Enhancing Students' Critical Thinking through Portfolios: Portfolio Content and Process of Use

Enhancing Students' Critical Thinking through Portfolios: Portfolio Content and Process of Use

Zineb Djoub (Abdelhamid Ibn Badis University, Algeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0643-0.ch011


Portfolios can serve a crucial role in helping students develop their critical thinking in writing, thereby promoting write-to-learn philosophy in education. Still, not any portfolio's content and approach can guarantee the achievement of this goal. Teachers' concern in promoting students' critical thinking needs to be reflected in their decision that is related to the evidences of students' needs that helps to select their approaches of integrating and using them into class. Students' reflection needs to underpin all stages of portfolio assessment through providing opportunities for their decision-making, initiation and creativity. Therefore, this chapter puts forward a student portfolio model along with its content and process of use. This learning tool was integrated within the course of Written Expression and used by 33 students at the Department of English at Abdelhamid Ibn Badis University during the academic year 2013-2014. Recommendations are also provided in order to make it a vehicle for critical thinking.
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Critical Thinking: Some Definitions

Living in an information-driven society, students need to construct their own meaning and apply what they have learned in new situations. To do so, they need to learn to think critically about knowledge and the world. Indeed, as Huitt (1998) claims in the information age, thinking plays a significant role in one's success in life. Thus, meaningful education entails equipping learners with the tools that can help them think critically while providing them with multiple opportunities to make concrete such process through exercising their creativity, decision making, initiation, thereby involving actively in their learning process. Within this conception, academic success goes beyond achieving grades to developing reflective minds that can search for and evaluate information, solve problems, and learn through interacting and collaborating with others.

To help learners engage successfully in critical thinking, there is a need to understand what this process means. Critical thinking has its roots in critical theory and the concept of scepticism - the questioning of the source of truthfulness and the reliability of knowledge (Brechin et al., 2000). Hence, reviewing the literature shows that despite widespread interest in promoting this goal “there is no consensus on a definition of critical thinking” (Fasko, 2003, p.08). Indeed, critical thinking has been defined from different perspectives. Definitions that draw upon philosophy often stress the metacognitive element of critical thinking, arguing that it can be defined as “thinking about your thinking while you are thinking to make your thinking better” (Paul, 1993, p. 91). In the same concern, Elder and Paul (1994) argue that critical thinking means that thinkers take charge of their own thinking. This also presupposes that people develop sound criteria and standards for analyzing and evaluating their own thinking processes and use of these criteria to improve the quality of their thinking (Uden & Beaumont, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge-Based Society: A knowledge-based society refers to the type of society that is needed to compete and succeed in the changing economic and political dynamics of the modern world. It refers to societies that are well educated, and who therefore rely on the knowledge of their citizens to drive the innovation, entrepreneurship and dynamism of that society’s economy.

Assessment: The process of collecting information about student learning. Throughout the learning process, assessment is used to inform teaching and student learning. As a result of assessment, teachers can adjust their teaching. Students also benefit from assessment. They need to receive a considerable amount of descriptive feedback to enable them to continue or adjust what they are doing to be effective learners.

Feedback: Information that results from formal or informal assessment and that is used by teachers and students to enhance teaching and learning.

Self-Assessment: The involvement of learners in making judgements about their own learning.

Reflective Practice: Is the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. A critical attention to the practical values and theories which inform everyday actions, by examining practice reflectively and reflexively.

Portfolio: Is a compilation of student work assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality and academic achievement, (2) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, and (3) determining whether students have met academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation.

Evaluation: The process of reviewing collected evidence and making a judgment about whether students have learned what they need to learn and how well they have learned it. Evaluation is used to tell students how well they have performed as compared to a set of standards. Typically, evaluative feedback is encoded: that is, it is reported using numbers, letters, checkmarks, and so on.

Criteria: Indicators of successful performance by which an assessment task will be judged.

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