Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work

This book reports on studies contextualised within the curriculum development of General Studies in primary education and Liberal Studies in secondary education in Hong Kong. Both areas call for a learning environment that is conducive to the use of collaborative group work to foster critical thinking. By employing a mixed-methods approach and undertaking a teaching intervention based on Anderson et al.’s (2001) study, the book evaluates the effectiveness of group work in learners’ development of critical thinking skills and mindsets. In addition, it examines the influence of Chinese culture on the practice of group work. Findings from primary and secondary classrooms are subjected to a comparative analysis, yielding valuable insights into the relevance of group work for promoting critical thinking.


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Dennis Chun-Lok Fung  Tim Weijun Liang

Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work Insights from Hong Kong

Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work

Dennis Chun-Lok Fung Tim Weijun Liang •

Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work Insights from Hong Kong

123

Dennis Chun-Lok Fung The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Tim Weijun Liang The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong, Hong Kong

ISBN 978-981-13-2410-9 ISBN 978-981-13-2411-6 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2411-6

(eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2018953714 © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore

Preface

This book was written for scholars of education and curriculum policy as well as educational practitioners in both local and global contexts. Specifically, with the dual goal of examining both the academic and attitudinal facets of critical thinking, we aim to share our significant empirical findings with international scholars who are keen to explore the effectiveness of group work in fostering critical thinking in Hong Kong and beyond. Informed by the findings from both the primary and secondary classrooms, we hope to provide pedagogical implications with a view to helping frontline teachers to translate the curriculum goal of nurturing critical thinkers into classroom practice. We also strive to shed light on the implementation of group work strategies in line with the Hong Kong government’s Small-Class Teaching Initiative, since our research not only strengthens the theoretical and practical roots of group work, but also provides examples of good classroom practices of group work. Despite group work and critical thinking being emphasised as important educational goals in Hong Kong and other educational settings, their potential is comparatively unrealised in school practice and is even far from being maximised. In response to the urgent need for practical and strategic models of teaching critical thinking with the aid of group work in classrooms, we believe that this book weaves these two notions together by exploring their potential relationship and group work’s affordances for critical-thinking development in particular. Hong Kong

Dennis Chun-Lok Fung Tim Weijun Liang

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Contents

1 Has Critical Thinking Been Fruitfully Married to Group Work in Hong Kong? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.1 Background: Education Reform and Small-Class Teaching Policy in Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.2 Curriculum Development in Primary and Secondary Schools in Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3 Scenario of General Studies and Liberal Studies . . . . . . . . . 1.4 Paradigm Shift: Group Work as a New Pedagogical Approach in Hong Kong Classrooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.5 The Buzzword of ‘Critical Thinking’ and the Present Study 1.6 Significance and Urgency of Bridging Critical Thinking and Group Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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2 The Research on Group Work, Critical Thinking and Confucian Heritage Culture: What Does a Thematic Review Tell Us? . . . . . 2.1 Review of Collaborative Group Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.1 The Nature of Group Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.2 The Theoretical Roots of Group Work . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.3 Study of Group Work in Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.1.4 Knowledge Gap and Proposed Research Questions . . . 2.2 Review of Critical-Thinking Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.1 Definition of Critical Thinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.2 Teaching of Critical Thinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.3 Critical Thinking in Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.4 Approaches to Teaching Critical Thinking . . . . . . . . . .

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Review of the Influence of Confucian Heritage Culture on Classroom Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.1 Conceptualisation of Learning in Confucian Heritage Cultures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.2 The Use of Group Work in Confucian Heritage Cultures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.3.3 Learners from Confucian Heritage Cultures . . . . . . . . 2.3.4 Problematising Cultural Influences on Student Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4 Conceptual Framework and the Present Study . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.1 Teaching Intervention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.4.2 Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3 Research Design: A Mixed Methods Approach with a Three-Theme Investigation and Pedagogical Intervention 3.1 Statement and Significance of the Research Questions . 3.2 Research Design Underpinnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.1 Theoretical Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2.2 Epistemology and Theoretical Perspectives . . . . 3.3 Research Design and Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3.1 Research Design: Three-Theme Investigation . . . 3.3.2 Methodology: Mixed Methods Approach . . . . . . 3.4 Quasi-experimental Settings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.5 Teaching Interventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6 Research Domains, Methods and Data Collection . . . . . 3.6.1 Theme 1: Effectiveness in Students’ Academic Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6.2 Theme 2: Effectiveness in Students’ Attitudinal Aspects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6.3 Theme 3: Influence of Chinese Culture on Group Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.7 Training Workshop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.8 Pilot Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9 Main Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9.1 Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9.2 Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9.3 Data Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.10 Ethical Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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4 How Effective Is Group Work in Improving Students’ Academic Performance? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.1 TCTS-PS in the Main Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 Students’ Dialogue and Interaction in the Liberal Studies Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.1 Interrater Reliability of Coding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2.2 Results of Students’ Dialogue and Interaction . . . 4.2.3 Analysis of the Students’ Written Work . . . . . . . 4.3 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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5 How Effective Is Group Work in Improving the Attitudinal Aspects of Student Learning? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1 Results of Critical-Thinking Dispositions in the Main Study 5.1.1 Results for CCTDI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5.1.2 Results of the Questionnaire-Based Survey . . . . . . . 5.2 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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6 How Does Chinese Culture Exert an Influence on Group Work? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1 ‘Chinese Ground Rules’ Governing Group Work . . . . 6.2 Results of In-Depth Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.1 Interviews with Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.2.2 Interviews with Teachers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.3 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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7 Summary, Concluding Remarks and the Way Forward . 7.1 Summary of the Reported Study . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2 Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.1 Hypothesis One . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.2 Hypothesis Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.3 Hypothesis Three . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.4 Hypothesis Four . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.2.5 Cultural Consideration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.3 Implications for Teaching Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.4 Validity, Reliability and Research Limitations . . . . . 7.5 Recommendations for Future Research . . . . . . . . . . . References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Chapter 1

Has Critical Thinking Been Fruitfully Married to Group Work in Hong Kong?

Abstract This chapter comprises six sections. It begins with a description of the education reform implemented in Hong Kong in the early 2000s, in which group work was suggested to play a significant role in classroom instruction. The second section traces the developmental trajectory of the Hong Kong school curriculum, as illustrated by the emergence of General Studies and Liberal Studies in primary and secondary schools. The third section describes the two subjects’ curriculum frameworks and intended goals, which highlight the importance of both group work and critical thinking. The fourth section provides an overview of the controversial issues surrounding critical thinking and how the research reported herein addressed them. The fifth section argues that group work has the potential to accelerate the paradigm shift from a teacher-centred to student-oriented approach. Finally, the concluding sections (i.e. Sects. 1.5 and 1.6) emphasise that this book constitutes a timely response to the call for scholarship examining the potential relationship between group work and critical thinking.

1.1 Background: Education Reform and Small-Class Teaching Policy in Hong Kong Hong Kong has undergone substantial political and economic changes in recent decades, accompanied by a series of transformations in many sectors. In contemplating the educational landscape since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the educational initiative outlined in the policy document entitled Learning to Learn—The Way Forward in Curriculum Development (Curriculum Development Council (CDC) 2001) offers a blueprint for curricular reform in Hong Kong schools. One of its visions is the enhancement of students’ classroom participation through a wide range of teaching strategies (e.g. self-directed and cooperative learning activities) (Tsai 2003). However, although several studies (e.g. Fung and Howe 2012; Keppell and Carless 2006) have demonstrated the increased use of collaborative group work in classrooms since the launch of the reform, that use is fraught with pragmatic challenges, and group work’s potential for improving teaching and learn© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019 D. C.-L. Fung and T. W. Liang, Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2411-6_1

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ing is yet to be completely realised. For instance, a common phenomenon observed and problematised in Galton and Pell’s (2009) study was particular students dominating group activities while others remained off-task. Hence, there is a pressing need for educational scholars and teachers to address the potential under-exploitation of group work. Against the aforementioned backdrop and in response to the declining student population in recent decades, the Education Bureau (EDB) introduced the Small-Class Teaching policy as a measure to reduce class sizes, and thereby improve teacher–student ratios, in 2009 (EDB 2009). The policy allowed public sector primary schools to decrease their class size from the existing 32–35 students to 25, with the dual aims of tackling the challenges of insufficient student enrolment and enhancing teaching and learning quality. To fully capitalise on the advantages of the Small-Class Teaching environment, it is recommended that teachers follow the six key principles proposed by Galton and Pell (2009), for example, ‘Increasing pupil participation’ and ‘Developing a spirit of cooperation between pupils through the use of group and pair work’ (p. 5). Accordingly, the promotion of greater group work use has attracted considerable attention and been accorded high priority in the Hong Kong education reform agenda (Fung and Howe 2014) (see Chap. 2 for a more detailed discussion).

1.2 Curriculum Development in Primary and Secondary Schools in Hong Kong One noteworthy curriculum development in primary education is the introduction of General Studies. The CDC developed the General Studies for Primary Schools Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 to 6) in 2002 to revamp the subject’s curriculum framework, which was established in 1996. Since then, the guide has been periodically updated to meet students’ needs (e.g. information technology competency and critical-thinking strategies) and respond to societal changes, with the most up-to-date version launched in 2011 (CDC 2011). At the same time, curriculum development has also occurred in secondary education. For example, the EDB initiated the reconstruction of secondary education in Hong Kong in 2009 to combat rote learning and enhance students’ learning motivation, resulting in the development and implementation of the New Senior Secondary (NSS) academic structure. More specifically, Hong Kong’s previous academic structure, which comprised five-year Certificate Level education followed by two-year Advanced Level education and a three-year university programme, has now been transformed into six years of secondary education followed by four years of university education. Accompanying this secondary education reform, a revamped Liberal Studies curriculum has been introduced for mandatory study in 2009 (Fung and Yip 2010).

