Critical Thinking in Higher Education and Labour Market
Table Of Contents
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- The Concept and Context of Critical Thinking in Higher Education and Labour Market
- 1. The Concept of Critical Thinking: A Question of Definition
- 1.1 The critical thinker
- 1.2 The process of critical thinking
- 1.3 Critical thinking outcomes
- 1.4 On the essence of criticality
- 2. The Relevance of Critical Thinking in Higher Education
- 2.1 Critical thinking and higher education
- 2.2 Education approaches and the institutionalisation of critical thinking in higher education
- 3. The Value of Critical Thinking in the Labour Market
- Analysing the Concept of Critical Thinking in Higher Education: Systematic Literature Review
- 1. Research Methodology
- 1.1. Background for literature review
- 1.2 Selection of journals
- 1.3 Sampling of articles
- 1.4 Inclusion or exclusion criteria
- 1.5 Selection of and access to the literature
- 1.6 Analysis and synthesis of the findings
- 2. Expression of Critical Thinking in the Context of Higher Education: The Diachronic Approach
- 3. Expression of Critical Thinking in the Context of Higher Education: The Synchronic Approach
- Critical Thinking as a Unique Competence: Evidence from Higher Education Studies
- 1. Research Methodology
- 1.1 Research design
- 1.2 Data analysis methods
- 1.3 Reliability and validity
- 2. The Embeddedness of Critical Thinking in Higher Education Curriculum
- 2.1 Research process
- 2.2 Results of content analysis
- 3. Critical Thinking in Higher Education Curriculum: Between Ambition and Reality
- Critical Thinking in Study Process and Labour Market: Phenomenographic Study
- 1. Research Methodology
- 1.1 Research design
- 1.2 Participants
- 1.2.1 University teachers
- 1.2.2 Students
- 1.2.3 Employers
- 1.2.4 Employees
- 1.3 Data collection
- 1.4 Data analysis
- 1.5. Research ethics
- 1.6 Validity and limitations of the study
- 2. Manifestation of Critical Thinking in the Study Process: How Critical Thinking Is Understood
- 2.1 How university teachers understand critical thinking
- 2.1.1 Description of dominant categories of critical thinking
- 2.1.2 Description of non-dominant categories of critical thinking
- 2.1.3 Relationships between categories of description
- 2.1.4 Outcome space
- 2.2 How students understand critical thinking
- 2.2.1 Relationships between the categories
- 2.2.2 Outcome space
- 3. Manifestation of Critical Thinking in the Study Process: How Critical Thinking Is Taught and Learned
- 3.1. How teachers teach critical thinking
- 3.1.1 Dominant categories
- 3.1.2 Non-dominant categories
- 3.1.3 Relationships between the categories described
- 3.1.4 Outcome space
- 3.2. How teachers learn critical thinking
- 3.2.1 Categories
- 3.2.2 Relationships between the categories described
- 3.2.3 Outcome space
- 3.3. How students learn critical thinking
- 3.3.1 Dominant categories
- 3.3.2 Non-dominant categories
- 3.3.3 Relationships between the categories of description
- 3.3.4 Outcome space
- 4. Manifestation of Critical Thinking in the Labour Market: How Critical Thinking Is Understood
- 4.1. How employers understand critical thinking
- 4.1.1 Dominant categories
- 4.1.2 Non-dominant category
- 4.1.3 Relationships between the categories of description
- 4.1.4 Outcome space
- 4.2. How employees understand critical thinking
- 4.2.1 Categories
- 4.2.2 Relationships between the categories of description
- 4.2.3 Outcome space
- 5. Manifestation of Critical Thinking in the Labour Market: How Critical Thinking Is Encouraged and Experienced
- 5.1. How employers encourage critical thinking in employees
- 5.1.1 Dominant categories
- 5.1.2 Non-dominant categories
- 5.1.3 Relationships between the categories of description
- 5.1.4 Outcome space
- 5.2. How employees experience critical thinking
- 5.2.1 Dominant categories
- 5.2.2 Non-dominant category
- 5.2.3 Relationships between the categories of description
- 5.2.4 Outcome space
- Critical Thinking Competence in Study Process and Labour Market: A Quantitative Study
- 1. Research Methodology
- 1.1 Data collection method and instrument
- 1.2 Construction of the research instrument
- 1.3 Validation of the research instrument
- 1.4 Methods for statistical analysis of the research data
