Using journal writing to evoke critical thinking skills of students in teacher education

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Virginia Tech


There has been little research which shows that students use critical thinking skills when they write. The use of journal writing has been studied for a variety of purposes, but little evidence exists that journal writing can enhance critical thinking skills. The writing assignments presented in this study were designed to enhance the critical thinking skills of college students enrolled in a reading methods course at a small college in southern West Virginia. Case studies were used to describe the critical thinking skills used by the four participating students.

Each of the six writing assignments was developed to elicit as many critical thinking responses as the student could write during the time allotted in class. All of the writing assignments were completed within the framework of the reading class, and two of them were completed as collaborative group work.

Twenty critical thinking skills were used as the criteria for examining the responses that students used in their writing. The twenty skills were placed in these four categories: Analyzing Arguments/Issues which included five critical thinking skills; Clarifying Information which included four critical thinking skills Inferring which included six critical thinking skills; and Evaluating Arguments/Issues which included five critical thinking skills. These twenty critical thinking skills were coded so that they could be easily recorded on tables.

Findings indicated that the four participating students used more Inferring and Analyzing skills than they did the Clarifying and Evaluating skills. All of the skills were used at least one time in the six assignments. Students praised the journal for giving them an opportunity to "freely express ourselves,·'