Action-Research-Report-Critical-Thinking-Brian-Compton.doc

Is associated with an upward cycle of improved

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is associated with an upward cycle of improved learning where students set higher goals for themselves and commit more resources or effort to achieving those goals, where increased self-confidence may also result. However, a downward cycle is also possible if students' goals are not consistent with those of the classroom or if students have negative perceptions of their performance. Based upon a comparison of the NES Seminar grades for the last three years (where the NESC 293, 393 and 493 grades are merged for each quarter), it is not clear that the research approach was directly linked to any improvement in grades. Various indicators of student engagement exist. One source (Wikipedia 2010) indicates that students are said to be engaged when they: Show sustained behavioral involvement in learning activities accompanied by a positive emotional tone; Select tasks at the border of their competencies; Initiate action when given the opportunity; and Exert intense effort and concentration in the implementation of learning tasks. 8e01f48200de908360bdbb57d5d682b7fff311c7.doc- Brian Compton-7/26/2010 page 9 of 11
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Based upon these indicators, many of the NES Seminar students give evidence of their engagement as indicated in various comments provided above in the results section, including where this topic was specifically addressed in Part 4 of the survey. Student comments were generally positive regarding the critical thinking elements as well as the details of the class project. They included references to a structural foundation to produce success; enjoyment and resulting ambition to do further work, including linkages to further work within the BS-NES program; learning to be more open-minded; engaging in critical thinking outside of the academic sphere, in a student's place of employment; students' ability to adapt to group interests and needs; the relationship of the course to building understanding and trust between students; and a vision for doing work that would impact the future. Other comments relate to the need for additional time to complete goals, challenges in clearly communicating with fellow students, the need for each student to establish individual goals within the larger class project, and how the class work could connect to other academic work. Beyond the work reflected in the comments above, the students also experienced several challenges regarding the coordination of their efforts, decision-making, and completion of their established goals but they finished the quarter with strong presentations, including two students who helped establish "guiding principles" for the subsequent quarter (based on Cree natural laws). By the end of the winter quarter, many students had established the goal of introducing sustainable landscaping around the Early Childhood Learning Center at NWIC. The students continued to pursue this project during the subsequent spring quarter, keeping in mind the materials related to critical thinking that were introduced during the winter quarter.
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