- 1.5 Selection, sampling and characteristics of the respondents
- 1.6 Research ethics
- 1.7 Study limitations
- 2. Attitude of Teachers and Students Towards Critical Thinking
- 2.1 Definition of critical thinking
- 2.2 Manifestation and development of critical thinking
- 2.3 Development of critical thinking skills
- 2.4 Development of critical thinking dispositions
- 2.5 The importance of critical thinking skills in the modern labour market
- 2.6 The importance of critical thinking dispositions in the modern labour market
- 2.7 Opportunities for developing critical thinking
- 2.8 The need to improve critical thinking skills
- 2.9 Attitude regarding who is responsible for developing critical thinking
- 3. Attitude of Employers and Employees Towards Critical Thinking
- 3.1 Definition of critical thinking
- 3.2 Manifestation and development of critical thinking
- 3.3 The importance of critical thinking skills in the modern labour market
- 3.4 The importance of critical thinking dispositions in the modern labour market
- 3.5 Manifestation of critical thinking in the professional activities of employees
- 3.6. The need to improve critical thinking skills
- 3.7 The need to improve critical thinking dispositions
- 3.8 Attitude regarding who is responsible for developing critical thinking
- 4. Comparison of the Manifestation of Critical Thinking in Higher Education and in the Labour Market
- 4.1 Attitude to the conception of critical thinking
- 4.2 Attitude towards critical thinking and the development of critical thinking
- 4.3 Attitude towards the importance of critical thinking skills in the modern labour market
- 4.4 Attitude to the importance of improving the constituents of critical thinking skills in the modern labour market
- 5. The Factorial Structure of Critical Thinking Skills Questionnaires
- 5.1 The strategy of confirmatory factor analysis
- 5.2 Factorial structure of the critical thinking skills questionnaire targeting critical thinking skills demanded in the labour market and its invariance in teacher and student samples.
- 5.3 Factorial structure of the critical thinking skills questionnaire targeting critical thinking skills mostly developed by academic staff and its invariance in teacher and student samples
- 5.4 Associations between critical thinking skills demanded in the labour market and critical thinking skills mostly developed by academic staff
- 5.5 Factor structure of Attitudes Towards Critical Thinking Scale
- 5.6 Associations between rigidity and elasticity of critical thinking conception and teaching of critical thinking skills in teacher sample.
- 5.7 Factorial structure of the questionnaire targeting dispositions of critical thinking mostly developed by academic staff and most demanded in the labour market
- Linking Critical Thinking Development in Higher Education and Demand in Labour Market
- 1. Insights about Critical Thinking in Study Process
- 1.1 How teachers and students understand critical thinking
- 1.2 The attitude of teachers and students to the development of critical thinking and how teachers teach and students learn critical thinking
- 1.3 How teachers and students improve critical thinking
- 1.4 Who is responsible for developing critical thinking
- 1.5 Why critical thinking is important for the modern labour market
- 2. Insights about Critical Thinking in the Labour Market
- 2.1 How employers and employees understand critical thinking
- 2.2 The importance of critical thinking skills and dispositions in the labour market and the need for improvement
- 2.3 How employers encourage, and employees experience critical thinking
- 2.4 Responsibility for developing a person’s critical thinking
- Conclusions and Recommendations for Higher Education
- List of Tables
- List of Figures
Critical thinking is an ability that is highlighted in strategic national documents, education and labour market research. Critical thinking is recognised as one of the tools for the formation and development of human and social capital, and an important global labour market competence. Critical thinking is used as a strong argument in developing missions of higher education institutions, implementing learning aims, and evaluating learning outcomes, staff abilities, organisational success and political decisions.
