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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The utilization of critical thinking "tools" in social studies by grade 9 girls Moore, Deirdre Jane


This qualitative study describes, interprets and offers an evaluation of how 13 and 14 year-old girls utilize the critical thinking 'tools' of the conception of critical thinking put forward by Sharon Bailin, Roland Case, Jerrold Coombs and Le Roi Daniels in 1993. Tools include background knowledge, strategies, concepts, criteria for judgement, and attitudes. Eight girls enrolled in grade 9 social studies were observed, audiotaped and videotaped while completing a critical challenge prior to and after a month long social studies unit on the Industrial Revolution which involved instruction in critical thinking. The girls were of a variety of backgrounds, and were receiving between C+ and A letter grades in their social studies course. The critical challenges required the participants to write fairminded accounts of particular historical topics; the first challenge focussed on the French Revolution, while the second topic centred on the Industrial Revolution. Each girl was interviewed regarding her experiences. Results demonstrate that the conception is applicable to the utilization of the tools of critical thinking by girls. Secondly, findings show that there is no set procedure or apparent order, nor specific combinations of tools utilized in order to complete critical challenges. Background knowledge is used in an integrated fashion with all of the other thinking tools. The research findings also suggest that the attitudes explicated in the conception are conducive to critical thinking; these attitudes were not applied consistently or consciously by the participants. The study shows that criteria for judgement are the tools which are the least understood and utilized by the girls in their critical thinking. The girls' thinking demonstrated some 'feminine' elements of thinking. In addition, some evidence pointed to the level of confidence of the girls playing a role in the direction and depth of their thinking. These findings can be used to guide teachers and educational policymakers in the creation of subject curricula, teaching resources, classroom experiences, and assessment measures.

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