Evaluating critical thinking pedagogy to support primary school project work using an action research approach

Year: 2001

Author: Chng, Vivien Lee Looi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The research study describes the findings of an action research project conducted at a local primary school to overcome students' "cut and paste" mentality when using information sourced from the World Wide Web for writing project reports. This paper reviews the introduction of self-organised learning (S-O-L) developed by Thomas and Harri-Augstein (1985) as an enabling framework for knowledge management. Based on the dual notions of social constructivism and reflective conversational learning, S-O-L offers the action researcher tools such as the Personal Learning Contract and the Purpose-Strategy-Outcome-Review grid for project management. For the student, Learning Plans built upon learning events designed as small tasks related to real life contexts allow for critical thinking to be modelled. As a flexible, content-free technology, students scaffold their own learning and manage the information, which they encounter. As Knowledge Elicitation Systems (KES), these are learner-centred and systematic models of learning based on social constructivism that lead to the ease of knowledge management (Coombs, 1995). The use of S-O-L has been found to increase students' interest in learning and critical thinking dispositions, such as a willingness to self-correct and persist. It is recommended that the sound integration of LPs into the curriculum require teachers to play their roles as facilitators more competently. As such a review of current professional development practices is called for if teachers are to be competent in guiding critical thinking amongst students.