Critical thinking is often referred to as a higher education ideal – an aspiration which the efforts of the academic community must be directed toward. This aspiration is described as the ability of graduates to become critically thinking practitioners who are able to build a life and successfully collaborate with others in solving pressing problems, making important decisions, and contributing to the well-being of society as a whole. Researchers studying the conception and expression of critical thinking in higher education and/or the study process point to a certain discrepancy between the formulation of this ideal as an aspiration and its implementation in practice. This discrepancy could be explained by three interrelated reasons. First is the vagueness of the conception of critical thinking. It is either given many intertwined meanings (Sigurðsson, 2017) or it is reduced to a person’s cognitive abilities, logical reasoning and the conclusions drawn from them, which testifies to an immature (Turner, 2005) and rather limited attitude (Walkner and Finney, 1999) towards the phenomenon of critical thinking. The second reason for the discrepancy is a lack of communication and cooperation at the higher education institution in efforts to develop critical thinking. If there is disagreement at the institutional level on what is considered critical thinking in a specifically defined context, it is unclear what critical thinking to teach and how to teach it (Noddings, 2017). There is a risk of a real deviation between programme objectives, curriculum and its implementation, the goals of teachers, and the expectations of students. The lack of naming the phenomenon and highlighting its importance not only in official rhetoric, but also in real practice, makes mutual communication very difficult not only at the institutional level, but at other levels as well – education policy, education sciences and academic practice, and education and labour market institutions. This is the third reason for the discrepancy between critical thinking as an aspiration and its implementation. One might consider whether critical thinking, being such a complex and not entirely tangible phenomenon, can go beyond the boundaries of an aspiration and become a reality of the living world at all. However, this would already be a philosophical discussion. There is ample evidence that this phenomenon is no longer the subject of philosophical reasoning alone. Critical thinking is not only clearly embedded in education policy documents (European Commission 2016; OECD, 2018) – it also thrives in educational practice (OECD 2015; 2016). One can only question what ←17 | 18→critical thinking is, and what meaning and value is given to it at what level and to what extent. Whether it is treated as a well-trained mind, a person’s accumulated capital, or something else.
In 2009, UNESCO declared that the development of critical thinking and ethical thinking in graduates is becoming an objective of global higher education (UNESCO, 2009). According to Soufi and See (2019), since 2011, the development of critical thinking has become one of the most important objectives of undergraduate studies in Europe, and in the United States, critical thinking has been identified as one of the key outcomes of higher education. The European Higher Education Area (2012) has emphasised that critical thinking is an important part of student-centred teaching at many universities. The European Commission aims to equip all students with basic and professional skills so that they can establish themselves in the labour market after graduation (Council of the European Union, 2018). The document highlights critical thinking as one of the key competences and treats it as an ability manifested in other competences, such as literacy or digital competence (Council of the European Union, 2018). Discussions between university representatives (OECD, 2016) reveal that: (1) there is no clear agreement on the definition of ‘critical thinking’ – it is doubtful whether a consensus can be reached at all in the presence of cultural differences; (2) the assessment of critical thinking cannot be limited to one or another existing instrument – the assessment tools chosen must be appropriate for the specific context and needs; (3) higher education institutions give insufficient attention to the development of this skill; (4) teachers lack the knowledge and skills to develop critical thinking, so attention must be given to improving their pedagogical competencies. The International Bureau of Education (2019), in cooperation with social partners in the business, governmental and non-governmental sectors, identifies critical thinking as one of the key skills to be included in higher education curricula, and the European Commission (2020) identifies critical thinking as one of the student competencies that determines their success after graduation.
Critical thinking has been more than just a part of academic rhetoric and educational practice for some time now. The voice of employers is increasingly being heard, calling for attention to be paid to the importance of critical thinking skills in the labour market, as well as in the rapidly changing world of information overload and change in general. Critical thinking is considered to be one of the key 21st century skills relevant to the labour market (Rave, Guerrero and Morales, 2020; Whiting, 2020). Critical thinking is used as an important argument in analysing and evaluating employee abilities and organisational culture (Brown, 2011; World Economic Forum, 2018). It is thought that critical thinking, combined with skills such as collaboration, problem solving, leadership, creativity and self-discipline, will help employees function effectively in the organisation of today (European Commission, 2012b; Council of the European Union, 2018) and be competitive in the 21st-century labour market (Habets, Stoffers, Van der Heijden and Peters, 2020).
