CAN WE INVESTIGATE SOMETHING WE CANNOT SEE? STIMULATING CRITICAL THINKING ABOUT KNOWLEDGE IN THE HISTORY AND SCIENCE CLASS
1 Odisee - University of Applied Sciences (BELGIUM)
2 Antwerp University / Odisee - University of Applied Sciences (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Critical thinking is a key skill for secondary school students to master. Especially in times of fake news and populism, one particularly interesting dimension of critical thinking focuses on questioning epistemological assumptions. How can teachers stimulate reflection about the validity and reliability of knowledge among students? In this project, a teaching method is developed aiming to stimulate students’ critical thinking about knowledge through dialogue, focusing on the context of both history and science education. Dialogue appears to be a relevant instrument for generating critical thinking: dialogue exposes students to their own thinking as well as it encourages young people to argue with each other. However, guiding a dialogue between students can be challenging for teachers who are often more familiar with providing insights as a knowledge authority than generating reflection as a dialogue facilitator.
Research questions and design:
Following the principles of education-design research, the teaching method with learning material is developed, evaluated and adjusted in consecutive cycles in cooperation with a professional learning community (2021-2024). The didactic material is being evaluated in secondary schools (9th-10th grade) as well as in teacher training programs. Specifically, the project aims to determine the design criteria for the method in order to stimulate students’ critical thinking about knowledge and reliability (RQ1) as well as the contextual factors that hinder of facilitate the successful implementation of the teaching method, including the attitude of teachers towards the method (RQ2). The goal is also to capture how the method stimulates students’ critical thinking (RQ3). Currently, the prototype of the teaching material has been developed and try-outs have been executed. Interviews with students and (aspiring-) teachers as well as observations in the classroom were conducted. To further capture how the method stimulates different kinds of critical thinking in both subjects, dialogues of students will be explored and categorized in the next academic year.
Results and conclusion:
Students and (aspiring-) teachers were enthusiastic about the method. The qualitative data pointed out how dialogue activities can expose the presuppositions about knowledge within science/history. To do so, the learning material must transform these abstract ideas into concrete learning material that makes the thinking of students visible. Every lesson is − in fact − a lesson about knowledge, but the link has to be made explicit. Interestingly, students react differently to the applicability of the dialogical method in the science and history class, exposing differing prevailing assumptions about historic and scientific knowledge (such as, doubt is inherent to history, but has no place in science). However, strong assumptions about science makes it harder to deal with fake news and conflicting views in the media. Teachers’ embodiment of science could play a crucial role in these assumptions of students. For example, the element of allowing doubt in class was met with some resistance among teachers, while doubt is part of an investigative attitude among students and inherent to the nature of science. Therefore, it is vital to work on the teachers’ insight into reliable knowledge. Teachers indicated to be interested in hands-on material as well as training to ask the right questions and guide learning activities.
Keywords: Critical thinking, history, science, dialogue, teaching method.