1.3 Scenario of General Studies and Liberal Studies

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1.3 Scenario of General Studies and Liberal Studies As mentioned above, in line with the recommendations outlined in Education Commission Report No. 4, the General Studies curriculum was initially established in 1996 (CDC 2011). The revised curriculum guide was published in 2002 in accordance with the curriculum reform that took place in the early 2000s. In particular, the revised curriculum trimmed and reorganised the subject’s content to afford students and teachers more curriculum space and to improve the relevance of learning to students’ daily lives. Teachers are encouraged to adopt an enquiry-based approach to enhance students’ ability to learn how to learn. In general, the curriculum guide incorporates an open and flexible central framework (see Table 1.1) and sets out the learning objectives that students are to achieve in terms of generic skills, subject knowledge, as well as positive values and attitudes under six strands: (1) Health and Living; (2) People and Environment; (3) Science and Technology in Everyday Life; (4) Community and Citizenship; (5) National Identity and Chinese Culture; and (6) Global Understanding and the Information Era. The aim is to offer students a connected rather than compartmentalised learning experience, help them to develop a holistic understanding of Hong Kong society and the world, as well as arouse their awareness of the interaction between people and the environment. It is noteworthy that in the updated guide, General Studies is envisaged as a vehicle for developing students’ generic skills (e.g. collaboration skills, critical-thinking skills, information technology skills), which are fundamental to the cultivation of lifelong learning. Of these generic skills, ‘collaboration skills’ and ‘critical-thinking skills’ have been positioned as essential capacities to be developed through diversified investigation and group activities. Turning to the Liberal Studies curriculum, it was initially introduced in 1992. The intended goal of its initial introduction was to promote students’ social awareness with respect to the scheduled transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government. However, the subject struggled to gain acceptance and popularity amongst students, partly because of its non-statutory status (Cheng et al. 2002). In spite of the subject’s unpromising debut, it was reintroduced by the Education and Manpower Bureau (the former incarnation of the EDB) as a mandatory subject (CDC/HKEAA 2007) in the NSS academic structure in 2009. With respect to the curriculum content of Liberal Studies (CDC/HKEAA 2007; also see Table 1.2), the education authority suggested three fields of study in relation to ‘Self and Personal Development’, ‘Society and Culture’ and ‘Science, Technology and the Environment’. These three fields comprise six modules: (1) Personal Development and Interpersonal Relationships; (2) Hong Kong Today; (3) Modern China; (4) Globalisation; (5) Public Health; and (6) Energy, Technology and the Environment. Apart from these core modules, an Independent Enquiry Study (IES) project is mandatory for students to complete within two years, which aims to develop them into autonomous learners. According to the revamped curriculum, students can choose their IES project titles from six themes: (1) Media, (2) Education, (3) Religion, (4) Sport, (5) Art, and

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Table 1.1 General Studies curriculum in Hong Kong primary schools Areas of study Curriculum development Strand 1: Health and living Strand 2: People and environment Strand 3: Science and technology in everyday life Strand 4: Community and citizenship Strand 5: National identity and Chinese culture Strand 6: Global understanding and the information era

This curriculum guide is prepared by the CDC to set the direction of curriculum development for the learning and teaching of GS from Primary 1 to Primary 6. It provides a central curriculum in the form of an open and flexible framework with learning targets and objectives, and essential contents. It sets out what schools should do to help learners develop under the six strands in terms of: • Subject knowledge • Generic skills • Positive values and attitudes

Curriculum aims (a) Maintain a healthy personal development and become confident, rational and responsible citizens (b) Recognise their roles and responsibilities as members of the family and (c) Develop a sense of national identity and be committed to contributing to the nation and the world (d) Develop curiosity and interest in the natural and technological world as well as understand the impact of science and technology on society (e) Develop a care and concern for the environment Source https://www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/curriculum-development/kla/general-studies-for-pri mary/gs_p_guide-eng_300dpi-final%20version.pdf

(6) Information and Communication Technology (ICT). In its entirety, Liberal Studies consisting of the above core modules in the humanities is comparable to Liberal Arts or General Education in the West. In fact, the subject’s underlying ideology, as contemplated by the curriculum designers, is the need to supply learners with rigorous training in problem-solving capabilities through the practice of collaborative learning and reasoned justification. Unsurprisingly, to achieve the goal of promoting collaboration and thinking skills amongst students, Liberal Studies teachers are highly motivated to incorporate group work activities in their lessons (Fung and Howe 2012).

1.4 Paradigm Shift: Group Work as a New Pedagogical Approach in Hong Kong Classrooms Against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s education reform and Small-Class Teaching policy, both the revised General Studies and Liberal Studies curricula are playing a critical role in the development of students’ critical thinking through group work. As Law (2003) anticipated, the result has been a dramatic pedagogical shift from the

1.4 Paradigm Shift: Group Work as a New Pedagogical Approach …

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Table 1.2 Liberal Studies curriculum in Hong Kong secondary schools Areas of study Independent Enquiry Study (IES) Self- and personal development • Module 1: Personal development and interpersonal relationships Society and culture • Module 2: Hong Kong today • Module 3: Modern China • Module 4: Globalisation Science, technology and the environment • Module 5: Public health • Module 6: Energy, technology and the environment

Students are required to conduct an IES making use of the knowledge and perspectives gained from the three areas of study and extending them to new issues To help students develop their IES titles, the following themes are suggested: • Media • Education • Religion • Sports • Art • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Curriculum aims (a) To enable students to develop multiple perspectives on perennial and contemporary issues in different contexts (e.g. cultural, social, political and technological contexts) (b) To help students become independent thinkers so that they can construct knowledge appropriate to changing personal and social circumstances (c) To develop in students a range of skills for lifelong learning, including critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills and information technology skills Additional resources (a) Additional teachers will be provided to Liberal Studies for reducing class sizes (b) Additional 35 h training will be provided to the in-service teachers in Liberal Studies Source Curriculum Development Council (CDC) and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), Hong Kong (2007)

traditional Chinese paradigm of passive learning to the modern Western strategy of collaborative learning. Regarding the educational benefits of group work, research has shown it to have the potential to become a pedagogical solution to the cultivation of critical thinking. For example, Galton et al. (2009) found group work involving problem-solving activities to be more effective than whole-class teaching in improving 11- to 14-year-old students’ academic performance and classroom behaviour. Galton et al. (2009) further highlighted the effectiveness of group work in sustaining higher cognitive-level discussions in comparison with whole-class instruction. Furthermore, Kutnick et al. (2008) reported robust findings demonstrating the positive effects of group work on learning achievement and attitudinal change. In their study, the academic performance, group work motivation and on-task focus of children taught through effective group work strategies improved to a greater degree than those of their counterparts in control classes. In a similar vein, Pell et al. (2007) found that employing group work in classrooms helped students (aged 11–14) to attain better academic achievement and develop more positive attitudes towards science learning. In sum, based on these results, it is reasonable to believe that, in conjunction with the ongoing paradigm shift from an examination-oriented to student self-directed

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approach (Biggs 1996; Kennedy 2002), group work can be meaningfully integrated into practitioners’ pedagogical repertoire in the classrooms in Hong Kong.

1.5 The Buzzword of ‘Critical Thinking’ and the Present Study Critical thinking has become increasingly popular in the educational arena, as evidenced by the thinking programmes developed for students at various levels in numerous countries worldwide, such as Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children (Lipman 1991), the Talk, Reasoning, and Computers programme (Mercer et al. 1999) and the Cognitive Research Trust Thinking programme (De Bono 1987). Critical thinking has also become an important part of the global research agenda, with a large body of literature emphasising its importance to education (e.g. Atkinson 1997; Fung 2014; McBride et al. 2002; Tiwari et al. 2003). Despite the prevailing consensus on that importance, however, several questions surrounding the critical-thinking concept remain open to debate, such as how best to conceptualise and evaluate critical thinking, whether it is teachable and, if so, what the most effective instructional practices are. In response to these questions, and against the backdrop of both General Studies and Liberal Studies purporting to accentuate the development of students’ critical thinking in Hong Kong, the research reported in this book involved teaching interventions in which students were trained to think critically through a series of group work activities. Although there is a large pool of scholarship suggesting different ways of conceptualising and operationalising critical thinking, the present research adopted Kuhn’s (1991) definition and model of critical thinking (see Chap. 2 for elaboration). Explicit critical-thinking instruction was delivered to primary and secondary school students. To determine whether students had achieved gains in critical thinking after that instruction, pre- and post-tests of critical thinking were administered. It is worth noting that this research sought to examine both the academic and attitudinal facets of such thinking, which constitutes a pioneering approach in Hong Kong and even in the broader context. Whilst much international literature highlights the significance of dispositions in critical thinking enhancement, few studies have evaluated the attitudinal changes brought about by a teaching intervention. Moreover, informed by its findings from both primary and secondary classrooms, this research has a number of pedagogical implications for helping teachers to translate the curriculum goal of nurturing critical thinkers into classroom practice.

1.6 Significance and Urgency of Bridging Critical Thinking and Group Work

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1.6 Significance and Urgency of Bridging Critical Thinking and Group Work As noted in previous sections, the concepts of critical thinking and group work have drawn considerable research attention. However, there is a dearth of studies interrogating the potential connection between them, particularly in the context of Hong Kong primary and secondary schools, although research suggests that the two concepts are often intertwined in practice. For example, Tiwari et al. (2006) indicated that group work in problem-based learning in the context of medical education in Hong Kong has the potential to facilitate critical thinking by encouraging students to analyse problems, initiate suitable investigations and synthesise new knowledge. However, there is little literature speaking to the specific scenarios of General Studies and Liberal Studies. Research endeavours in this area are thus significant and urgent for the following reasons. First, although group work has been promoted as an important teaching strategy in Hong Kong schools for several years, many teachers still perceive it as mere ‘group basis’ teaching, whereby students are in effect led by teachers in learning (Fung 2014). The so-called group work that results from such a perception exhibits little pedagogical difference from traditional whole-class instruction (Dimmock and Walker 1998). Second, critical-thinking training for students at the primary and secondary levels has received scant attention in the past three decades because, under the influence of Confucian philosophy, the Hong Kong education system remains primarily examination-oriented (Carless 2011; Chen and Wong 2015; Watkins 2009). The result is that more often than not, the curriculum goal of fostering students’ critical thinking gives way to drilling for examinations. Indeed, memorisation and rote learning enjoy a superior status in Chinese study culture (Kennedy 2002; Sit 2013). The rote-learner has even become a stereotype of the typical Chinese learner. Such a culture is thought to have hindered students’ development of critical thinking. Again, does group work provide a potential way out of the critical thinking dilemma? Finally, from the perspective of school implementation, despite group work and critical thinking being emphasised as important educational goals in Hong Kong in recent years, their potential remains comparatively unrealised in school practice, and is far from being maximised. As a result, this book offers a productive examination of the two notions and explores how group work can be employed to facilitate the development of critical thinking in Hong Kong primary and secondary school students.

References Atkinson, D. (1997). A critical approach to critical thinking in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 31(1), 71–94. Biggs, J. (1996). Western misperceptions of the Confucian-heritage learning culture. The Chinese learner: Cultural, psychological and contextual influences, 45–67.

