THE PROBLEM AND ITS SCOPE
With the dramatic changes of educational landscape across the world, the academic community is always abreast with the challenges for continuous improvements and developments in the instructional workforce, and that is, to respond and cater to the demands of the modern professional careers vis-à-vis global economic market.
As stipulated by Levy and Murname (2004), knowledge and skills specific to academic disciplines are important, but there is a multitude of disciplines, each evolving over time. This makes it impractical to establish broad, comparative benchmarks based on achievement in academic disciplines. The development of students’ critical-thinking skills is central to the missions of modern postsecondary institutions because of growing recognition that these skills fuel innovation and economic growth. Most colleges and universities aspire to produce graduates who think critically, who can make judgments in complex situations on the basis of sound reason, adequate evidence, and articulated values.
Thinking is a natural process, but left to itself, it is often biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, and potentially prejudiced; excellence in thought must be cultivated (Scriven and Paul, 2004). When students are thinking critically, they are intellectually engaged (Gini-Newman, 2007; Elder and Paul, 2010). Critical thinking is one of the most important concepts involved in the field of education. Enabling students to think critically is not only a primary purpose of higher education, but also facilitates the dynamics of academies and universities and helps them survive, develop and promotes scientific societies.
Currently, science educators and teachers agree that laboratory work is indispensable to the understanding of science (Cardak et al., 2007; Ottander and Grelsson, 2006; Tan, 2008). The role of laboratory work in science education has been detailed by some researchers (Lazarowitz and Tamir, 1994; Lunetta, 1998). The main purpose of laboratory work in science education is to provide students with theoretical and conceptual knowledge to help them learn scientific-technical concepts, and through scientific methods, to understand the nature of science.
Laboratory works also give students the opportunities to experience science by using scientific research procedures. In order to achieve meaningful learning, scientific theories and their application methods should be experienced by students. Moreover, laboratory works should encourage the development of analytical and critical thinking skills and encourage interest in science (Ottander and Grelsson, 2006).
Moreover, it can also provide students opportunities to improve their problem solving and investigation skills, to do appropriate generalization about salient points in science, to get scientific knowledge and to hold positive attitudes towards science (Tamir, 1997). Integration critical and creative thinking processes with the laboratory method, which is one of the most essential methods in effective science education, may contribute to science content learning and logical thinking on scientific issues.
In heighten students’ critical thinking skill is to expose them to laboratory activities as key instructional materials in order to affirm and validate the learned concepts taught in the classroom. Such given laboratory activities will facilitate the comprehension of concepts that cannot be accomplished by plain chalk talk. Laboratory activities are proven to be effective in modifying learners’ behavior and facilitate effective acquisition of knowledge and skills.
This claim is supported by Lazarowitz and Tamir (1994) and (Schwartz and others (2004), that the effectiveness of laboratory works helps students to better understand the various aspects of scientific investigation. And that teachers usually want to develop students higher order thinking skills, like critical thinking, through laboratory work; but to what extent they can achieve this is controversial (Bol and Strage, 1996; Ottander and Grelsson, 2006).
The need to fully-equipped school laboratories, Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) through the National Science Teaching Instrumentation Center (NSTIC) helps to develop affordable quality science instructional apparatus in the field of Science. Standardized apparatus was improvised into the Do-It-Yourself (DIY). It is low-cost type of instructional and laboratory materials where teachers can modify and tailor them according to the learning styles of the students. The DIY is an alternative to some of the standard science equipment and can be easily constructed since it is simple, although not comfortable to the precision. The DIY is one of the very low availability of science equipment in schools (www.nstic.net.ph/annualreport.htm).
Provided with the many contentions and considerations in the Philippine educational setting, particularly, in using DIY apparatus in science laboratory, the researchers opted to evaluate the levels of critical thinking among the DSME science majors who were enrolled in EDSC 137 (Science Instrumentation Workshop) using the adopted test questionnaire of Alefante (2012).
Statement of the Problem
The main objective of this study is to evaluate the level of critical thinking among 131 DSME college students who were enrolled in EDSC 137 (Science Instrumentation Workshop) during the Academic Year 2016-2017 of MSU-IIT, Iligan City. Hence, this study was conducted to answer the following questions:
1. What is the level of each critical thinking skills among DSME science majors who have taken EDSC 137 in terms of:
2. What is the average level of critical thinking skill of DSME science major respondents?
3. Is there a significant relationship between the course of the respondents and their level of critical thinking?
4. What critical thinking skill such as application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation was highly developed by the respondents?
