Promotion of critical thinking in school physical science.
Stott, Angela Elizabeth.
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This dissertation describes an action research study aimed at promoting critical thinking in learners while learning physical science within the South African national curriculum. The data were primarily qualitative in nature, and were collected primarily through participant observation, composed of audio- and video- recorded lessons, interviews, questionnaires, journal entries and written material. Data collection, analysis and interpretation were done in the inductive, cyclic manner of action research. This process was guided by research questions about task characteristics, their position in the teaching sequence, the role of the learning environment, and the need to adjust tasks to fit the needs of different learners, so as to effectively promote critical thinking. A pragmatic approach was used. It was found that it is possible, using particular strategies and tasks, to promote critical thinking while meeting the curriculum outcomes, although the intense syllabus pressure of the curriculum makes this challenging. Task design characteristics and positioning in the teaching sequence, and conditions of the learning environment, were found to affect a task’s effectiveness at promoting critical thinking. Various teaching strategies can improve attainability by a wider range of learners. An instructional model, The Ladder Approach, emerged as being most likely to promote success. This was found to be successful when evaluated against criteria of active engagement and interest by learners, attainability with effort, display of critical thinking traits, and compatibility with the South African curriculum. In this model, an interesting problem is posed at the start of a section, after which direct instruction and learner engagement with the problem run parallel to one another, linked by scaffolding tools which are engaged in individually and collaboratively.