-16 education.