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Critical thinking depends on whom you live with

Title: Critical thinking depends on whom you live with
Date/time: Thur. 11 June 2015.   Session: 9.4.3, 10:50am - 11:10am
Occasion: Enhancement and innovation in Higher Education conference. 9-11 June 2015.
Place: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow, G3 8QT (north bank of the Clyde, opposite the BBC)
How to get there: Location page and map

Luke Timmons,   former student of School of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.
Steve Draper,   School of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

Slides: PDF
Handout: PDF file
Related material:


A study which measured undergraduates' general critical thinking skill, using Ennis' test, explored correlations of these test scores with demographic data. The most statistically significant associations were not with commuting distance or closeness to campus, but with whom the student lived. Best average scores were for students living with friends; next were for those living with parents; lowest were for living alone or with others who were not friends.

An interpretation of this is that critical thinking depends upon practice at discussion which is based upon giving and assessing reasons; and furthermore that it is opportunity for informal discussion and not formal education which is the most important factor for this. No significant association of critical thinking with discipline was found, as would be the case if the differences in teaching-led demands for discussion were the important variable (either due to disciplinary differences, or to teaching habits in different departments).

A further implication could be that the most important feature of the transition from school to Higher Education is whom you live with, and that this could be the biggest drawback to online and distance education. It also suggests that in general, staff and students are equally oblivious to the key educational value of discussion; or critical thinking skill would not depend upon whom you live with but instead on deliberately arranged discussion. The interesting, but unplanned, finding in this study stemmed from using an established measure of critical thinking: this makes it an important candidate for evidencing the impact of enhancements in higher education.

In order to book online or obtain further information about the conference, please visit Enhancement and innovation in Higher Education.

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