ASSESSMENT OF CRITICAL THINKING WITHIN A SUBJECT RELATED TO MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Within the European Higher Education Area, a huge effort is being done in reorientating the learning process towards the generic competences, whose importance in the students’ curricula is out of discussion. These competences evaluate the technical, professional and teamwork skills beyond the subjects studied during the degree, what is highly valued by the employers to assess the adequacy of their candidates. In addition, these generic competences are also of great interest for universities to promote students’ mobility on the basis of comparable evaluation criteria and methodologies.
Therefore, as a part of this European educational framework, the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) has developed special programmes in order to clearly define the specific and generic competences for each of its Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees as well as for the particular subjects along them. Although the competence-based curricula approach has been used in the development of new Bachelors’ and Masters’ programmes, the assessment of generic competences is still a pending task. In this regard, the use of learning-oriented active methodologies is being introduced in new programmes in contrast to the lecture-based teaching method in which the university system has been traditionally subtended. In this way, the development of the competences is favoured by means of evaluation activities where the students have to put their skills into play.
With this background, is evident the need of tailoring the competence evaluation methodologies depending on the academic discipline in which will be applied. Hence, in this work the results obtained from a developed methodology for the assessment of the competence of “Critical Thinking”, which was tested in one subject dealing with Mechanics within the second year of Aerospace Engineering Bachelors´ Degree, will be presented. This competence is connected with the ability to apply logical and rational processes to analyse the components of an issue and think creatively to generate innovative solutions. As this competence implies skills in interpreting and understanding data, we considered that the computer lab-work sessions of the practical part of the subject was a good scenario to evaluate it. Along these sessions, students had to learn about how to use ADAMS/View© software for the design and implementation of mechanisms as well as for the analysis of their dynamics and stresses. In the last session a complete questionnaire focused on evaluating the capacity of the students to be critical and self-critical when addressing an open problem with the software was delivered. That is, as main objective of this learning experience we were interested in checking if the students were able to confront expectation versus reality and understand the potentialities and limitations of the software employed.