Evaluating Proposed Changes to the Level 2 BTEC ICT Curriculum: Improving the development of critical thinking skills in students Abstract
Our society is changing at a faster pace than ever before, principally as a result of the increasing use of information technology in our daily lives (Nemcik, 2011). Many governments (OECD, 2004; European Commission, 2009) have recognised the part that critical thinking skills play in making individuals reflexive and adaptable to this constant change. Vocational qualifications have an important part to play in developing 14 – 19 year olds’ critical thinking skills and the BTEC is a popular choice in schools and further education colleges, with over 780 providers in the UK (Alps, 2012). However, widespread change is filtering through all BTEC courses, partly as a consequence of the findings of the Wolf Report (2011). It is the level 2 BTEC First in ICT that is the focus of this paper: to assess whether the changes introduced as a direct result of the findings of the Wolf Report provide better or worse opportunities for developing students’ critical thinking skills.
What is “Critical Thinking”?
Why is Critical Thinking Important?
What are BTECs and Why are they Changing?
Does the Current BTEC First ICT Curriculum Facilitate Critical Thinking?
Personal Learning and Thinking Skills
Allocation for Critical Thinking in the new BTEC Level 2 ICT Curriculum
Reduction in Summative Assessment Attempts
Move away from Personal Thinking and Learning Skills
Training for Teachers
Potential Further Research
Appendix : BTEC Level 2 ICT Personal, Thinking and Learning Skills (PLTS)
In “Brave New World Revisited” (1958; Chapter XI paragraph 8), Aldous Huxley commented:
“…children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements.”
Although Huxley was stating his own personal view of 1950s education in relation to points made in his fictional novel “Brave New World”, faint echoes of the above refrain have continued to sound along political and educational hallways worldwide, with recent comments in the press lamenting young school leavers’ lack of critical thinking skills (Vedder, 2011; Paton, 2012; Wallace, 2010; McDonnell et al, 2011) and indicating a desire to facilitate the learning of critical thinking skills for children and youth (Unicef, 2013; Simon, 2012).
In this paper, I aim to review the key definitions of critical thinking and briefly discuss why critical thinking is important to BTEC ICT students. I will then compare critical thinking skill allocations between the existing BTEC Level 2 ICT curriculum and the new curriculum which comes into force in 2014, with the aim of providing some insight for curriculum policy makers at EdExcel regarding the future for critical thinking skills in the BTEC ICT curriculum.
What is “Critical Thinking”?
Critical thinking comprises taking a logical problem-solving approach: assessing and prioritising key points within their context, making choices then using reflection on the process and consequences to improve the choice. It is not a new subject: it has its roots in Socratic learning and elements of critical thinking theory were touched upon by Dewey at the turn of the 20th century. There are a number of tests and definitions of critical thinking, some of them extremely complicated. For example, Ennis (1987) developed a taxonomy of critical thinking skills which contained over 100 subcategories. For ease of use in the classroom, I have adopted the definition in the Delphi Report (Facione et al, 1990). Facione’s panel of experts concluded that critical thinking consists of the following steps (although these may not necessarily be undertaken in a linear...
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