Are Information Systems Majors Critical Thinkers?
As in most colleges, the Lutgert College of Business (LCOB) has an overall learning goal that business graduates will be able to think critically, and faculty incorporate pedagogy and assignments to help students learn to think critically. Using the Business Critical Thinking Skills Test (Insight Assessment), we found all senior business majors to have very good critical thinking ability. As information systems faculty, we were please to find that information systems majors had the highest critical thinking scores in the college, significantly higher than several majors.
We also had some not-so great results. We tested both sophomores and seniors and found there was no difference in critical thinking skills. Although research on the impact of college on critical thinking skills is inconclusive, we had hoped critical thinking skills would improve.
This led us to examine the literature on teaching critical thinking skills as well as how they are taught in the LCOB. There are essentially three approaches to teaching critical thinking:
- Critical thinking is explicitly taught as a separate module or course, based on the belief that critical thinking skills are easily transferred across disciplines;
- Critical thinking concepts are explicitly taught, but integrated into a particular discipline or subject (infusion), based on the belief that critical thinking skills are intertwined with domain knowledge, and not transferrable across disciplines;
- Critical thinking is taught within a specific discipline, but critical thinking principles are not made explicit (immersion). Assignments & pedagogy believed to improve critical thinking skills are used (e.g. case studies, PBL, group discussion, peer feedback) is used.
As information systems faculty, we were please to find that information systems majors had the highest critical thinking scores in the college, significantly higher than several majors.
And of course, the methods can also be combined. The immersion approach has been found to be the most used approach across all disciplines and appears to be the most used in the LCOB – but past research, though inconclusive, shows it may be the least effective (Abrami et al., 2008). This may explain why critical thinking did not improve between sophomore and senior years. This is leading us to examine the nature of critical thinking in our discipline, as well as how we teach it.
Full paper: Wynekoop, J. & Nakatani, K. (2021). Are information systems majors critical thinkers? Issues in Information Systems, 22(3), 160-172.