Volume 26, Issue 2, Summer 2011
Ann van Heerden
Transforming a Content-driven Chemistry Course to One Focused on Critical Thinking Skills Without Sacrificing Any Content
This article chronicles the process used to transform a content-driven chemistry lab course into a course focused on developing critical-thinking skills. In general, the process described includes the following: 1) determining the needs of the students, 2) understanding the history of the course, 3) identifying some specific critical thinking skills that could be developed in the course, 4) considering how the skills can be taught developmentally, 5) defining criteria for the skills at different levels; 6) revising the lab manual to include explicit critical-thinking definitions, directions and criteria for students, and 7) designing assessments of the students’ critical thinking abilities as defined and practiced in the lab. Six critical thinking skills (testing hypotheses, distinguishing between observations
and inferences, identifying assumptions, drawing conclusions supported by data, evaluating conclusions, and considering alternative explanations of data) were incorporated into the course. The lab manual displaying the results of this transformation is available by request from either the author or the journal editor.