Ho: There is no significant relationship between the course of respondents and their level of critical thinking.
Theoretical Framework of the Study
Educators have long been aware of the importance of critical thinking skills as an
outcome of student learning. More recently, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has identified critical thinking as one of several learning and innovation skills necessary to prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce. In addition, the newly created Common Core State Standards reflect critical thinking as a cross-disciplinary skill vital for college and employment. Despite widespread recognition of its importance, there is a notable lack of consensus regarding the definition of critical thinking.
The literature on critical thinking has roots in two primary academic disciplines: philosophy and psychology (Lewis and Smith, 1993). Sternberg (1986) has also noted a third critical thinking strand within the field of education. These separate academic strands have developed different approaches to defining critical thinking that reflect their respective concerns.
The writings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and more recently, Matthew Lipman and Richard Paul, exemplify the philosophical approach. This approach focuses on the hypothetical critical thinker, enumerating the qualities and characteristics of this person rather than the behaviors or actions the critical thinker can perform (Lewis and Smith, 1993; Thayer-Bacon, 2000). Sternberg (1986) has noted that this school of thought approaches the critical thinker as an ideal type, focusing on what people are capable of doing under the best of circumstances.
Accordingly, Richard Paul (1992) discusses critical thinking in the context of “perfections of thought” (p. 9). This preoccupation with the ideal critical thinker is evident in the American Philosophical Association’s consensus portrait of the ideal critical thinker as someone who is inquisitive in nature, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded, has a desire to be well-informed, understands diverse viewpoints, and is willing to both suspend judgment and to consider other perspectives (Facione, 1990).
Those working within the philosophical tradition also emphasize qualities or standards of thought. For example, Bailin (2002) defines critical thinking as thinking of a particular quality – essentially good thinking that meets specified criteria or standards of adequacy and accuracy.
Further, the philosophical approach has traditionally focused on the application of formal rules of logic (Lewis and Smith, 1993; Sternberg, 1986). One limitation of this approach to defining critical thinking is that it does not always correspond to reality (Sternberg, 1986). By emphasizing the ideal critical thinker and what people have the capacity to do, this approach may have less to contribute to discussions about how people actually think.
The cognitive psychological approach contrasts with the philosophical perspective in two ways. First, cognitive psychologists, particularly those immersed in the behaviorist tradition and the experimental research paradigm, tend to focus on how people actually think versus how they could or should think under ideal conditions (Sternberg, 1986). Second, rather than defining critical thinking by pointing to characteristics of the ideal critical thinker or enumerating criteria or standards of “good” thought, those working in cognitive psychology tend to define critical thinking by the types of actions or behaviors critical thinkers can do. Typically, this approach to defining critical thinking includes a list of skills or procedures performed by critical thinkers (Lewis and Smith, 1993).
Philosophers have often criticized this latter aspect of the cognitive psychological
approach as being reductionist – reducing a complex orchestration of knowledge and skills into a collection of disconnected steps or procedures (Sternberg, 1986). For example, Bailin (2002) argues that it is a fundamental misconception to view critical thinking as a series of discrete steps or skills, and that this misconception stems from the behaviorist’s need to define constructs in ways that are directly observable. According to this argument, because the actual process of thought is unobservable, cognitive psychologists have tended to focus on the products of such thought – behaviors or overt skills (e.g., analysis, interpretation, formulating good questions).
Other philosophers have also cautioned against confusing the activity of critical thinking with its component skills (Facione, 1990), arguing that critical thinking is more than simply the sum of its parts (Van Gelder, 2005). Indeed, a few proponents of the philosophical tradition have pointed out that it is possible to simply “go through the motions,” or proceed through the “steps” of critical thinking without actually engaging in critical thought (Bailin, 2002).
Finally, those working in the field of education have also participated in discussions about critical thinking. Benjamin Bloom and his associates are included in this category. Their taxonomy for information processing skills (1956) is one of the most widely cited sources for educational practitioners when it comes to teaching and assessing higher-order thinking skills.
Bloom’s taxonomy is hierarchical, with “comprehension” at the bottom and “evaluation” at the top. The three highest levels (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) are frequently said to represent critical thinking (Kennedy et al., 1991).
