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ENHANCING LEARNING OF THINKING SKILLS: THE IMPACT OF PRIMARY SCHOOL YEAR EDUCATION

M.A. Manassero-Mas, A. Vazquez-Alonso

University of the Balearic Islands (SPAIN)
The research tradition of critical thinking tests usually focuses on assessing a few thinking skills. Our assessment instruments for elementary students called "Challenges of thinking" evaluate the following thinking skills: classification, problem solving and logical reasoning.

This instrument adopts a free-culture orientation, which means that the elaboration of the answers does not entails any prerequisites or specific knowledge of school curriculum. In particular, the instrument avoids the use of numbers and mathematical operations, which is a very frequent resource in the evaluation of thinking skills. Further, the items’ cognitive demand to achieve the correct answer focuses on each specific skill through presenting students’ authentic cognitive challenges for thinking, which relies on basic comprehension of short and simple texts and pictures and is independent of requirement or prior knowledge.

Summing up, the design and content of assessment items meet the following criteria:
• pose a thinking challenge, whose achievement is motivating or challenging for students.
• the cognitive demand focuses at eliciting the skill which is designed for, and
• the contents are easily readable, understandable, adequate and interesting for the age of the target students

This paper aims to analyze the results of five items with a short-text and figurative format that were answered by grade-5 and grade-6 primary students to assess the impact of the improvement of the learning of thinking skills during a school year education, and for boys and girls.

The research questions are:
- How much does the learning of thinking skills improve in the final year of primary education?
- How much does the boys’ and girls’ learning of thinking skills improve in the final year of primary education?

To answer the research questions a sample of students enrolled in grades 5 and 6 answered the same five items that were anchored in the tests applied to both grades. The assessed thinking skills through the five questions are: classification (2 items), problem solving (1) and logical reasoning (2). The first item on classification has three questions to answer, while the remaining items display just one question.

The dependent variables are thinking, defined as the sum of scores across all questions (range 0-7 points) and the single thinking skills, namely, classification (0-4 points), problem solving (0-1 point) and logical reasoning (0- 2 points).

The comparisons of the scores will be evaluated using the statistical effect size, which will be computed to compare the following variables: grade (grade 5 vs. grade 6) and boys vs. girls, along each of the dependent variables.

The work is now in process, looking for the results will be achieved to be presented in the final paper and at the conference, together with the assessment instruments.