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Carless, D. (2011). From testing to productive student learning: Implementing formative assessment in Confucian-heritage settings. New York, NY: Routledge. CDC. (2011). General studies for primary schools curriculum guide (primary 1 to 6). Hong Kong: Government Printer. CDC/HKEAA (Curriculum Development Committee and Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority). (2007). Liberal Studies: Curriculum and assessment guide (secondary 4–6). Hong Kong: Education Bureau. Chen, W. W., & Wong, Y. L. (2015). Chinese mindset: Theories of intelligence, goal orientation and academic achievement in Hong Kong students. Educational Psychology, 35(6), 714–725. Cheng, Y. C., Mok, M. C. M., & Tsui, K. T. (2002). Educational reform and research in Hong Kong: A request for comprehensive knowledge. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 1(1), 7–21. Curriculum Development Council (CDC). (2001). Learning to learn: The way forward in curriculum development. Hong Kong: Government Printer. De Bono, E. (1987). CoRT thinking program. Workcards and teachers’ notes. Chicago, IL: Science Research Associates. Dimmock, C., & Walker, A. (1998). Transforming Hong Kong’s schools: Trends and emerging issues. Journal of Educational Administration, 36(1), 476–491. EDB. (2009). Study on small class teaching in primary schools in Hong Kong: Final report. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Education Bureau. Fung, C. L. (2014). Expectations versus reality: The case of Liberal Studies in Hong Kong’s new senior secondary reforms. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 46(4), 624–644. Fung, D., & Howe, C. (2012). Liberal Studies in Hong Kong: A new perspective on critical thinking through group work. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 7, 101–111. Fung, D., & Howe, C. (2014). Group work and the learning of critical thinking in the Hong Kong secondary Liberal Studies curriculum. Cambridge Journal of Education, 44(2), 245–270. Fung, C. L., & Yip, W. Y. (2010). The policies of reintroducing Liberal Studies into Hong Kong secondary schools. Educational Research for Policies and Practice, 9(1), 17–40. Galton, M., & Pell, T. (2009). Study on small class teaching in primary schools in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Education Bureau and Cambridge University. Galton, M., Hargreaves, L., & Pell, T. (2009). Group work and whole-class teaching with 11- to 14-year-olds compared. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(1), 119–140. Kennedy, P. (2002). Learning cultures and learning styles: Myth-understandings about adult (Hong Kong) Chinese learners. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 21(5), 430–445. Keppell, M., & Carless, D. (2006). Learning-oriented assessment: A technology-based case study. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 13(2), 179–191. Kuhn, D. (1991). The skills of argument. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Kutnick, P., Ota, C., & Berdondini, L. (2008). Improving the effects of group working in classrooms with young school-aged children: Facilitating attainment, interaction and classroom activity. Learning and Instruction, 18(1), 83–95. Law, N. (2003). Innovative classroom practices and the teacher of the future. Information and Communication Technology and the Teacher of the Future, 171–182. Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. McBride, R. E., Xiang, P., Wittenburg, D., & Shen, J. (2002). An analysis of preservice teachers’ dispositions toward critical thinking: A cross-cultural perspective. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 30, 131–140. Mercer, N., Wegerif, R., & Dawes, L. (1999). Children’s talk and the development of reasoning in the classroom. British Educational Research Journal, 25(1), 95–111. Pell, T., Galton, M., Steward, S., Page, C., & Hargreaves, L. (2007). Promoting group work at key stage 3: Solving an attitudinal crisis among young adolescents? Research Papers in Education, 22(3), 309–332.

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Sit, H. H. W. (2013). Characteristics of Chinese students’ learning styles. International Proceedings of Economics Development and Research, 62, 36. Tiwari, A., Avery, A., & Lai, P. (2003). Critical thinking disposition of Hong Kong Chinese and Australian nursing students. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 44, 298–307. Tiwari, A., Lai, P., So, M., & Yuen, K. (2006). A comparison of the effects of problem-based learning and lecturing on the development of students’ critical thinking. Medical Education, 40(6), 547–554. Tsai, C. C. (2003). Using a conflict map as an instructional tool to change student alternative conceptions in simple series electric-circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 25(3), 307–327. Watkins, D. A. (2009). Motivation and competition in Hong Kong secondary schools: The students’ perspective. In C. K. K. Chan & N. Rao (Eds.), Revisiting the Chinese learner: Changing contexts, changing education (pp. 71–88). Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre.

Chapter 2

The Research on Group Work, Critical Thinking and Confucian Heritage Culture: What Does a Thematic Review Tell Us?

Abstract Group work and critical thinking are well-established areas of study in educational research. Given the abundance of academic publications dealing with these two independent domains, it is not possible to adequately review and summarise all of the work pertaining to them here. Thus, this chapter constitutes an exploratory study (Robson in Real world research: a resource for social scientists and practitioner–researchers. Blackwell publishers, UK, 2002) of the existing literature through the employment of a thematic review strategy, a useful strategy for organising various empirical studies on the two research topics and for interrogating those studies with regard to the research questions they pose. This review is divided into five sections. Following this brief introduction, the next section seeks an understanding of the group work concept and its effectiveness in student learning. Relevant articles are assembled, and their results subjected to rigorous analysis. The third section then shifts focus on the concept of critical thinking, with particular emphasis on a review of several developmental models, including those of Ennis (Educ Leadersh 43:44–48, 1985) and Kuhn (The skills of argument. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991). The fourth section examines the influence of Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC) on classroom learning, as cultural considerations represent a significant component of the research reported herein. Finally, the fifth section explicates and justifies the conceptual framework of that research.

2.1 Review of Collaborative Group Work 2.1.1 The Nature of Group Work The terms ‘group work’ and ‘cooperative learning’ (or ‘collaborative learning’) are not new in educational research. Historically, considerable research attention has been devoted over the years to the well-established concept of working together in the field of instructional science (Totten et al. 1991). The concepts of cooperative learning and group work emerged in the first century when Roman rhetorician Marcus Fabius Quintilian (ca. 35–100) contended that learners derive benefit from instructing © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019 D. C.-L. Fung and T. W. Liang, Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2411-6_2

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one another (Leicester et al. 2000). Another Roman philosopher, Seneca (3 BC–65 AD), promoted a similar practice in the phrase qui docet discit, meaning ‘He who teaches learns.’ Indeed, Seneca defended the idea that children can learn better from older students than from the teacher. Centuries later, building upon these two theoretical perspectives, renowned Czech educator Johann Amos Comenius (1592–1679) posited that students benefit from both instructing others and being instructed, and proposed that a student who has learned about a topic is able to teach it. With regard to the definition of ‘group work’, the term ‘group’, according to Brown (1988), is employed when ‘two or more people define themselves as members [of a group] and when its existence is recognised by at least one other’ (pp. 2–3). Based on this conceptualisation, Galton and Williamson (1992) suggested that the perfect situation of working in groups ‘involves common tasks but individual assignments’ (p. 11). As research progressed, scholars identified a variety of features that may have a strong relationship with effective group work. For instance, Mercer (1996) contended that ‘ground rules’ should be formulated to promote students’ genuine talk when working in groups in the classroom. In addition, such essential elements of group work as ‘balance of ownership and control of the work towards students themselves’ and ‘involv[ing] children as colearners’ were acknowledged by Zajac and Hartup (1997). In order to characterise the strategy of cooperative group work in a precise fashion, Johnson and Johnson (1985) identified five elements that are crucial for the occurrence of truly cooperative learning: ‘positive interdependence’, ‘individual accountability’, ‘interpersonal skills’, ‘face-to-face interaction’ and ‘group processing.’ Amongst these essential ‘ingredients,’ Jolliffe (2007) asserted that ‘individual accountability’ is particularly important, since it reflects the students’ responsibility for following instructions, staying on task and elaborating on ideas. In the last 20 years, the two strands of working in groups, ‘collaborative’ and ‘cooperative’ group work, have been differentiated although they have also often been used interchangeably. Cooperative group work refers to individual learners working together to accomplish individual objectives, whilst collaborative group work involves learners undertaking a shared task with the aim of fulfilling a shared objective (Antil et al. 1998). In fact, the concept of cooperative group work was more prevalent than its counterpart of collaborative learning regarding classroom organisation in the 2000s (Watkins et al. 2007). As Shaw (1981) pointed out, there is no single definition of group work that is generally accepted. Some authors focus their attention on the different characteristics of groups, whilst others emphasise only one or a few aspects out of the many. Nevertheless, although the terms used to denote group work vary considerably, it is argued that there is a strong consensus that group work should embrace certain educational beliefs and personal values. A relatively global and encompassing perspective on group work should include (a) students’ engagement with designated task (Galton and Williamson 1992), (b) students’ ownership and responsibility (Jolliffe 2007; Mercer 1996; Zajac and Hartup 1997) and (c) grouping strategy (Johnson and Johnson 1985).

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2.1.2 The Theoretical Roots of Group Work In Judgment and Reasoning in the Child, Piaget (1928) highlighted the importance of internal conflict in supporting conceptual development whilst being in favour of constructivism in children’s learning processes. Specifically, this constructivist view of learning argued that a child gains knowledge through assimilation and accommodation which complement each other and jointly contribute to the general process of equilibration. In psychological terms, an individual collects, filters, absorbs and converts information into a frame of reference which refers to an internal set of beliefs based on which a child interprets and judges things. Piaget (1932) further suggested that internal conflict plays a crucial role in cognitive growth, but emphasised the potential influence of peer interaction on provoking such conflict. More than two decades later, Piaget (1959) still highlighted the significance of learners’ engagement in social communication and activities in which they are cognitively challenged through the provision of clarification and justification and application of joint reasoning. Such cognitive activities tend to occur during collaborative discussion, and the joint argumentation process is regarded as a possible explanation for how group work can contribute to the development of conceptual understanding. As a summary of Piaget’s psychological theories concerning group work, research evidence (e.g. Wood and O’Malley 1996) has indicated that it is crucial for children to recognise and thereby exchange cognitive perspectives with one another so as to stimulate their cognitive growth, which can be mediated by group debate or more generally, collaborative activities. Vygotsky (1978) proposed another theory to explicate the linkage between group work and the development of cognitive functioning. He contended that low-achievers can learn from their higher-ability peers, and that such learning can be realised through the employment of group work strategies in educational settings. Vygotsky believed that knowledge is socially constructed and that a discrepancy may exist between independent and collective problem-solving, leading him to introduce the concept of the ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD). Specifically, he defined this zone as the distance between what individuals can accomplish on their own and what they can achieve under the guidance of more knowledgeable and capable individuals. Echoing this view, Rogoff (1990) and Wood (1998) maintained that an individual can make progress with assistance provided by either adults or more skilled partners. From a theoretical point of view, Vygotsky (1978) argued that knowledge is socially constructed through joint problem-solving efforts. His model embodies social constructivism, which claims that expert guidance plays an important role in helping learners to achieve cognitive gains. The theory is supported by Harlen and Qualter’s (2004) findings showing that expert guidance can be provided by more capable peers during group activities in the context of primary science classrooms.

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2.1.3 Study of Group Work in Hong Kong There is a paucity of research on group work in Hong Kong relative to Western countries, according to Sweeting (1999), who suggests that more often than not, Hong Kong researchers find it onerous to identify institutions available for investigation, particularly secondary schools. Similar to the UK, this may be due to the heavy duties and pressure on teachers in Hong Kong who cannot spare the time to participate in research projects. However, although this difficulty has limited the researchers’ motivation, there are still a few studies, including a valuable piece of research by Chan and Galton (1999), relating to the attitudes of teachers and students regarding cooperative group work in Hong Kong schools. Specifically, by conducting a questionnaire-based survey and interview in an elementary school, Chan and Galton’s (1999) research design was to collect data from teachers and students on the frequency of using classroom organisational strategies in core subjects. Their project was situated within an investigation of the basis of grouping for small-group discussion and the factors that might influence teachers’ decisions to use various classroom strategies. Interestingly, the research required students to respond in writing to a pair of cartoon pictures, discussing what they thought about a group of depicted children, completing the task with and without the teacher’s presence. Whilst the results indicated that the teachers’ attitudes towards group work were generally positive, the teachers had reservations about using group work because of school constraints, including large class sizes and limited time in the teaching schedules. With regard to the students’ perspective, their drawings showed preferences towards participating in group work in primary school classrooms. In addition to Chan and Galton (1999), there are several local publications dealing with group work in Hong Kong. A study carried out by Tam (2001), who investigated the case of a primary school teacher’s use of group work in General Studies lessons, echoed Chan and Galton’s conclusion. In an analysis of group processing, Tam identified the role of assessment in group work as the main pillar that sustains the concept of student-centred learning. The role of the teacher as an effective assessor ensures that each student gives and receives feedback on group activities. Turning to teacher training, she challenged school principals and administrators to become members of a professional support group in the school in order to guide teachers in learning how to use cooperative learning procedures successfully. Based on the evidence obtained from an Asia-Pacific Forum, Wong (2001) analysed group work practice in science education in Hong Kong, and confirmed it to exert positive effects on student learning by empowering teachers to cater for individual differences. In catering for such differences, he urged teachers to strengthen their capacity to integrate the teaching of generic skills into the implementation of group work. Turning to scholarly work conducted more recently, Galton and Pell’s (2009) seminal report on the implementation of Small-Class Teaching in Hong Kong primary schools emphasised the importance of using group work strategies to engage students in learning and enhance their learning outcomes. Of the six principles of Small-Class Teaching they proposed, one stresses the development of ‘a spirit of cooperation