The labour market is characterised by uncertainty and rapid change, and this requires new competencies, the application of technology, continuous market ←18 | 19→monitoring and a focus on change. Research shows that employers have high expectations for critical thinking. According to employers, critical thinking creates preconditions for a person to constantly improve for the purpose of organisational change (Felix, 2016), encourages constant response to the challenges of the changing environment and enables employees to look for the best solutions for themselves, their customers and the organisation (Indrašienė et al., 2019), and enables employees to have self-confidence, as professionals, in dealing with difficult situations and raising questions in search of new, innovative solutions (Jiang, Gao and Yang, 2018). And not only so that employees can perform their direct functions well, but also so that they are able to raise substantiated, critical questions that lead to fair and better solutions, and know how to reflect on their own activities and those of others, correct mistakes, and perceive the importance of their personal contribution to the development of the organisation and society as a whole (Penkauskienė, Railienė and Cruz, 2019).
The World Economic Forum (2020) has ranked the most important skills in the labour market of tomorrow. Critical thinking is ranked fourth, while analytical thinking and innovation are ranked first and complex problem-solving are ranked third. The report emphasises that this demand may not be met due to the large gap between the manifestation of these abilities in practice and their declared development in the formal education system. The relevance of critical thinking skills in the labour market and education systems has become evident due to public social discourse. Researchers (Pithers and Soden, 2000; Burbach, Matkin and Fritz, 2004; Andrews and Higson, 2008) have long questioned the coherence between theory and practice in the development of critical thinking. The question is raised as to whether what is written in scientific literature about fostering and evaluating critical thinking is not just scientific wisdom without any real application (Facione, 2013), and whether existing assessment instruments are sufficient in practice (Davies, 2015; Macpherson and Owen, 2010; Schendel, 2016).
This responds to the European Commission’s Communication on European Higher Education in the World (2013) and the OECD recommendations (2015) on the need to review study programmes and teaching methods that develop young people’s critical thinking in a more targeted and effective way so as to achieve sustainable learning outcomes that are applicable in practice. These attitudes are also confirmed by research outcomes (Lai, 2011; Arum and Roksa, 2011; Ennis, 2016) arguing that the development of critical thinking at institutions of higher education does not have sufficient evidence of its successful application in practice, and that higher education institutions lack the effective programmes, teacher qualification and conducive academic environment needed to develop critical thinking (Abrami et al., 2015).
It is worth noting that in the empirical part of the monograph, the manifestation of critical thinking in higher education and the labour market first and foremost reflects the cultural context of the particular country (the study programmes analysed are that of Lithuanian institutions of higher education, and the qualitative and quantitative research participants are teachers and students at higher ←19 | 20→education institutions in Lithuania as well as employers and employees working at companies operating in Lithuania). However, the research findings are discussed in the context of global research. Therefore, the introduction should give at least a brief presentation of the Lithuanian higher education system and research on the development of critical thinking at Lithuanian higher education institutions.
Lithuania has a long tradition of elite higher education. The Republic of Lithuania Law on Higher Education and Research (2009) states that the mission of higher education and research is to help ensure the country’s public, cultural and economic prosperity, provide support and impetus for a full life of every citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, and satisfy the natural thirst for knowledge. Lithuanian higher education is an active player in the international higher education and research. The country has a binary system of higher education consisting of university and non-university higher education institutions. In 2020, higher education was provided in Lithuania by 40 educational institutions: 18 universities and 22 colleges. Lithuanian higher education quality standards are set by Lithuanian and international higher education documents and regulations. The higher education quality system is developed and improved with regard to global and European guidelines and recommendations for quality assurance in higher education (Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, 2015). The Lithuanian higher education and research policy makes sure that the higher education and research system is in line with the needs of society and the economy, and supports its openness and integration into the international research and higher education space.
In order for Lithuania to remain competitive, the professional competencies being developed must be relevant in the current and future labour market. The Lithuanian labour market faces similar demands in terms of employee abilities as all EU countries do. There is a growing need for highly qualified specialists who are able to act and create quickly and efficiently in changing market situations, develop high value-added products, and implement innovations (Valavičienė, 2015). Therefore, the expectations of Lithuanian employers correlate with the expectations of employers in other European countries (Penkauskienė, Railienė and Cruz, 2019).