The benefit of the educational approach is that it is based on years of classroom experience and observations of student learning, unlike both the philosophical and the psychological traditions (Sternberg, 1986). However, some have noted that the educational Finally, those working in the field of education have also participated in discussions about critical thinking. Benjamin Bloom and his associates are included in this category. Their taxonomy for information processing skills (1956) is one of the most widely cited sources for educational practitioners when it comes to teaching and assessing higher-order thinking skills.
Conceptual Framework of the Study
The research paradigm (Figure1) shows the flow of the input, process and output of the study. It shows the critical thinking skills of the students in terms of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation which were measured based on the results using a validated critical thinking test questionnaire which contains high order thinking skills items. In addition, laboratory activities were used as intervention in order to utilize the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) instruments standardized by Jarantilla (2008). The following were laboratory activities used in this study with corresponding DIY instruments: Atmospheric pressure; Electrolyte and Non-Electrolyte; Heat Capacity of Soil and Water; Tyndall Effect; and Water and Alcohol Expansion.
Input Process Output
Figure 1: Schematic Diagram of the Conceptual Framework of the Study
Significance of the Study
It is important to know a snapshot view on how students are learning by utilizing DIY equipment in their science laboratories. The main purpose of this study was to evaluate the level of critical thinking among the students from the College of Education of the Mindanao State of University-Iligan Institute of Technology who were enrolled in EDSC-137 (Science Instrumentation Workshop) during the Academic Year 2016-2017. In particular, the results of this study are beneficial to the following:
Teachers. They would be able to fully realize the importance of the science DIY apparatus in translating the scientific concepts and overcome facility deficiency. They can demonstrate to students the application of science principles and encourage them to construct more science gadgets to better facilitate enhanced instructions as well as design simple activities that tailor students’ capabilities for classroom use and usage. Furthermore, this may encourage teachers to innovate and improve teaching-learning strategies for students to perform hands-on activities in understanding science principles, develop new skills and knowledge and impart new insights to students.
Students. The results of this study can give them opportunities to learn and evaluate themselves on how far they developed their skills and their level of critical thinking. Also, this study serves as basis in identifying the critical thinking skills they are weak at and, therefore, can correct their deficiencies in the understanding of science.
School Administrators. This study would give them ideas that science DIY apparatus would be of great help to teachers in the conduct of science instructions for better understanding of the subject matter. With the results of this study, it would promote creativity in finding solutions in the enhancement of critical thinking skills between and among teachers and students. Moreover, this study benefits the curriculum, in integrating activities for a project-based or science-based curriculum that would focus on the development of the skills.
Scope and Limitation of the Study
This study focused on the 131 students of DSME science majors in College of Education who were enrolled in the Science Instrumentation, Academic Year 2016-2017 of MSU-IIT, Iligan City. The purpose of data gathering was to evaluate the level of each critical thinking skill. Hence, this study was limited on the test questionnaires adapted from Alefante (2012). The 40-item test questionnaire used in this study contains the following selected topics: Atmospheric Pressure, Electrolyte and Non- Electrolyte, Heat Capacity of soil and Water, Tyndall Effect, and Water and Alcohol Expansion. In addition, this study was limited on the questionnaire in the level of each critical thinking skill.
Definition of Terms
To have better and common understanding between the researchers and the readers, the following concepts used in the study are operationally defined.
Critical Thinking Skills. In this study, this refers to higher level thinking skill than just simply memorizing facts and information. It includes the complex level of cognitive domain application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation according to the new Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.
Course. In this study, this refers to the DSME science majors which include BSEd Chemistry, BSEd Physics, BSEd Biology, BEEd Science and Health, and BSEd General Science.
Demographic Profile. It refers to the name, year level and age of the respondents of the study. In this study, this refers to the information about the courses of the respondents.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) apparatus. In this study, this refers to the science apparatus created from affordable, common and readily-available household materials. It includes the Atmospheric Balloon Apparatus; Electric Conductivity Apparatus; Differential Thermoscope for Radiant Energy Absorption by Soil / Sand and Water; Tyndall Effect Apparatus and water and Alcohol Thermoscope.
EDSC 137 Science Instrumentation Workshop. In this study, this refers to the course offered by the College of Education, MSU-IIT, Iligan City that comprises of trainings in handling laboratory activities using science DIY apparatus.
Level of Critical Thinking Skills. In this study, it is described as Lower Median (LM), Median (M) and Upper Median (UM).