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between pupils through the use of group and pair work’ (p. 5). To maximise the potential of group work, students should be trained and taught how to formulate rules for working collaboratively, maintain group activities and reach conclusions based on group consensus (Kutnick et al. 2005). Students should also be provided with ample opportunities to reflect on the group work process to identify areas for improvement in future. Because group work entails a pedagogical shift in Hong Kong primary education, Galton and Pell’s (2009) report unsurprisingly also revealed that some schools experienced difficulties using group work effectively, as evidenced by some students’ dominance in groups whilst others remained off task. A growing number of empirical studies on collaborative/cooperative group work in Hong Kong have appeared since the publication of Galton and Pell’s seminal work. For instance, Law (2011) adopted a quasi-experimental research design to examine the effects of cooperative group work (i.e. jigsaw and drama) on the learning outcomes, study motivation and reading capacity of 279 Hong Kong fifth graders. The students in the jigsaw group were found to exhibit better performance on a reading comprehension test than their counterparts in either the drama group or the control group receiving traditional teacher-led instruction. The study further showed group work with well-planned teacher guidance to be particularly helpful in promoting student learning compared with student-directed group work. In addition, Chu et al. (2011) revealed the use of inquiry-based group projects in Hong Kong primary classrooms to exert a positive impact on students’ development of information literary and information technology skills. More specifically, the group projects considered were contextualised in Primary Four General Studies lessons, and the pupils needed to collaborate in groups of five to six on a topic of their own choosing. They needed to search online for information on that topic and then compile a written report on their findings in a collaborative manner. More recently, Galton et al. (2015) contended that it is necessary to establish rules (i.e. group rules) to sustain successful group work. They analysed an extract of classroom interactions to demonstrate how group rules can help pupils to reach a consensual view in group discussions in Hong Kong classrooms. In addition to group rules, Chan (2016) highlighted the importance of developing students’ social skills when working together in groups to capitalise on the class size reductions in Hong Kong. Whilst cognitive conflict is crucial for cognitive growth (Johnson and Johnson 1999a), it can lead to quarrels and confrontations when disagreements arise during group discussions. Therefore, students need to acquire social skills to avoid potential conflicts and facilitate group interaction. In similar fashion, the quasi-experimental study carried out by Kutnick et al. (2017) in a Hong Kong primary school to examine the effects of a relational approach to group work also emphasised the importance of building trust and harmony through interpersonal skills for pupils’ mathematical achievement. The research participants included 20 teachers and 504 pupils aged 9–10. Significant improvements were seen in the latter’s academic achievement after more than seven months of using the relational approach to group work. Those improvements can be attributed to the pupils’ enhanced communication skills, and thus higher-quality interactions amongst themselves and with teachers.

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2.1.4 Knowledge Gap and Proposed Research Questions As noted in the previous sections, most scholars focus on establishing crucial links between group work and its benefits for student learning. To obtain sufficient justification, they ground their arguments on the advantages of group work with reference to one or both of Piaget (1932) and Vygotsky (1978) with regard to children’s cognitive development. Despite the strength of the preceding literature, certain neglected areas of group work exist, which could provide insightful implications for the potential research questions and methodologies. In the first place, amongst the literature included in the review, there is much that is related to English, mathematics and science, but very little research has been done in Liberal Education or Liberal Arts. Research with students aged 10–12 and 15–17 years is also sparse compared to that of other age groups. ‘Will students benefit from working in groups in General Studies or Liberal Studies?’ and ‘What are the effects of the key strategies of group work for students in that particular age groups?’ are two questions warranting investigation. In addition, the investigation of group work in the Hong Kong context remains limited. Little has been said about group work in secondary schools although some studies conducted in the context of primary education have been published. There is also a lack of empirical studies inquiring into the influence of the Chinese culture on group work. Hence, the question ‘What are the effects of Chinese traditional culture on the incorporation of group work into Hong Kong primary and secondary schools?’ would be worthy of notice. Based on the knowledge gap, three preliminary research questions are proposed to guide the research: 1. What is the effectiveness of group work in acquiring critical-thinking skills in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools? 2. What are the effects of group work strategies on primary and secondary students’ learning motivation in Hong Kong? 3. What is the influence of the Chinese traditional culture on the incorporation of group work in Hong Kong primary and secondary classrooms?

2.2 Review of Critical-Thinking Learning 2.2.1 Definition of Critical Thinking Historically, the idea of ‘thinking and reasoning’ can be dated to Aristotle’s time. Aristotle concluded that ‘recall’ and ‘thinking’ involve a series of thoughts (Ericsson and Hastie 1994). In a larger sense, Aristotle made philosophy coextensive with ‘reasoning’, which he described as ‘science.’ Building upon these two abstract concepts, the meaning of critical thinking has been undergoing a transformation in

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the last century. This reflects a change of emphasis in the concept of ‘thinking well’ or ‘thinking smarter’ at different periods of time (Bonnett 1995). McPeck (1981) asserted that critical thinking encompasses the ‘propensity and skill to engage in an activity with reflective scepticism’ (p. 8). ‘Reflective scepticism’ refers to the willingness to deliberate on alternative perspectives rather than readily accepting an established argument. McPeck (1981) accentuated the important role of ‘reflective dispositions’ in his definition of critical thinking, which aligns with the stance of Perkins et al. (1993) that the inherent character of making inquiries is indispensable to making arguments. It is worth noting that McPeck’s definition also involves thinking ‘skills,’ which refer specifically to the ‘thinking techniques’ required in problem-solving. A number of prestigious scholars (e.g. Jones et al. 1995) have acknowledged skills to be an essential constituent of critical thinking, and it is widely believed that a more holistic understanding of critical thinking needs to embrace both skills and dispositions. Examining the issue through a psychological lens, Mayer and Goodchild (1990) defined critical thinking as ‘an active and systematic attempt to understand and evaluate arguments’ (p. 4). Building on that definition, Levy (1997) then defined the concept as ‘an active and systematic cognitive strategy to examine, evaluate, and understand events, solve problems, and make decisions on the basis of sound reasoning and valid evidence’ (p. 1). Concurring with McPeck’s (1981) opinion that skills and dispositions constitute two major dimensions of critical thinking, Kuhn (1991) offered an alternative, more accurate, definition, defining critical thinking as one type of ‘reasoned argument.’ Her definition added a psychological dimension, conceptualising dispositions as the desire to substantiate one’s arguments with evidence, and skills as the employment of cognitive techniques to reach a desirable conclusion. The foregoing review of the literature on critical thinking demonstrates that whilst much of the work towards reaching a consensus about the term ‘critical thinking’ has been accomplished, nevertheless, a range of views still exists in the literature. All in all, it is thought that cognitive ‘skills’ are essential to a critical thinker. The ‘critical’ epistemology should include broad ‘dispositions’ for evaluating ‘reasoned arguments.’ As a result, Kuhn’s (1991) definition of critical thinking as ‘the sense (or disposition) [and the skills] of reasoned justification of arguments’ is adopted in this book.

2.2.2 Teaching of Critical Thinking A thematic review of the teaching of critical thinking reveals that there are two kinds of material indicating that critical thinking can be taught through appropriate instruction. One category is ‘research-based evidence’ and the other is ‘theoretical argument,’ which will be interrogated sequentially as follows. As early as the 1930s, evidence showing that critical thinking can be taught was provided by Arnold (1938). Specifically, by targeting fifth- and sixth-grade students, Arnold demonstrated that they could be taught to recognise bias in a data source or

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to value a disinterested report over a one-sided account. Since then, several reviews of the impact of explicit instruction on learning critical thinking (e.g. Dressel and Mayhew 1954; Roberge 1970; Shapiro and O’Brien 1970) have been published. Whilst the earlier research (i.e. Dressel and Mayhew 1954) noted that children as young as fourth graders might profit from systematic instruction to improve their logical thinking, the latter reviews (i.e. Roberge 1970; Shapiro and O’Brien 1970) reported that students’ gains in critical thinking were positively related to the number of science courses taken in graduate school. However, a decade later, Winter et al. (1981) indicated that in addition to the number of courses taken, the interlinkage amongst those courses is likely to be another contributory factor to learning gains. Their suggestion is supported by their own research showing students required in an experimental course to integrate ideas from different disciplines to have achieved more critical-thinking gains than their counterparts in regular courses. Approaching the twenty-first century, studies such as those of Lehman and Nisbett (1990) and Pike (1996) provide examples of how college students can readily transfer critical-thinking skills acquired in class to real-world situations. In general, it is believed that this sort of evidence is substantial enough to demonstrate the teachability of critical thinking, whilst numerous other reports (e.g. Kosonen and Winne 1995; Nisbett 1993; Perkins and Grotzer 1997) related to the transfer of critical thinking also exist. Apart from the research-based evidence, the theoretical argument of imposing a variety of teaching strategies underpins the possible transfer of critical thinking. In consideration of the definitions of critical thinking (Kuhn 1991; Levy 1997; McPeck 1981), to a certain extent, it comprises the concept of skills. Therefore, like many other skills, critical thinking is teachable through exercises, training or problem-solving tasks. In addition, McPeck (1981) proposed that ‘getting people to think critically may in fact be like getting them to act morally. [It is] suggested that the way to get people [to act critically] was to provide them with good examples to follow’ (p. 19). This implied that the learning of critical thinking may be triggered by role models and could be taught by following examples. To offer additional theoretical rationales, McGuinness (2005) helps us to understand how cognitive interventions can teach students to engage in critical thinking. Based on a review of studies related to the nature of cognition, she found sufficient evidence to conclude that, given that good thinking may vary by domain because of differences in structures of knowledge in different domains, research methods and thinking styles, cognitive interventions should be domain-specific. However, in view of the potential risk that such interventions may cultivate thinking that is restrained by a specific discipline, and thus incapable of being transferred to new contexts, McGuinness (2005) further advocated the development of metacognitive skills and strategies to render critical thinking transferable across subjects. In summary, given the weight of the ‘research-based evidence’ and ‘theoretical argument’ cited above, it seems that the ‘teachability’ of critical thinking can be taken for granted.

