Critical thinking development in higher education


Project duration: 2002-2003

Project supported by:
Open Society Institute-New York
International Reading Association

Project background
The project Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking (RWCT) which had been carried out in Lithuania in 1997 - 2000 was directed to all educators - elementary and secondary school teachers and college and university lecturers. The project was mostly oriented for general education and was successfully carried out in elementary and secondary schools. After the careful situation analysis, Modern Didactics Center decided to elaborate long term project for higher schools.

Contemporary universities face the challenge not only to develop the system of knowledge but also the system of different skills. Educators claim that didactic goals of the curricula of the universities must be oriented not only towards providing fundamental and applied knowledge but also towards teaching methods for different activities and problem resolution. Though traditionally universities require the students to learn, memorize, draw conclusions, analyze the arguments and solve the problems, students are seldom taught how to do it. So progressive education must rest on two foundations: learning how to get quickly oriented in the rapidly growing flow of the information and finding what is needed, and knowing how to think over and apply the information. This program can help the educators to meet the challenges of contemporary science, restructure teaching process, present consistent and theoretically grounded teaching methods, encouraging the students to learn actively and think critically.

Critical thinking program enables the lecturers:
- To create the atmosphere based on open and responsible cooperation.
- To use teaching framework and methods encouraging critical thinking and independent studies.

The lecturers working according critical thinking program develop students’ abilities to:
- Think critically.
- Accept responsibility for their learning.
- Work in cooperation with the others.
- Acquire skills of permanent learning.

Critical thinking program does not demand preliminary preparation; the lecturers can rely on their own experience, available programs and teaching materials. The theory is closely related to practice: after the workshops the lecturers can immediately apply new teaching methods in their classes. The program is based on the unanimous system of thinking and learning, which is based on the latest research in education and ideas of the eminent scholars: J.Piaget, J.Dewey, N.Noddings, L.Vygotsky, C.B.Smith, P.D.Pearson, L.Fielding, L.Rosenblatt, J.L.Vaughan, T.Estes, and others.

Project aim
Project was aimed to integrate critical thinking training into universities’ curriculum.

Project participants
The project was directed to the lecturers of the colleges and universities.

49 educators, representing the following institutions, take part in the project:
Kaunas College
Klaipeda University
Lithuanian Christian Fund College
Siauliai University
Utena College
Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
Vilnius College
Vilnius Pedagogical University
Vilnius Pedagogical College

Project lecturers:
Daiva PENKAUSKIENE – Director of Modern Didactics Center
Rita MAKARSKAITE – Vice Dean of Pedagogy and Psychology Faculty, Assistant professor of Primary Education Department at Vilnius Pedagogical University, Teacher of Vilnius S.Daukantas secondary school
Raimonda JARIENE – Specialist of Education Development Center, teacher of S.Daukantas secondary school
assoc. prof. Valdone INDRASIENE – Assistant professor of Department of Pedagogy at Vilnius Pedagogical University
assoc. prof. Vida GUDZINSKIENE – Assistant professor of Department of Physiology and Hygiene at Vilnius Pedagogical University
Asta NAVICKAITE – Teacher of Center of Modern School
Danguole DAUKSIENE – Teacher of Vilnius “Vyturys” primary school

Project activities
I STAGE – Formation of critical thinking development teams in higher education institutions.

To participate in the project there where invited not individual teachers, but teams of higher education institutions. Taking into account teaching peculiarities, two groups of lecturers were formed: form pedagogical and non-pedagogical higher education institutions.
Participants of the project passed the full 48 hrs course of Critical Thinking. During the participation in the project, the lecturers were encouraged to apply new strategies in their schools, observe the lectures led by their team members, have meetings with them and discuss their achievements and what might be changed in order to get adjusted to specific situations.

19-20 March, 2002
Workshop “Framework and Environment for Teaching Critical Thinking"

29-30 April, 16-17 May, 2002
Workshop „Methods of Teaching Critical Thinking"

2-5 July, 2002 - Summer school
Workshop "Planning and assessment of critical thinking lecture. Development of student orientates study programmes"

24-25 September, 2002
Seminar for administrators of higher education institutions "Content of Contemporary Studies at University"
Guest lecturers: dr. Jeannie STEELE, dr. Kurt MEREDITH (University of Northern Iowa, USA)

Seeking of project sustainability, it was decided to involve universities administration into the project and to deliver to them an introductory seminar. Vice-rectors and directors of study departments got acquainted with the project and had understanding about benefits of the modern critical thinking course in higher education curriculum.

24-25 October, 18-19 November, 2002
Workshop "Writing as a tool for critical thinking development. Attitudes towards scientific texts reading. Text analysis"

7-9 January, 2003 - Winter School
Workshop "Adult education"

II STAGE – Development of integrated and individual programmes for critical thinking teaching

The second year of the project was devoted for analyzing of study programmes and teaching subjects from the point of view of critical thinking teaching possibility.
Lecturers chose one of those ways for individual or group activity:
- to integrate a programme of critical thinking into their subject teaching;
- to develop an optional critical thinking teaching course;
- to develop a new critical thinking course.

17 February, 2004 - Final conference of the project.
During the conference project coordinators implemented an idea to link together experience of critical thinking development in secondary and higher education. Therefore teachers from Modern Didactics Center methodical schools – Critical Thinking centres: Vilnius “Vyturys” primary school, Vilnius Simonas Daukantas secondary school, 1st gymnasium of Silute, Moletai gymnasium – were invited to participate in conference. Project participants presented developed programmes for their colleagues as well as secondary school teachers share their long-lived experience in critical thinking education.

Project results
  • Project is characterized by the unity of theory and practice, comprehensive analysis and reflection of the higher education activity.
  • United critical thinking teams were organized at the Universities.
  • Participants got acquainted with the methods and strategies encouraging critical thinking and were encouraged to use strategies of critical thinking while teaching their subjects.
  • Project materials were issued in the publication „Critical Thinking Development in Higher Education: Study Programmes".

Critical Thinking Development in Higher Education: Study Programmes
This publication presents results developed during two years of the project – programmes of subject teaching, extended lectures plans, reflecting critical thinking teaching possibilities in different study programmes: law, accountancy, foreign languages, social pedagogy, communication and etc.

Programmes are presented following one scheme: purpose of the course, place in the study programme, aims and objectives, relations with other teaching subjects, course structure, principles and methods of teaching, extended content of the course, sample lecture or seminar of the course.



© Modern Didactics Center, Didzioji str. 5-211, LT-01128 Vilnius, Lithuania, tel., fax. +370 5 212 3623, e. mail