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The realization of critical thinking aims in a degree programme for vocational tutors

Soden, Rebecca and Pithers, R. (2003) The realization of critical thinking aims in a degree programme for vocational tutors. International Journal of Training Research, 1 (3). 86 - 107. ISSN 1448-0220

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There has been a growing emphasis within educational literature on the need to encourage all learners to think critically about whatever they are studying. There were concerns that this aim was not being achieved in a degree program for VET tutors. One purpose of the study was to quantify the extent of critical thinking in one cohort of VET tutors. Another purpose was to use the method of quantification as well as literature on critical thinking to help a team of lecturers who taught the VET tutors to understand how they might recognize and evaluate this ability in vocationally oriented essays. Drawing on this literature, a category system was developed and used to content-analyse 40 course essays that been graded earlier by the lecturers. This analysis confirmed the team's impression that the VET tutors rarely analysed or justified ideas. What emerged from a group interview with the lecturers, and examination of feedback notes, was that lecturers were unclear about what should count as critical thinking in course essays. Subsequently, the researchers discussed literature on critical thinking with the lecturers. Taken together, the data supported a 'fuzzy' proposition (Holligan 1997) that merits further research. The proposition is that discussion of critical thinking literature has a significant role in staff development programs in helping course teams clarify how thinking is to be evidenced in course work.