The impact of thinking maps to enhance the development of critical thinking skills among first year pre-service life science teachers

Written by Francios Minnie

Student Thinking Maps (This should be read in conjunction with article in newsletter of July 2017: News update 2)

Thinking Maps could be regarded as most suitable to enhance the development of critical thinking, as they facilitate more explicitly the cognitive skills (defining, describing characteristics, contrasting, classifying, whole-part thinking, sequencing, cause-and-effect reasoning and analogical reasoning) and metacognitive strategies (self-regulation) involved in critical thinking. The Circle Map, Tree Map and the Multi-Flow Map were identified to be utilised in the context of the research as these maps provide opportunities for acquiring the critical thinking skills to analyse, synthesise and evaluate.

Based on the pre-test results, the Thinking Maps intervention was developed to address the deficiencies noted in the pre-test results at the onset of the first six weeks (Experiment 1) and second six weeks of the first semester of 2016 (Experiment 2). During the implementation of the intervention, the students worked independently, and decided which of the three Thinking Maps the research focused on (Circle Map, Tree Map, Multi-Flow Map) would be the most appropriate to use to analyse, synthesise and evaluate the information provided during the Life Science lectures. Students generated Thinking Maps in class and for homework.

The student generated Thinking Maps were assessed (Table 1 attached) and only descriptive statistics were used to analyse the Thinking Maps.

The assessment of the Thinking Maps revealed that

  • the students became more skilful at thinking using the Thinking Maps and that the purposive practice of constructing Thinking Maps aided the cultivation of the application of the thinking skills on which the study focused
  • the Thinking Maps also enabled the students to organise information more effectively and systematically
  • students’ own attempts to construct Thinking Maps enabled them to increasingly make sense of new information

    The aforementioned argument is based on the fact that the assessment criteria used to assess the Thinking Maps intentionally encouraged and probed the students to construct maps that inter alia complied with fluency, elaboration, originality and flexibility that are important features of critical thinking to solve problems effectively.