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2.2.3 Critical Thinking in Hong Kong Compared to the studies of group work in Hong Kong, there are a few more studies concerned with the teaching of critical thinking in secondary schools. The discussion of the relevant literature below draws on the cultural context of Hong Kong to facilitate readers’ understanding of the opportunities and challenges for criticalthinking instruction in the local context. Gong (1997), who scrutinised the historical aspects of the education system in Hong Kong, observed that it has been developed along the classic British model (no longer used in the UK itself) which relies solely on examination results to determine students’ academic futures. In particular, Gong found that students in Hong Kong are stuffed with information from books through rote learning and memorisation. Such a culture of learning is thought be prevalent in Hong Kong and other regions and countries influenced by CHC (Subramaniam 2008). It can exert a negative influence on students’ development of critical thinking. For example, the students are seldom allowed to comment on or question the information provided by teachers, and thus are competent at receiving information but weak at engaging in independent or critical thinking. In order to clear this stumblingblock to student learning, Gong proposed creating and maintaining a student-centred learning environment. In particular, he suggested the incorporation of problem-based learning into the training of critical thinking in Hong Kong ordinary schools. At the same time, two coherent views emerged from the review of literature (Che 2002; Yee 2004) jointly reflecting the limitations of teaching critical thinking in Hong Kong schools. Similar to the results relating to group work, Che (2002), who analysed teacher and student evaluations of critical-thinking projects in a suburban secondary school, concluded that, despite favourable student responses to criticalthinking lessons, teachers find it difficult to abandon teacher-centred approaches because of their inadequate training and classroom time constraints. Moreover, teachers’ reluctance to abandon teacher-centred approaches can also be derived from the cultural context of Hong Kong. Under the influence of CHC, teachers enjoy a superior status in the classroom, with students showing great respect for teachers. The teacher–student relationship is considered to be a hierarchical one (Jin and Cortazzi 2006). With respect to other limitations of critical-thinking instruction, Yee (2004), who used the case study method to explore the potential influence on critical-thinking development of engagement in political activities amongst twelfth-grade students in Hong Kong, found such students to exhibit a strong sense of political powerlessness that contributed to their apathetic perception of critical thinking to varying degrees. The work conducted by Lee (2007) and Fairbrother (2003), which illustrates several successful strategies for teaching critical thinking, seems to be enlightening with regard to the above issues. Amongst the four strategies addressed in his study, Lee (2007) proposed that fostering critical thinking through dispositions nurturance is an ideal method for inspiring students to think in a multiple-perspective manner. By developing the disposition of being open-minded, students’ thinking will no longer be egocentric. It not only allows them to consider others’ perspectives, but also encourages them to share their ideas with their classmates. In fact, the culture

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of sharing can be readily established amongst Hong Kong students as its culture of collectivism favours working in groups (Li et al. 2014). Hence, Lee insisted that cultivating students in the habitual use of critical thinking should come first. This approach falls in line with the strategies advocated by Fairbrother (2003). In particular, Fairbrother proposed that students should be provided with a chance to reflect on their own thinking. By doing so, they will be able to understand their thinking ‘discrimination’ or ‘fallacies’, and can strive to improve their thinking techniques. More recent scholarship on critical thinking in Hong Kong has paid particular attention to identifying ways to improve students’ critical thinking. For instance, Ku and Ho (2010) examined the importance of metacognitive strategies to facilitating critical thinking in ten Hong Kong university students who participated in six thinking tasks following think-aloud procedures. The findings indicated that such strategies can indeed facilitate critical thinking and that metacognitive knowledge is crucial to their application. In terms of specific programmes teaching thinking, Lam (2012) examined whether the Philosophy for Children (also known as P4C) programme can help to foster critical thinking in children in the Hong Kong context. In the study, 28 Secondary One students were divided into two groups, one receiving P4C lessons and the other traditional English lessons. The results showed the students in the P4C lessons to outperform those in the English lessons in a reasoning test and to be more proficient at discussing philosophy in class. Lam (2012) concluded that the P4C programme played a significant role in cultivating critical thinking. In addition, Chan (2013) examined university students’ perceptions of the potential relationship between critical thinking and problem-based learning. The results of interviews with 100 students majoring in nursing at a university in Hong Kong revealed the students to perceive critical thinking as more indispensable than creativity in solving certain problem-based tasks. Most also agreed that problem-based learning had contributed to their development of critical thinking. Similar to the research reported herein, Kong (2014) conducted a study examining the effectiveness of a pedagogical intervention for developing critical thinking in Hong Kong secondary classrooms. During the intervention, 107 Secondary One students learned about two topics in the Integrated Humanities subject with the aid of tablet PCs. The results of preand post-tests showed that the students have realised a significant improvement in critical-thinking skills as a result of the intervention. Further, the students’ interview responses revealed them to hold positive perceptions of the effects of the intervention’s pedagogical design (i.e. a digital classroom) on their cultivation of critical thinking. Whilst a number of studies have explored the factors contributing to criticalthinking cultivation, Luk and Lin (2015) were interested in the role played by language proficiency, suggesting that a lack of such proficiency may well impede critical-thinking development. They observed the way in which a sample of senior secondary school students in Hong Kong with a low degree of English proficiency exhibited critical thinking in their spoken English. Discourse analysis of the students’ classroom talk revealed that they expressed their ideas in their mother tongue (i.e. Cantonese) in a more elaborate manner than they did in their second language (i.e. English), indicating that students’ level of language proficiency influences their

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critical-thinking performance. Luk and Lin (2015) thus called for more research to address the communicative gaps in critical thinking between one’s first and second languages. Another line of inquiry pursued in the relatively recent literature is teachers’ perceptions and practices of teaching critical thinking. For example, Mok (2010) carried out classroom observations to determine whether junior secondary school teachers are translating the critical-thinking syllabus developed by the education authority into classroom practice. The results showed that, owing to institutional constraints and pressures, these teachers are failing to make critical thinking a learning goal for their students even though they support the idea of teaching such thinking. Stapleton (2011) conducted in-depth interviews with 72 Hong Kong secondary school teachers to unpack their perceptions of the meaning of critical thinking, and found them to have a rather limited understanding of the concept in general. At the same time, however, they strongly approved of its implementation in senior high school and expressed a desire for more professional training to enhance their competence in critical-thinking instruction.

2.2.4 Approaches to Teaching Critical Thinking This review has so far highlighted some of the issues raised in the debate connecting the definition and teachability of critical thinking. At first glance, although voluminous research has studied the history, policies and curriculum planning for ‘teaching critical thinking’ in the last 25 years, limited consideration has been given to its methods and psychological underpinnings. Nonetheless, a series of studies conducted by McGuinness (e.g. 1990, 2005) seems to have filled the gap. Therefore, this review opens with a discussion of McGuinness’ work. Moreover, in echo of the psychological concern about student learning raised in this thesis, research that sheds light on how different teaching approaches influence children’s cognitive development will also be discussed. Two categories of teaching approaches, ‘enrichment’ and ‘infusion’ programmes, for developing thinking are portrayed in the work of McGuinness (2005); indeed, they have been well-developed and structured in normal classroom environments. In general, with regard to the planning of school curricula, an ‘enrichment’ approach is one that is organised in parallel with existing curriculum arrangements. This approach was initially established as a remedial programme for culturally disadvantaged immigrants in Israel after the Second World War to overcome their cognitive deficits resulting from mediation deprivation, such as an inability to select pertinent cues and define problems (Feuerstein et al. 1980). In mediated learning sessions, teachers can make use of many instruments such as those asking students to detect patterns in space and conduct complex reasoning, thereby engaging students in assessing their own critical-thinking processes. As Feuerstein et al. (1980) note, this strategy has a snowballing effect whereby low-ability students can gear up for more complex learning in a school curriculum.

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In contrast to the enrichment approach, programmes in which the cultivation of critical thinking is integrated into the existing curriculum are typically referred to as following an ‘infusion’ approach. Specifically, this approach focuses on particular subjects, such as mathematics, physics and history, or more generally across the curriculum. The core concept of this approach is to contextualise critical thinking directly within a curricular area in order to develop students’ reasoning and understanding simultaneously. In doing so, course content is infused with the teaching of specific critical-thinking techniques required by the curriculum. According to McGuinness (2005), the infusion approach can be further divided into two subcategories by focusing on thinking ‘skills’ or ‘dispositions.’ In particular, the strategy of ‘focusing on thinking skills’ relies on the assumption that if students are taught clearly definable critical-thinking skills, after they apply the skills appropriately in problem-solving situations, they will become more effective thinkers. As a counterpart to this model, ‘focusing on dispositions’ highlights the characteristics of good thinking from a broader perspective. It suggests that although good thinkers surely possess remarkable reasoning skills, their willingness to think well should not be underestimated; in some cases, the attitudes that they hold are even more important than their skills.

2.3 Review of the Influence of Confucian Heritage Culture on Classroom Learning 2.3.1 Conceptualisation of Learning in Confucian Heritage Cultures CHC is prevalent in China and in such neighbouring countries as Vietnam, Japan, Korea and Singapore (Nguyen et al. 2006; Phuong-Mai et al. 2005), as well as in diasporic Chinese communities worldwide (Kennedy 2016). Asian culture more generally, and Chinese culture in particular, is considered a typical CHC (Jones 1999). Li (2003) revealed that students under the influence of CHC tend to conceptualise learning as the seeking of knowledge and to highlight the connection between knowledge acquisition and moral development. Chinese students learn not simply for utilitarian purposes (e.g. to find a decent job) but also for ‘self-perfection’ in terms of moral cultivation (Yu 1996). Knowledge is envisaged as an integral part of their lives, and their desire for it requires them to remain humble, pursue lifelong learning and value diligence and perseverance (Li 2003). Other Confucian values related to teaching and learning include the perception of learning as a moral duty, greater emphasis on theoretical than vocational education, viewing effort as more important than ability and seeing teachers as a model of knowledge and morality (Biggs 1996). Zhu et al. (2008) employed the Conceptions of Learning Inventory developed by Purdie and Hattie (2002) to examine Chinese university students’ learning conceptions. Their results showed that most students related learning to understanding,

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individual change and social competence development. More recently, in exploring the Confucian conception of education, Tan (2015) contended that an ancient Chinese treatise called Xueji (Record of Learning) reflects a teaching and learning model that can be termed ‘teacher-directed and learner-engaged.’ In other words, whilst teachers exercise control over the curriculum and learners, learners are encouraged to engage in deep learning through active participation in the learning process. Tan (2015) further argued that Chinese education still subscribes to this model to varying extents, as evidenced by the high level of respect that teachers enjoy and expectations that they serve as moral models, although classroom learning in CHC is customarily portrayed as characterised by spoon-feeding and memorisation (Turner 2013).

2.3.2 The Use of Group Work in Confucian Heritage Cultures Research has shown that students from CHC have a preference for group work, which is seeing as effecting better study performance (e.g. Hofstede and Hofstede 2005; Li et al. 2014; Park 2002; Tang 1996). For example, Park (2002) presented statistical evidence of such a preference in Vietnamese students, and an investigation of Chinese university students’ perceptions and experiences of group work revealed them to appreciate the approach for its benefits to both individuals and the group as a whole (Li et al. 2014). This preference can be attributed to one particular trait of Chinese culture, namely collectivism, which advocates a social group identity and working in groups to solve problems (Trompanaars 1993). In the same vein, Xiao and Dyson (1999) suggested that the phenomenon of students’ learning in large groups in China can partly be explained by the country’s collectivist culture. Although the aforementioned research suggests that students influenced by Chinese culture embrace group work as a pedagogical approach, more recent studies have identified potential barriers to its implementation in Chinese classrooms and formulated useful strategies for addressing those barriers. For instance, Fung and Lui (2016) examined the use of guided group work and the role of the teacher in group work in Hong Kong secondary science classrooms. They posited that because students in the Chinese classroom are generally reluctant to challenge the teacher’s authority, teachers should act as facilitators rather than knowledge transmitters to maximise group work’s potential. Kutnick et al. (2017) suggested that group work, whose roots lie in Western pedagogy, may require cultural adaptation when applied in CHC classrooms. They therefore proposed the adoption of a relational approach to group work in Hong Kong primary mathematics classrooms. The primary lesson to be learnt from these two empirical studies is that the impact of Chinese culture must be taken into consideration when introducing pedagogical changes to the CHC classroom, which echoes the view of Phuong-Mai et al. (2005) that the neglect and underestimation of cultural factors can lead to the ineffective implementation of cooperative learning.

