Quizzes are usually designed to test more basic thinking skills. But these skills and the relatively elementary knowledge that goes with them, are essential for any discipline. They are also essential for critical thinking, and higher-level thinking in general, to take place. We cannot just leap to the higher levels of thinking without knowing our basic facts. Quizzes themselves are not incompatible with critical thinking. In fact, they could be used to test higher-level cognitive skills too, and some of the quiz questions for this module will be designed to engage the student's higher-level cognitive skills.
The electronic surveys can be seen as the companions of the quizzes. Many survey questions are designed to gather student opinions on some of the more interpretive questions involved in the module. As such, they are readily suitable for critical thinking skills in a world where clear-cut right and wrong answers cannot always be found.
Class participation is something that is difficult to standardise. It is also limited by time constraints. Given the time factor, it is usually easier to give factual information than to engage in a discussion which involves critical thinking skills. But whenever possible, you should try to apply your critical thinking skills during class, especially when you are called upon to comment. The criteria used for class participation should apply here, except that a comment which shows some evidence of critical thinking will be rewarded more than another which displays lower-level cognitive skills, although students should not neglect the latter if they are necessary; for example, in asking for clarifications about a concept, etc.
Critical thinking is an important requirement in your essays. The questions for your essay usually require some ability in the higher thinking skills. During the preparation, writing up and revision of the final draft, you have to ensure that critical thinking is not neglected or submerged. After you have completed the draft of your essay, it is best that you systematically go through it to ensure that your essay is well written and your critical thinking skills are evident, and that you are not merely recounting facts or regurgitating other people's opinions. Although the section here is centred on the long essay, the observations also apply to your short critical essay, which is a new assessment task this year to satisfy the requirements of 100% assessment. In fact, the assumption of critical thinking is already implied in the word 'critical' in short critical essay. However, the amount of preparation work for the short critical essay would be less than that of the long essay.
Project work has to do with group work, which needs a slightly different approach to critical thinking than individual work. The way you interact with your project mates, for example, involves emotional intelligence, which is not incompatible with critical thinking: in fact, it can be argued that it is critical thinking which provides the link between intelligence and emotions. Of course, the role that critical thinking plays in the dynamics of intra-group cooperation during the course of the semester may not be something that could be directly discernible, but it may play a crucial part in the success or failure of your project. Critical thinking should be evident during the presentation itself. Unfortunately, there are problems pertaining to lower-level thinking in some of the weaker presentations, which probably arise through lack of diligence of the group as a whole, lack of time devoted to the project, or lack of coordination between members of the group. In such cases, there are contradictions between what one member has said against another, over-generalised claims that are not supported by examples or the appropriate evidence, the lack of a common theme or purpose, etc. Of course, if lower-level thinking skills are problematic, critical thinking cannot take place.
There is no upper limit to IVLE participation in terms of quantity. What this means is that, if you are an active IVLE participant, the various ways by which your critical thinking abilities are deployed in relation to the module, can be clearly and abundantly seen by both the lecturer and fellow students. From my experience, the IVLE Forum is an excellent platform for students to show the various ways of applying, analysing, evaluating or questioning some of the concepts and underlying assumptions taught in the module, or, of creatively extending, modifying or substituting them. For the 2009-10 academic year, you can choose your best input to the IVLE as you short critical essay; in choosing this, make sure that it is not merely a more substantial contribution than a minimalist forum contribution, or a contribution that asks questions about the meaning of some basic ideas of narrative, but critical thinking is clearly displayed in it.
There is no final examination. There are, also, no examination-like tasks during the course of the semester, except perhaps for the quizzes. One of the reasons for opting for 100% CA is that I have always doubted the usefulness of formal examinations in the assessment of critical thinking. I hope your performance this year will convince me that the elimination of the formal examination results in the better assessment of your ability to think critically.
For a more general discussion of critical thinking in relation to this module, take a look at What Critical Thinking Is & How It Could Be Used for EL4221.
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