Highcliffe Learning Hub

Masters - Critical Thinking GMT

The discovery of non-trivial knowledge and insights through the application of appropriate methodological processes to expand the existing body of knowledge and help solve problems of mankind.”

Howard and Sharp 1983           

Improving Teaching through Academic Research

What is it about?

1. Research produces new knowledge.

2. The knowledge should be usable by others.

3. Research employs standard procedures to obtain the evidence.

4. The knowledge produced should be of value.

What isn't it about?

1. It isn’t just finding information off the internet.

2. It isn’t just using other peoples resources.

Why are we doing it?

1. It can help us improve the way we do things

2. It encourages us to look for ways to improve learning and teaching.

3. We can develop our own techniques, rather than relying on found ideas.

Assignment 1: An introduction to research

Our first assignment was focussed on developing skills in conducting academic research. This was a 2 part assignment consisting of a 3000 word review of existing research and a poster presenting our findings. The purpose was to teach us how to identify academic research and identify the different techniques that could be employed within research studies.  

The Written Review

The initial review of research consisted of an in-depth look into 3 articles focussed on critical thinking and the methodology that had been used to conduct the studies.

The Poster

The poster encouraged us to identify the key elements of one of our research articles and present them in a more accessible way.

Assignment 2: Literature Review

This assignment was an 8000 word investigation into existing research related to the topic of higher cognitive thinking and how it can be effectively implemented within the classroom to raise attainment.

The purpose of this assignment was to explore the findings of a wide range of published works and serves as an early literature review for the upcoming dissertation. I read and reviewed 15 articles in depth and cross referenced these with another 5-6 which I had investigated portions of. This gave me a very detailed overview of the work that has come before.  


What did I learn from this?

This assignment allowed me to investigate in depth the wide variety of methods that have been employed by researchers to develop higher cognitive thinking. It gave me a real insight into the different methods researchers have employed to conduct research. It highlighted to me that there is a wide diversity of cognitive skills that often fall under the blanket of critical thinking and higher order thinking, raising questions of what it is we are trying to do within the school. The key findings were that students will rarely develop their thinking skills organically due to cognitive heuristics. In order to see notable improvements they need to be taught how to think more successfully.

Assignment 3: Conducting Initial Research

This 12000 word assignment will focus on conducting initial first hand research within the school. The development of this assignment will serve as preparatory work for the larger dissertation.

This assignment will focus on how we utilise the strategies within the critical thinking tool kit and the ‘six steps’ and make steps to identify the effectiveness of their implementation within the ADT department.

What am I trying to find out:

-What do we do as a school… and what are we trying to do? (The toolkit is identified as ‘critical thinking’ however many of the strategies suggested are better suited to higher order thinking, divergent thinking, Building learning power etc.. Which are not exactly the same thing).

-How effective are the strategies we are employing and how might this be measured? Possibly exploring CASE and CAME.

-Begins to identify whether thinking skills developed within 1 subject area are transferable to others (as some research into Epistemological relativism suggests they are not).

Why just ADT?
-This research conducted within this assignment will serve as a trial for a future, wider investigation across other subject areas.
-The demands for creative thinking and problem solving are at the forefront of every lesson within ADT. Making it ideally placed to test thinking skills.

How will this benefit the school?
-A model will be devised for testing the thinking skills of our students in order to ascertain whether the strategies we have in place are effective and which are the most successful.
-It will begin to identify whether thinking skills are transferable between subject areas within the faculty.
-This will allow us to plan for more effective delivery in the future.

Assignment 4: Final Dissertation

This final 20,000 word dissertation will serve as the final part of the masters course and will involve further research within the school environment.

This assignment will build on the findings of assignment 3 into a whole school perspective (rather than being faculty specific).

Full details of this assignment will be developed further as assignment 3 comes to a close.

What do I intend to find out:
- How successful is the development of thinking skills across the school.
- Are thinking skills transferable between subject areas across the schools or limited to where the gains were initially made.
- Are gains in thinking skills sustained over time or are they lost without ongoing reminders of the skills.


Research is a combination of both experience and reasoning and must be regarded as the most successful approach to the discovery of truth”  

Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2011          

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