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2.3.3 Learners from Confucian Heritage Cultures The literature has demonstrated CHC’s deep-seated influence on students’ learning styles, which can be defined as ‘cognitive, affective, and physiological behaviours that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment’ (Ladd and Ruby 1999, p. 363). For example, Murphy (1987) argued that Hong Kong students’ unwillingness to express themselves and uncritical reception of knowledge from teachers may stem from the Confucian values of filial piety and proper behaviour. Similarly, Subramaniam (2008) contended that Asian students are often characterised by surface learning and passive learning styles. They tend to absorb knowledge without truly understanding it (Purdie et al. 1996), which is arguably influenced by the Confucian beliefs and values that prevail in Asian contexts (Tran 2013). In addition, CHC is also considered to exert an impact on the teacher–student relationship in the classroom. The Chinese tradition of placing oneself in what Chang and Holt (1994, p. 105) called ‘relational hierarchy’ predisposes students to regard their teachers as authority figures (Biggs and Watkins 2001; Ho and Crookall 1995; Jin and Cortazzi 2006) and the fount of knowledge (Holliday 1994). At the same time, the Confucian value of modesty demotivates students to challenge their teachers (Chan 1999). Ho and Crookall (1995) further pointed out that concerns over ‘face,’ a concept also rooted in CHC, prompt students to show respect for teachers and render teachers afraid of acknowledging any shortcomings on their part. It is considered selfish, and even disgraceful, to cause someone to lose face in a CHC environment (Bond 1996). Therefore, Asian students strive to maintain a harmonious atmosphere in the classroom setting (Subramaniam 2008). On a related note, Liu (2002) argued that students in Chinese cultures are expected to keep silent in the classroom as a means of showing respect for their classmates and teachers, which contrasts rather starkly with American culture in which remaining reticent about answering teachers’ questions is generally perceived negatively. In support of that argument, Cortazzi and Jin (1996) found Chinese students to display little willingness to participate in class activities or provide timely responses to teachers’ questions. In sum, the foregoing literature characterises CHC learners as obedient, passive and deficient in critical-thinking skills, a characterisation that has received considerable criticism, as we will see in the following.

2.3.4 Problematising Cultural Influences on Student Learning As noted, claims about the influence of Chinese culture on student learning have not gone unchallenged, with researchers cautioning against stereotyping and overgeneralisation. For example, Kember (2000) cited evidence from more than 90 action research projects to question the claim that Asian students are prone to rote and pas-

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sive learning. Tran (2013) interviewed ten university students studying in Australia, but originally from CHC, to solicit their perceptions of the relationship between their learning styles and CHC. Contrary to the widely accepted claim that most students from CHC are passive learners, these interviewees regarded that claim as a misconception, reporting that their own passivity had been shaped by course requirements rather than cultural influences. More recently, Dennehy (2015) conducted an empirical study testing the validity of the prevailing assertion that students from CHC rely heavily upon surface learning. His results rejected that assumption, demonstrating instead that such students exhibit a marked tendency towards adopting a deep learning approach. It is clear that the link between Chinese culture and student learning should not be taken for granted. Further, some critics have asserted that there are misunderstandings about Chinese students’ learning styles, with some showing, for example, that rote learning does not necessarily lead to poor learning outcomes. Gutierrez and Dyson (2009) argued that the assumption that rote learning equates to surface learning is grounded in a Western cultural perspective. In the case of Chinese learners, memorisation is not necessarily ineffective as long as it is employed to facilitate understanding. One plausible reason for Chinese students’ reliance on mechanical rote learning when the medium of instruction is English is their lack of English-language proficiency (Subramaniam 2008). Moreover, memorisation can be used in conjunction with a motivation to understand (Kember 2000). In this regard, Tait (2010) suggested that even when Chinese students adopt memorisation, they are able to develop a sufficient understanding of course materials. Owing to insufficient language skills, many resort to memorising English sentences so as to acquire the linguistic resources needed to express themselves in examinations or tests. In sum, whilst CHC can exert an influence on student learning, any claims about such influence and/or the labelling of Chinese learners should be carefully assessed before generalising them to broader educational contexts.

2.4 Conceptual Framework and the Present Study 2.4.1 Teaching Intervention Anderson, Howe, Soden, Halliday and Low initiated a teaching intervention, which is of particular relevance to the present study. Published in 2001 (i.e. Anderson et al. 2001), the intervention has been quoted in many subsequent studies related to group work and the teaching of critical thinking (e.g. Guiller and Durndell 2006; Guiller et al. 2007; McGuinness 2005; Nicol 2009). More specifically, situated in vocational education and deploying the strategies of modelling and peer-based critiquing, the programme focused on students’ project work for the instruction of evidence-based justification. Eighty-four Further Education college students who were invited from three institutions participated in the programme which consisted of a teaching inter-

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vention of ten sessions. The intervention was designed to merge with their project work. One member of the research team led the lessons within each college, and other members were present to model the peer-based critiquing. To maintain continuity, the same groups of researchers were present in the colleges each week. Whilst the ten-session programme involved the teaching of critical thinking, the importance of ‘peer interaction’ and ‘critiquing’ was equally stressed. Although slight variations of emphasis on the context of instructions existed, the teaching methods across three different colleges were fundamentally the same. Regarding the content of the intervention, several key aspects of critical thinking such as ‘evidence identifying’ and ‘questioning assumptions’ were embedded within the teaching of how to produce a project outline. In particular, the project outline required the students to combine what they had learned in the previous modules and the topic (in the areas of social care facility or health promotion campaign) for their project was of their own choosing. The researchers decided to adopt this teaching approach rather than expecting the students to tackle thinking skills regarding other isolated topics, since they believed that the students would be more interested in applying critical thinking to the relevant examples in their project. With regard to the evaluation, the effectiveness of the programme was assessed in three ways: (i) analysis of the participants’ dialogue, (ii) analysis of their written work and (iii) analysis of their pre- and post-intervention performance on a standardised test of critical thinking. The researchers employed the Verbal component of the ‘Critical Reasoning Test’ which was designed by Smith and Whetton (1992) as the standardised test. Scrutiny of the students’ dialogues suggested that they recognised the significance of justifying their claims, although ‘weak’ justification dominated compared to ‘strong’ and ‘none’ arguments (a ‘weak’ justification means the demonstration of arguments with anecdotes, whilst a ‘strong’ justification reflects the illustration of arguments with evidence). Moreover, content analysis of the students’ written work indicated that they were devoted to justifying their arguments to a significantly greater extent than those in the control groups, whilst the intervention had no apparent effect on the scores for the Critical Reasoning Test. Even though the work of Anderson et al. (2001) took place in the UK, it was still used to guide the design of the reported study in this book (i.e. that was carried out in Hong Kong) because both researches involved the use of Kuhn’s model as a philosophical framework for teaching critical thinking. By building upon the materials developed in Anderson et al. (2001), the teaching interventions in the reported study allowed the participating teachers to play a crucial role in encouraging their students to evaluate their own problem-solving strategies, helping them to develop a set of regulations for expressing their opinions and engage in cooperative activities to facilitate group discussion. In addition, by adopting the same approach as that of Anderson et al. (2001), the reported study also presumed that a student’s choice of project topic constitutes a vehicle for exercising dialogic argument and critical thinking and that the detailed design decisions that need to be made during the project are good topics for practising critical thinking and justification. For these reasons, the work of Anderson et al. (2001) was considered a valuable starting place for the investigation.

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2.4.2 Research Design In the reported study, students were divided into three pedagogical groups (Type1, Type2 and Type3) called ‘Conventional Class,’ ‘Students’ Self-directed Group Work’ and ‘Group Work with Teacher Guidance’ (see Fig. 2.1). In essence, Type2 and Type3 students differed only in terms of teachers’ involvement, with the former lacking teachers’ guidance and the latter receiving guidance during discussions. The participating teachers learnt from the training sessions how to encourage dialogues and discussions in the Type3 groups, but they did not do so amongst the Type2 students. With regard to the differences between the Type1 (conventional class) and Types2 and 3 (group work) students, the latter were provided with ample opportunities to work in groups and make joint arguments, whereas the former had few chances to conduct collective reasoning. The research design actually built on empirical evidence related to teacher engagement in group work. For example, Meloth (1991) studied cooperative learning in the context of literacy instruction over a 16-week period. Students were divided into four heterogeneous groups, and teachers worked with two of the groups, whilst the other two completed assignments collaboratively in a self-directed manner without teacher support. Greater achievement, metacognitive skills and motivation were found amongst the students who had experienced teacher participation. These find-

Fig. 2.1 Conceptual framework of the reported study. The figure was first presented in Fung et al. (2016)

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ings suggest that prolonged, strategic teacher monitoring can have a substantial impact on student learning and discussion content and that the latter effect is durable (Meloth and Deering 1999). To shed further light on this issue, Meloth and Barbe (1992) focused on the instructional exchanges between teachers and students during group work. The transcripts of the group conversations in their research indicated that teachers listen for a few moments, determine what problem the students are experiencing in their work tasks, spend a minute or two explaining what the students are to learn and provide a few examples of how the group can locate or apply information. It was clear that at no time did these exchanges reduce the quality of the conversations. Regarding the pedagogical differences between the conventional and group work classes in theoretical terms, the reported study not only built upon the theory of constructivism suggested by Piaget (1959), but also relied on Vygotsky’s ZPD model (1978). According to Piaget (1932), internal conflict enhances the likelihood of cognitive development. Students develop best through interaction, especially interaction involving critical discussion, explanations, argumentation and joint reasoning. The proposed reliance on the ZPD model, which Vygotsky (1978) defined as ‘the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (p. 86), is underpinned by research evidence (e.g. Galton 1990; Johnson and Johnson 1999b) showing that students who have learned in a cooperative problem-solving environment achieve a significantly higher level of performance than those who have learned on an independent basis. Based on the research design and the theoretical underpinnings cited above, the three groups of students in the reported study were assumed to develop their understanding through the different teaching approaches. The design of the Type3 group work was particularly important, as it addressed the theoretical and practical aspects of ZPD. According to the Vygotskian view, expert guidance (teacher participation in the Type3 group work activities in the reported study) is decisive in helping students to perform at a higher level. In fact, the Type3 setting provided a context for exploring and identifying students’ potential at the upper limit of the ZPD, which could never be achieved in group work in the absence of relatively skilled partners (or adults). Accordingly, the research was expected to illustrate the educational advantages of teacher participation in collaborative group work.

