In 1982, the National Commission on Excellence in Education's report A Nation at Risk emphasized that our survival as a nation largely depended on the improvement of our educational system. After A Nation at Risk was published, report after report by business, government, and educational agencies indicated that our students lacked the ability to engage in self-directed learning, acquire cognitive skills, and reflect on their own thinking. These reports kicked off various educational reform movements to improve the quality of education.
One of the questions that one might ask is "What is thinking?", and "What is the relationship among problem-solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking?". Even though it is not easy to answer such questions, I will attempt to draw a conceptual map for the reader.
It is the purpose of this research to investigate the teaching of critical thinking and provide empirical evidence to inform the existing knowledge base, and the issues that have been debated in the abstract for so long. Since it is extremely important to have a clear operational definition of the construct under investigation before embarking on experimental research, I will explain first the position I assume in this study.
The significance of this study is three-fold. First, as I have repeatedly mentioned in the literature review, the knowledge base of critical thinking is rich conceptually and theoretically, but at the same time one that is lacking systematic and keen empirical investigation. Since a knowledge base cannot grow substantially unless the abstract issues are examined empirically, it is important that research studies are carried out to explore these issues.
A 2x2x3 Factorial Repeated Measures ANCOVA experimental study will be carried out to answer the research question "Does type of teaching method and general critical thinking skills (GCTS) differentially affect critical thinking and its transfer, after adjusting for the effects of dispositions?".
According to Gall, Borg, and Gall (1996), a factorial experiment is an experiment in which the researcher determines the effect of two or more independent treatment variables (factors), both singly and in interaction with each other, on a dependent variable. The effect of each independent variable on the dependent variable is called a main effect. The interaction of the effect of two or more independent variables on the dependent variable is called an interaction effect. The two independent variables are Teaching Method and General Critical Thinking Skills. Teaching Method has three levels, namely PreTeach, Infusion, and Immersion. General Critical Thinking Skills has two levels, namely High and Low. Technically, there is also another independent variable, built-in the design model, namely Test Occasions. This variable is a within-subjects factor, and it has two levels: (1) Occasion I; and (2) Occasion II. The covariate is Disposition toward critical thinking, and Critical Thinking is the dependent variable.
The absolute minimum number of participants that is required for the study in order to estimate the parameters of the model, is two per cell, i.e., 12 students (McKinley, 1997; Anderson, 1997). But, many more subjects are needed to have statistical power for running significance tests, therefore it has been recommended that at least ten subjects per cell are used (60 students). Considering constraints pertinent to this study, and in an attempt to increase the statistical power even more, a sample of 96 students will be used (16 students per cell). It might be the case that more students will have to be screened initially to get the High/Low classification for the second independent variable (GCTS) of the study. It is expected that no more than 150 students will have to be screened to form the sample of 96 students. The researcher has already made arrangements with the coordinator of the undergraduate educational psychology classes in the school of Education at Indiana University in the Bloomington campus, to recruit students from five educational psychology classes (30 to 35 students each class). Each participant will receive ten dollars upon completion of data collection.