Developing critical thinking skills in tertiary academic writing through the use of an instructional rubric for peer evaluation.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Critical thinking skills have been identified as learning outcomes expected of students for most courses of tertiary education in many countries including Malaysia. One of the courses where critical thinking is required is academic writing. Producing academic writing which is well argued, insightful, thought-provoking, characterised by evidence and wide reading is a challenge for undergraduate students. Not only do the students need to have a good command of the language, they also need to be critical as they examine viewpoints, facts and arguments and synthesise them. This thesis explores several approaches to developing critical thinking skills in an academic writing course for undergraduate students.
The use of a rubric or a checklist and discussion with peers were identified in the study to support the development of critical thinking. Their potency was explored in a quasi- experimental study involving undergraduate students taking English for Academic Writing course. The three treatments groups were: peer review where students used a checklist and discussed their ideas; peer evaluation where students used the rubric and discussed their ideas and evaluations; self-evaluation where students used the rubric but did not discuss their ideas. The level of critical thinking for each groups and a control group who received no treatment, was measured before and after learning interventions using two instruments: the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (CCTT-X) and the English for Academic Writing term paper. In addition, students’ and instructors’ perspectives on the learning activities were elicited by means of questionnaires and interviews. Classroom observations were also carried out.
The rubric which was used in the peer evaluation and self-evaluation activities is called the Critical Thinking for Academic Writing Analytical Rubric (CAWAR). It contains 12 criteria with descriptions of the two ends of performance domains i.e. the best and the weakest points and a commentary space. The checklist used in the peer review activity, on the other hand, replicates the CAWAR except that it does not have the grading element.
The study found that all treatments showed some potential for fostering the development of critical thinking skills. Theoretically, it is argued that peer evaluation has the greatest potential of the three treatments provided that both teachers and students understand the value of collaborative learning and the importance of giving sufficient time for discussion. The introduction of either the rubric or checklist or promoting peer discussion has promoted critical thinking in an academic writing course.