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Park, C. C. (2002). Crosscultural differences in learning style of secondary English learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 26(2), 443–459. Perkins, D. N., & Grotzer, T. A. (1997). Teaching intelligence. American Psychologist, 52, 1125–1133. Perkins, D., Jay, E., & Tishman, S. (1993). New conceptions of thinking: From ontology to education. Educational Psychologist, 28(1), 67–85. Piaget, J. (1928). Judgment and reasoning in the child (M. Warden, Trans.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. Piaget, J. (1932). The moral development of the child. London: Kegan Paul. Piaget, J. (1959). The Language and thought of the child (M. Gabain & Ruth, Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan. Pike, G. R. (1996). Limitations of using students’ self-reports of academic development as proxies for traditional achievement measures. Research in Higher Education, 37(1), 89–114. Purdie, N., & Hattie, J. (2002). Assessing students’ conceptions of learning. Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 2, 17–32. Purdie, N., Hattie, J., & Douglas, G. (1996). Student conceptions of learning and their use of selfregulated learning strategies: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 87–100. Roberge, J. J. (1970). A study of children’s abilities to reason with basic principles of deductive reasoning. American Educational Research Journal, 7(4), 583. Robson, C. (2002). Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner–researchers. Blackwell Publishers. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press. Shapiro, B. J., & O’Brien, T. C. (1970). Logical thinking in children ages six through thirteen. Child Development, 823–829. Shaw, M. E. (1981). Group dynamics: The psychology of small group behaviour. New York: McGraw-Hill. Smith, P., & Whetton, C. (1992). Critical reasoning tests. Windsor: NFER-Nelson. Stapleton, P. (2011). A survey of attitudes towards critical thinking among Hong Kong secondary school teachers: Implications for policy change. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 6(1), 14–23. Subramaniam, G. (2008). Confronting Asian concerns in engaging learners to online education. International Education Studies, 1(4), 10–18. Sweeting, A. (1999). Doing comparative historical education research: Problems and issues from and about Hong Kong. Compare: A Journal of Comparative Education, 29(3), 269–285. Tait, C. (2010). Chinese students’ perceptions of the effects of western university examination formats on their learning. Higher Education Quarterly, 64, 261–275. Tam, S. H. Y. (2001). The implementation of group work in Hong Kong: A case study. Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 2(2), 1–37. Tan, C. (2015). Teacher-directed and learner-engaged: Exploring a Confucian conception of education. Ethics and Education, 10(3), 302–312. Tang, C. (1996). Collaborative learning: The latent dimension in Chinese students’ learning. In D. Watkins & J. Biggs (Eds.), The Chinese learners: Cultural, psychological and contextual influences (pp. 183–204). The University of Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre. Totten, S., Sills, T., Digby, A., & Russ, P. (1991). Cooperative learning: A guide to research. New York: Garland. Tran, T. T. (2013). Is the learning approach of students from the Confucian heritage culture problematic? Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 12(1), 57–65. Trompanaars, F. (1993). Riding the waves of culture. London: Nicholas Brealy Publishing. Turner, Y. (2013). Pathologies of silence? Reflecting on international learner identities amidst the classroom chatter. In J. Ryan (Ed.), Cross-cultural teaching and learning for home and international students (pp. 15–26). London: Routledge.

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Chapter 3

Research Design: A Mixed Methods Approach with a Three-Theme Investigation and Pedagogical Intervention

Abstract This chapter explores the methodological rationale for the study reported herein and explains the related research design, research methods and means of data collection. The next section raises precise research questions, followed by a brief discussion of their significance, outlining the epistemology and theoretical perspective informing the research process. The models proposed by Crotty (The foundations of social research: Meaning and perspective in the research process. Sage Publication, Inc., 1998) and Creswell (Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Sage Publications, Inc., 2003) for developing research proposals are then explored. The third section conceptualises the research design for the three-theme investigation. The research methodology is introduced, and the research methods critically justified, followed by a concise overview of the study’s mixed methods approach. The fourth section then introduces the experimental settings, along with a brief comparison between the ‘quasi’ and ‘true’ experiments. The fifth section provides a detailed description of the teaching interventions, including presentation of the assessment instruments, and the sixth section investigates the research domains and corresponding research themes. Finally, the concluding section describes the participants, procedures, data collection and analysis of the pilot and main studies.

3.1 Statement and Significance of the Research Questions The finalised research questions are conceptualised with the aid of Kuhn’s (1991) model. Research Question 1 1. What are the effects of group work on fostering students’ critical thinking in Hong Kong through an ‘infusion’ teaching programme adapted from Kuhn’s (1991) model?

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Subquestions: (1-1) How effective are the ‘Students’ Self-directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ approaches in cultivating students’ critical-thinking ‘skills’? (1-2) How effective are the ‘Students’ Self-directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ approaches in cultivating students’ critical-thinking ‘dispositions’? Research Question 2 2. What are the effects of group work on the learning motivation of General Studies and Liberal Studies students in Hong Kong? Subquestions: (2-1) How effective is group work in boosting students’ academic achievement? (2-2) How effective is group work in enhancing students’ learning motivation? Research Question 3 3. How does Chinese traditional culture influence and constrain the incorporation of group work in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools? Subquestions: (3-1) Which cultural factors affect the incorporation of group work? (3-2) In what ways are schools constrained in incorporating group work strategies? Addressing these questions is significant for two reasons. First, as the Hong Kong government is pouring unprecedented amounts of money and resources into promoting the use of group work in General Studies and Liberal Studies, especially for reduced class sizes, pedagogical change can be reasonably predicted. However, without a specific productive strategy, the potential to change student learning outcomes in group work does not necessarily occur. Thus, the research questions aim first to testify, and subsequently identify, an effective group work strategy, which makes a difference to students’ learning outcomes in both the academic and attitudinal aspects. Second, as previously indicated, the literature underpinning this research is wide and complex, since there is a need to draw materials from the two independent domains of group work and critical thinking. Yet it is also clear that a potential degree of overlap occurs across these two fields producing a rich and substantial foundation for this research study. By this token, the research questions seek to assist in bridging the gap between these two domains by investigating the effectiveness of group work in supporting critical-thinking skills. Furthermore, the research questions will also contribute to the growing number of studies, which stress the importance of dialogue in supporting group work (e.g. Anderson et al. 2001; Baines et al. 2009; Christie et al. 2009; Rojas-Drummond et al. 2008), amongst others.

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3.2 Research Design Underpinnings 3.2.1 Theoretical Framework Crotty (1998, p. 2) suggests that two important questions should be answered before developing a research study. ‘First, what methodologies and methods will we be employing in the research we propose to do? Second, how do we justify this choice and use of methodologies and methods?’ To respond to the first question, a mixed methods approach was proposed to be employed as the methodology, constituting quasi-experiment, dialogue analysis, questionnaire-based survey and follow-up indepth interview as the potential research methods. It is, however, difficult to answer the second question, by merely stating the critical justification for the choice of methodologies and methods without any theoretical framework. To address this difficulty, some scholars have established well-structured frameworks for research design, aiming to help other researchers to justify their choices in their research proposals. Crotty (1998) introduces a theoretical framework that includes the element, theoretical perspective, to justify the methodology that lies behind research questions. As he suggests (Crotty 1998, p. 3), theoretical perspective is ‘a philosophical stance which provides a context for the process and grounds the methodology’s logic and criteria.’ In order to inform the theoretical perspective, another important element, ‘Epistemology’ which is the theory of knowledge embedded in the theoretical perspective, was introduced. Accompanying two other elements, methodology and methods, researchers are able to organise their research design with philosophical underpinnings. Creswell (2003) reviews Crotty’s (1998) framework and subsequently conceptualises another model to identify the essential elements in the design of research. He considers that knowledge claims, strategies of inquiry and methods are the three basic elements leading to the approaches and design process of research. Knowledge claim, described by Creswell (2003, p. 6), means ‘certain assumptions about how [researchers] will learn and what they will learn during their enquiry.’ This concept possesses a similar content to Crotty’s (1998) idea of epistemologies and ontologies. As both frameworks for research design are compared, one of the most fundamental distinctions is the notion of methodology. In Crotty’s framework, methodology is explicitly stated as the strategy for a particular method. However, this term does not appear in Creswell’s model. Instead, this implicit idea is formed by consideration of strategies of inquiry and approaches to research. Crotty’s (1998) structure is more systematic, for here the philosophical rationales for the elements at the lower levels can be sought by accessing their superior levels. By contrast, Creswell’s model treats the three elements of inquiry independently. A choice of a specific element is unlikely to be explained by another element. Crotty’s (1998) theoretical framework was adopted because its systematic logic facilitates the illustration of the philosophical assumptions underlying the research questions and helps to justify the selected research methodology and methods (see Fig. 3.1).

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Fig. 3.1 Adaptation of Crotty’s (1998) framework for the research design of the reported study

3.2.2 Epistemology and Theoretical Perspectives Epistemology: Constructivism By synthesising different definitions of the term ‘Epistemology’ (Burrell and Morgan 1979, p. 6; Hamlyn 1967, p. 242; Noddings 2006, p. 107), the universally accepted meaning is related to the keyword, knowledge. This is the reason why Crotty (1998) insists that all research is based on epistemological assumptions. The three epistemologies described by Crotty (1998) are objectivism, constructivism and subjectivism, each being ‘an attempt to explain how we know what we know’ (Crotty 1998, p. 18). The selection of constructivism in the reported study in this book can be justi-

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fied by two reasons. Firstly, Brody and Davidson (1998) surveyed the characteristics of the methods of cooperative learning from the 1980s to the mid-1990s. They found that several cooperative models in group work are closely linked to constructivist theory, such as academic controversy (Johnson et al. 2000), complex instruction (Cohen 1994) and group investigation (Sharan and Sharan 1992). They argued that the concept of group work is one of the ideal methods in enhancing interaction to support the social ‘construction’ of knowledge. It directly parallels the constructivist standpoint as ‘reality and knowledge are socially constructed’ (Robson 2002, p. 27). Secondly, as stated above, the third research question of the reported study concerns the cultural perspective on group work. It is subject to the ‘understanding’ of an individual’s perceptions of traditional Chinese society. The knowledge of ‘understanding’ is unlikely to be found, but it waits to be ‘constructed’. As Gleave (1994) defined ‘culture’ as being ‘shaped by people’s’ unconscious assumptions or takenfor-granted beliefs, thus, it coheres with the concept of constructivism, the meaning of which is generated in and out of an interactive human community. Theoretical Perspectives (Paradigm): Interpretivism The origin of the positivistic paradigm is traced historically from Aristotle through Comte, the Vienna Circle, and so forth (Peca 2000). Clearly, the meaning of the term ‘positivism’ has changed and grown over time. However, the fundamental idea of positivism adheres to empirical science as closely as ever. The positivists are always called ‘great lovers of science’ (Crotty 1998, p. 27). The positivistic paradigm has a limited purpose for the research because its supreme ideas of accuracy, certainty and hard facts, contrast sharply with the research ideology of providing students with plenty of options and solutions to the problem-solving activities. In fact, many social science researchers encounter the same problem. This indirectly establishes two poles within theoretical perspectives. Specifically, the single pole of positivism unsatisfactorily bridges the historical gap between research in natural and social science. Thus, in order to understand the meaning of social activities, a new paradigm, interpretivism, emerges in contradistinction to positivism. It was upheld by Max Weber (1864–1920) who believes that ‘Interpretative sociology considers the individual and his action as the basic unit’ (Gerth and Mills 1946, p. 55). Interpretivism constructs a reality from what is seen, understood and observed by the researcher. The research paradigm of the reported study conforms to interpretivism as it is commonly understood and even taken for granted by social science research (Denzin and Lincoln 2008). The reason for associating the research within interpretivism is twofold. Firstly, it can be underpinned by the epistemological stance on constructivism. Knowledge no longer ‘applies to’ students only, but conversely, it is also ‘constructed’ by students. Therefore, the research design, in providing instructional interventions to students, offers them a good opportunity to ‘construct’ and ‘interpret’ their own knowledge in critical thinking. It resonates well with the idea of interpretivism that all knowledge is a matter of interpretation (Robson 2002, p. 14). In fact, this interpretivist approach to learning is not new and has been commonly applied in the US university environment throughout the last decade (Galliers 1992).

