Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) is a “Special Cooperative
Project on Critical Thinking through Technology” funded by U.S. Department of Education
(http://www.ed.gov/), Award Number: P120A110105.
The specific science needs of the partnering institutions are addressed through the instruction and guidance of participating faculty members in Critical Thinking through Technology (CTTT) methodology and curriculum development activities based on this methodology.
From 2001-2007, ECSU received funding for two institutional grants from the U.S. Department of Education Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) to develop strategies for Â teaching entry-level courses in science, mathematics and technology by emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills and by using computer and other technologies. During the first funded project period, ECSU trained science/mathematics faculty teaching entry-level courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, industrial technology, mathematics, psychology, statistics and sociology. Through workshop activities, ECSU invented/developed the concept of "CTTT" along with a tested theoretical construct for using this concept for effectively teaching entry-level science, mathematics and technology courses. Workshop participants developed, tested and retested manuals for teaching entry-level science, mathematics and technology courses by using "Critical thinking though Technology" strategies. Through experimentation, the Critical Thinking group developed an approach that provided science instructors with strategies to use technologies as a vehicle for promoting critical thinking skills in a science classroom.
During the second project period, ECSU trained 24 faculty members from 12 partnering MSEIP institutions in the use of CTTT methodology for teaching entry-level science courses, developing CTTT course materials, designing CTTT instruction, and establishing individual CTTT centers at respective campuses. In carrying out activities of both project periods, underlying assumptions of strategies were developed by the ECSU Critical Thinking Group:
- Critical Thinking skills can be taught in a science classroom to students who come to college with less than desired preparation for learning science and mathematics. Moreover, computers and other technologies, commonly available in an undergraduate institution, are excellent vehicles for achieving this objective. Access to computers is very easily available to any student in any undergraduate institution. In addition, a large number of students secure their own laptops on account of falling prices. This technology, coupled with instructor-developed curricular materials, can be successfully used in teaching critical thinking skills.
- Students' memorization of scientific laws, theories and procedures without the use of critical thinking skills leads to a minimal retention of scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge retained by students does not necessarily enable them to effectively learn another science course. In other words, the transfer effect of scientific knowledge gained through memorization without the application of critical thinking skills is very minimal.
- Development of critical thinking skills is not a quick fix situation. It requires continuous effort on the part of the science faculty to illicit critical thinking from a student who is programmed to memorize science for passing a course. Moreover, some science faculty are so absorbed and engrossed in their specialized area, that they have no time to determine whether their efforts at teaching are properly directed or are producing the desired results.
- Science faculty, particularly those teaching students who are not so well prepared, must be trained and periodically re-visit their teaching methodologies, to insure that students are not only imparted the knowledge, but also instilled with the necessary skills and understanding to think analytically, critically and creatively.
Currently, collaborating partners from 11 universities and colleges in North Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, Virginia, New York and Missouri actively engaged in discussions, presentations and workshop sessions that focused on 21st century teaching skills, problem-based learning, critical thinking strategies, and Smart classroom training. The workshop activities were structured to build knowledge of critical thinking and to design effective instructional strategies and mentoring opportunities for faculty teaching in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) discipline.