The importance of critical thinking skills is noted in the National Progress Strategy ‘Lithuania 2030’ (2012), which states that imagination, creativity and critical thinking are considered important national resources. However, this strategy also points out that the current education system devotes insufficient attention to strengthening critical thinking skills not only in higher education, but in general education as well. This is in line with the provisions of the Good School Concept (2015), which note that critical, analytical and creative thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and initiative and sociality are becoming more valuable than the information stored in memory.
Lithuanian researchers are also interested in the issue of critical thinking. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that research on critical thinking has only been conducted here since 2000 and is not extensive. Issues of the development of ←20 | 21→critical thinking skills related to the general education school have been analysed to a greater extent. However, there is very little research about the development of critical thinking at Lithuanian higher education institutions, revealing effective tools, methods and results that testify to their further application in practice. The works of Rimienė (1998; 2006; 2013) investigating students’ cognitive abilities and dispositions are worth singling out. Lithuanian educators have researched critical thinking from the aspects of collaborative learning (Klimovienė, Urbonienė and Barzdžiukienė, 2006), reflective learning (Balčiūnienė, 2006) and evaluation of a specific study subject or module (Daukilas, 2006; Kriaučiūnienė, 2010; Tolutienė, 2010). Exploratory analysis of the situation allows to state that critical thinking is studied in a fragmented and inconsistent manner (Indrašienė, Penkauskienė and Railienė, 2017) and presupposes the following conclusions: (a) the development of critical thinking has been studied in more detail in general education than in higher education; (b) most scientific publications are limited to general theoretical reasoning rather than empirical material; (c) the publications based on empirical research are fragmentary and do not provide a picture of the effectiveness of critical thinking development methods and the sustainability of results. This preliminary overview cannot be compared to an in-depth analysis, so consistent research based on specific quality indicators was and is needed.
The emphasis on critical thinking in international and national documents, the growing attention of global economic and labour organisations, the problem of defining the concept of critical thinking, and the fragmented research all contributed to the idea of the ‘Critical Thinking in Higher Education: The Study and Labour Market Perspective’ research project. The objective of this project is to research the correspondence of higher education studies to the need for critical thinking expressed by the labour market. The scope of the study is expressed in the following problematic questions:
- • What is considered critical thinking in the contexts of higher education and the labour market? What are the constituents of the conception of critical thinking?
- • How is critical thinking understood (what real significance do higher education and labour market participants attach to it) and manifested in higher education studies and the labour market?
- • What are the links between the development of critical thinking competence in higher education and the needs of the labour market?
- • What should the development of critical thinking look like in higher education in order to reach an agreement on the educational significance and practical value of critical thinking?
The research methodology is based on the principle of triangulation, by combining different methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation, where the data complement each other and thus neutralise and reduce the deviation and errors that result from using only one research method (Creswell, 2014). Taking advantage of the benefits of quantitative and qualitative research (Patton, 2014; Neuendorf, 2017; Creswell, 2018; Abib and Hoppen, 2019), the monograph presents ←21 | 22→four closely related studies: a systematic literature review, quantitative and qualitative content analyses of Lithuanian higher education study programme and course descriptions, a phenomenographic study of teachers, students, employers and employees, and a representative survey of these groups.
The systematic literature review was used to study of the theoretical conception of critical thinking. The selection process consisted of two stages: the selection of scientific journals and the selection of scientific articles. The scientific journals were selected from the Clarivate Analytics Journal Citation Reports database using two keywords: education and educational. During the selection, 342 journals meeting the criteria were found, which were then grouped according to four topics (Education & Educational Research; Education, Scientific Disciplines; Education, Special; and Psychology, Educational) and quartiles (Q1–Q4). Sampling of the scientific articles within the selected journals was performed in the EBSCOhost database using the following selection criteria: ISSN of the particular journal; keyword critical thinking in the ‘Subject terms’ field; full text; 1997–2017 period; English language. All 804 articles found were screened using the exclusion criteria, leaving 303 texts in the final list.
