Blended Learning for Critical Thinking Skill Training

Blended Learning for Critical Thinking Skill Training

Richard Vranesh (CSSI, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0242-6.ch008

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to describe an instructional approach that was successfully used for making blended learning decisions for a variety of federal government agencies in order to improve critical thinking skills. The intended audiences comprised adult learners who were operational personnel that required training on new systems to be able to use them to assist in making decisions requiring the application of critical thinking ability. The value of this rationale is its universal applicability because it is not restricted to typical considerations of the logistics of the learning environment, program costs, or training schedule as are most other delivery media determinations. In this regard, it is a collaborative choice based on learner requirements, learning type, and learning environment, rather than institutional need. Additionally, it provides a methodology for matching these considerations to a proper blended learning component mix based on considerations of required level of student comprehension, the nature of the content to be absorbed, and the required proficiency level of the learner.
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Background

For an example, in a review of the research literature for creating blended learning environments, Bonk & Graham (2006, p. 6) identified the following six reasons for using BL:

  • 1.

    Pedagogical richness

  • 2.

    Access to knowledge

  • 3.

    Social interaction

  • 4.

    Personal agency

  • 5.

    Cost-effectiveness

  • 6.

    Ease of revision

None of these reasons are aimed at improving the learning environment. Further, in separate studies, Graham & Dziuban (2007, p.271) found that, by a greater majority, BL was implemented for the reasons of “(1) improved pedagogy, (2) increased access and flexibility, and (3) increased cost-effectiveness.” In fact, most cases for using a blended learning approach to instruction are based on logistics factors such as these or the advantage of using technology to improve instructional effectiveness in the classroom. Missing from these implementation decisions is characteristics of the learner or the instruction.

Granted, the logistics of using BL often results in an in the ability to move students toward the higher levels of learning, that is, the students can learn the bulk of the foundational knowledge and its applications at home, then work on more project-based activities in the classroom. Cruz (2016) reminds us that the most important factor in a blended learning solution is to keep the focus on the learning and not the technology and to strive for learning at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. When the focus is only on the technology, the learning is simply a dressed-up version (and more expensive) of the same style of learning that was employed previously. A learning- requirement focused type of mixed presentation has shown to result in deeper learning at the analysis, evaluation, and creation levels, objectives at higher levels of complexity in Bloom’s taxonomy.

It is encouraging to see that a blended-learning model has often been chosen to enhance learning. However, what has not been considered is the nature and type of leaning that is attempting to be enhanced and the needs of the target audience, both of which should be major factors in any learning strategy decision. It is important to concentrate on these elements of the learning environment if we desire that or students achieve levels of independent thinking, an important milestone toward the achievement of independent critical thinking. Specifically, regarding higher- level objectives, the goal is to ensure instructional designs provide opportunities for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (See skills required for attainment of these levels in Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Bloom’s Critical Thinking Skills

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Main Focus Of This Chapter

As can be seen in Figure 1, critical thinking skills involve the ability to make comparisons and contrasts of relevant data to determine that which is most cogent (Analyze) discover trends to make predictions (Understand), and to construct criteria for evaluating useful information (Evaluate). This chapter will attempt to provide guidance to derive BL solutions to foster these skills for job training.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hyper Media System: An extension to hypertext that supports linking graphics, sound, and video elements in addition to text elements.

Blended Learning: Instruction presented in mixed modality presentations to accommodate the needs of the learner, the learning environment, and the unique features of the learning.

eLearning Environment: Instruction delivered by any technological mode intended to promote learning.

Cognitive Load: The total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: Bloom's taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical models used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. The three lists cover the learning objectives in cognitive, affective and sensory domains. The cognitive domain list has been the primary focus of most traditional education and is frequently used to structure curriculum learning objectives, assessments and activities. The models were named after Benjamin Bloom, who chaired the committee of educators.

Meaningful Learning Theory: Meaningful learning involves understanding how all the pieces of an entire concept fit together. Meaningful learning is active, constructive, and long-lasting.

Knowledge Proceduralization: The ability to apply conceptual knowledge in a unique setting to solve a problem.

Situational Awareness: The perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning and the projection of their status in the near future.

Learning Environment: Diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn.

Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal: One of the main evaluating tools for cognitive abilities in professionals, since it measures critical thinking. It is seen as a successful tool to predict job success, as well as being used to select good managers and finding possible future leaders.

Critical Thinking: The analysis and interpretation of facts to form a sound judgment or opinion.

Levels of Understanding: The levels of understanding required for the topic of consideration as a basis for prescribing instructional content. These levels usually range from familiarity to in-depth knowledge.

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