In order to reveal the expression of critical thinking in higher education, an analysis of all of the country’s higher education study programme and course descriptions was performed. The study used mixed methods, including quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation, and was based on the facilitation approach. The study consisted of four sequentially interrelated stages. In the first stage, 754 study programme descriptions were analysed. The second stage involved quantitative content analysis of the descriptions of 266 study programmes that mention the concept of critical thinking. The third stage consisted of quantitative content analysis of the seven study programme and course descriptions purposefully selected from various study fields. In the fourth stage, qualitative content analysis of the same seven study programme course descriptions was carried out.
Phenomenography was chosen as the main methodological approach to research aspects of the conception and constituents of critical thinking as perceived by representatives of higher education and the labour market. The study used purposeful sampling to select participants according to the principle of heterogeneity. Interviews were conducted with 79 research participants: 18 teachers, 16 students, 28 employers and 17 employees. For the data collection, the semi-structured interview method was chosen, which ensured the clearness of purpose of the research, and provided flexibility to present the main and follow-up questions to the research participants, respond to the course of the actual interview, and focus on the relationship between the research participant and the research phenomenon rather than on the phenomenon itself. The analysis of qualitative data consisted of the following stages: repeated reading of the text, marking the parts of the text which were relevant to the interview questions, preparation of initial descriptions, grouping the data into categories based on similarities and differences, description of categories, distinction between dominant and non-dominant categories, ←22 | 23→assigning categories to dimensions/highlighting dimensions in relation to the categories, and creating a structural picture of the manifestation of the phenomenon in the outcome space.
In order to reveal the links between critical thinking in higher education and in the labour market, a quantitative study was conducted using the written survey method. The chosen data collection method made it possible to compare the opinions of the teachers and students, employers and employees, and to reveal the links between the study groups. In order for the sample to be representative of the entire statistical population, a multistage probability sampling method was used, by surveying four groups of respondents: teachers, students, employers and employees from all regions of Lithuania. A total of 152 teachers, 1,512 students, 528 employers and 2,012 employees participated in the research. In the questionnaire, all four groups were presented with blocks of questions about the perception of critical thinking, the importance of critical thinking skills, and the importance of critical thinking dispositions. Descriptive and inferential statistical methods were used for data analysis.
All four studies followed research ethics rules, identified research limitations, and provided guidelines for further research. Efforts were also made to ensure the reliability and validity of the data in these studies.
The scientific/practical value of the monograph is based on the fact that:
- • the conception of critical thinking is revealed through a systematic analysis of scientific literature published over the course of two decades;
- • a detailed analysis of study programme and course descriptions in various study fields is carried out from the aspect of critical thinking development;
- • the authentic attitudes of teachers, students, employers and employees towards critical thinking is revealed;
- • the coherence of the development of critical thinking in higher education with the practical application of critical thinking skills in work activities is evaluated using mixed method research;
- • the multifaceted approaches and methods of critical thinking research are highlighted.
The monograph consists of six chapters. The first chapter is devoted to discussion of the conception of critical thinking. It raises the question of the definition of the conception of critical thinking. A variety of attitudes, research approaches and traditions are presented. Critical thinking is described as the entirety of a person’s qualities, thought processes and results. Attention is drawn to the conceptions of critical thinking and criticality as complementary and intertwined meanings. This chapter also raises the question of the value of critical thinking to the individual, interpersonal relationships and society. It talks about the impact of critical thinking and its consequences for the individual and society, and highlights the role of higher education and the influence of the cultural context on the successful development of critical thinking. The role of critical thinking in the modern labour market is also highlighted, revealing the importance of critical thinking skills for ←23 | 24→human resource management and organisational efficiency, and pointing out the relationship between personal success driven by critical thinking and the benefit to the organisation.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
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- Open Access
- Publication date
- 2021 (September)
- Critical thinking critical thinking teaching and learning critical thinking skills and dispositions higher education labour market student university teacher employee employer study programme systematic literature review phenomenography mix research method
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 524 pp., 40 fig. b/w, 45 tables.