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Fig. 3.2 Three-theme research design

Secondly, in the research on the process of group work, students will bring a certain ‘understanding’ to their groups and, in turn, their ‘understanding’ will be affected by their experiences of social interaction with other group members. This matches the belief of the interpretivist who stresses that organisations are built up on the basis of their members’ shared values, beliefs and understanding (Mumby 1987). Although the limitations of interpretivism raised by Fay (1976) are noticed, who asserts that there is a risk of contradictions amongst the supposedly common meanings and practices, it is argued that the presence of different perceptions or understandings of learning in General Studies and Liberal Studies will be of particular value to the research.

3.3 Research Design and Methodology 3.3.1 Research Design: Three-Theme Investigation According to the literature review of critical thinking, there are two essential elements, ‘Skills’ and ‘Dispositions,’ both constituting this specific concept (Kuhn 1991; McPeck 1981). Similarly, based on the review of the publications related to group work, productive group work strategies affect students’ academic and attitudinal aspects (Cohen 1994; Pell et al. 2007). Thus, the research was divided into two subdomains: ‘critical thinking’ and ‘group work,’ in order to study their ‘mutual’ relationship. Accordingly, the research’s conceptual framework was constructed and divided into three guiding themes (see Fig. 3.2). The first theme investigated the effectiveness of group work with regard to students’ academic achievement through the domain of ‘Skills.’ More specifically, a quasi-experimental design was employed for the research setting with hypothesis testing for the data analysis. In terms of the domain of ‘Dispositions,’ a self-report

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instrument was used to examine the different critical-thinking dispositions of students. In the final theme, the domain of ‘Strategy,’ which considered the influence of Chinese culture on productive group work strategy, was explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with students and teachers, and discourse analysis and thematic analysis were adopted as the data analysis methods.

3.3.2 Methodology: Mixed Methods Approach From a methodological point of view, both quantitative and qualitative research methods were incorporated into the investigation. This approach is usually called the ‘mixed methods approach,’ which is an emerging research approach in the field of social sciences (Creswell 2003). In this section, this concept will be briefly introduced and the reasons to employ this strategy will be explained. The mixed methods approach involves a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods and was initially introduced in 1959 when it was employed to assess the validity of psychological traits (Creswell 2003). After this, the concept seemed to be a breakthrough in the twentieth century. According to Creswell (2003), several variations of the mixed methods approach can be adopted. He states that researchers can consider employing quantitative and qualitative methods sequentially or concurrently. By the same token, researchers are also given a choice as to how to prioritise each of the methods. The sequential employment of the mixed methods approach enables researchers to supplement, or elaborate upon, findings elicited by one method with those elicited by another. Researchers can prioritise the qualitative method over the quantitative for the purpose of exploring a research topic before generalising its findings to a larger population (Creswell and Clark 2007) or, alternatively, can adopt the quantitative method first to examine concepts or theories before employing the qualitative method to explore selected cases in greater depth. Concurrent use of both research methods allows researchers to collect two types of data simultaneously and then converge them to facilitate a holistic understanding of the overall results (Creswell and Clark 2007). Owing to the growing popularity of both qualitative and quantitative research methods in the 1980s (Creswell 2003), educational researchers in particular increasingly began to apply the mixed methods approach, whose roots lie in the concept of ‘method triangulation,’ which entails the cross-verification of different data sources (Patton 1990). It is noteworthy that each research method has its own limitations but elicits findings demonstrating varying facets of reality (Denzin 1978). Accordingly, a combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods, namely the mixed methods approach, seeks to produce a synergistic effect and achieve the best results, although the approach may be fraught with challenges, particularly for novice researchers. In view of the merits of the mixed methods approach, this research sequentially adopted quantitative, mixed and qualitative methods in investigating the three themes. Moreover, interpretivism provided the underlying rationale for employing the mixed

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methods approach in the sense that the quantitative data obtained with respect to the second theme were ‘interpreted’ and corroborated by the interview responses elicited with respect to the third. It is argued that although interpretivists often use qualitative methods exclusively, there is no inherent contradiction between the quantitative method and interpretivism. Conversely, qualitative and quantitative methodologies seem not to be polar opposites but constitute a continuum (Hammersley 1992).

3.4 Quasi-experimental Settings The study reported in this book comprised two research projects implemented in two primary and two secondary schools in Hong Kong. Both projects adopted a quasi-experimental approach to illustrate the influence of group work on primary and secondary students’ development of critical thinking. Compared with a quasiexperiment (‘quasi’ means ‘as if’) which looks like an experiment but in effect is not an authentic experiment (Cohen et al. 2007), a ‘true’ experiment adopts a cause-andeffect hypothesis in which the variables can be perfectly isolated and manipulated (Robson 2002). Given that the perfect isolation of variables in our projects (e.g. student ability and teacher experience) seemed to be not feasible and in view of the ecological validity of the classroom practice, a quasi-experiment was employed in the research. Specifically, based on the research designs (see Tables 3.1 and 3.2), the pedagogy of group work was practised with the treatment groups, whilst the conventional teacher-centred method was applied to the control groups. Although the perfect randomisation of participants could not be achieved in the projects, the classes of students were randomly allocated into the control and experimental groups. As a consequence, the dangers of a selection procedure of these two groups which affects the dependent variables could be minimised.

3.5 Teaching Interventions The interventions of the two projects were similar and were in the form of a series of ten lessons, which introduced such problem-solving tasks as collaborative graffiti, discussions, debates, peer critiquing, presentations and reflection in relation to the General Studies and Liberal Studies curricula. They were designed to contextualise the teaching of critical thinking around decision-making relevant to these activities. In essence, the interventions attempted to teach the students Kuhn’s (1991) five key critical-thinking skills, namely (1) making a distinction between viewpoints and evidence, (2) supporting theory with evidence, (3) proposing other possible theories, (4) making counter-arguments and (5) appraising evidence. These skills provide a focus for practising both evidence-based justification and the generation of critiques.

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Table 3.1 Quasi-experimental setting of the general studies project (sample size  205) Quasi-experiment (Robson 2002) Groups

Control groups

Experimental groups

Classification

Type1

Type2

Type3

Pedagogy

Conventional class

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’

School A (N  102)

Conventional class (N  34)

‘Student’s self-directed’ group work ‘Student’s self-directed’ group work (N  34)

School B (N  103)

Conventional class (N  35)

‘Student’s self-directed’ group work (N  34)

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’ (N  34)

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’ (N  34)

Table 3.2 Quasi-experimental setting of the liberal studies project (sample size  140) Quasi-experiment (Robson 2002) Groups

Control groups

Experimental groups

Classification

Type1

Type2

Type3

Pedagogy

Conventional class

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’

School A (N  70)

Conventional class (N  35)

‘Student’s self-directed’ group work ‘Student’s self-directed’ group work (n  20)

School B (N  70)

Conventional class (N  35)

‘Student’s self-directed’ group work (N  20)

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’ (N  15)

Group work with ‘teacher guidance’ (N  15)

Apart from these five key skills, the teaching interventions additionally addressed the issue of ‘meaning clarification’ and ‘importance of assumptions,’ but the most substantial focus was upon ‘evidence-based justification.’ The lessons began and ended with the administration of the pre-tests and post-tests of the Test of Critical Thinking Skills for Primary and Secondary School Students (TCTS-PS) and the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI). Together with four recorded sessions of debates and presentations, these provided the raw scores and results of the quasi-experiments. Meanwhile, a series of activities were conducted which involved: (a) brief introduction and presentation of the research programmes, followed by short ice-breaking games, (b) students’ deployment of the dialogic model by presenting and defending their opinions with their peers in group discussion and (c) construction of graffiti sheets (i.e. General Studies) as well as project plan specification and timescale (i.e. Liberal Studies).

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Each lesson of the interventions lasted for approximately an hour and consisted of ‘Introduction,’ ‘Problem-solving activities’ and ‘Conclusion.’ A five-minute recess was given to students for refreshment in the midst of each lesson. Specifically, the first two lessons aimed to assess the critical-thinking ‘skills’ and ‘dispositions’ of students prior to their learning of argumentative thinking. At the beginning of the first lesson, the teachers played a ten-minute ice-breaking activity which required students to use an object to describe themselves and to restate the descriptions made by their partners. It was intended to afford students ample opportunities to familiarise themselves with the group members they would be working in. Subsequently, teachers started the course by giving a brief outline of what the programmes and students should achieve. Students were asked to share their expectations of the lessons to their group members. A thirty-minute TCTS-PS pre-test was then administered before the first videorecording session was employed in the classroom discussion in order to identify any evidence for dialogic interaction prior to the introduction of the concept of reasoned argument. A similar lesson structure was employed in the second session except for the icebreaking activity. Instead of the TCTS-PS test, a twenty-minute CCTDI questionnaire was employed followed by practice in classroom discussion. However, in the end of the second lesson, students in the General Studies context were introduced to the collaborative graffiti activities, whilst those in the Liberal Studies context were required to start thinking the foci of their independent enquiry projects. This was importance since the programmes sought to help the General Studies students to collaboratively discuss content-specific questions and the Liberal Studies students to select topic, construct abstract and propose timescale of their own projects by considering the concepts that they learned during the interventions. Lesson 3 started teaching students Kuhn’s argumentative model. The teachers presented the idea of ‘problem’ that means ‘a situation in which we want to achieve something but there isn’t a simple way of achieving what we want’ (Anderson et al. 2001). Certain examples of ‘problem,’ such as ‘I need to get to college before 9 am but the trains are on strike,’ were provided. The students raised some funny examples like ‘I want to go to toilet, but I don’t have tissue in my pocket.’ Thus, building upon their interesting examples, the teachers turned to discuss the idea of ‘factors’ which are the major aspects that need to be considered before proposing a solution. With the above examples, factors like ‘Can I walk to the college?’ or ‘Can I borrow tissue from my classmate?’ could be considered. Finally, worksheets containing exercises such as ‘Making an evening meal,’ which prompted students to learn to think about the factors behind the issue, e.g. ‘How many people are they cooking for?’ ‘What foodstuffs have they got?’ and ‘What do they like to eat’ were discussed in the lesson. Lesson 4 commenced by revising and building upon the concepts of ‘problem’ and ‘factors’ to make sure that every student knew what the concepts mean. Consequently, the concept of ‘theory,’ which was intended to guide students to understand the difference between viewpoints and evidence, was taught before presentation of the idea of ‘counter-argument.’ This is because, according to Kuhn’s model, ‘theory’ is the most essential element through which students are able to develop conceptual understanding of the critical-thinking model. In order to illustrate this concept clearly,

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teachers wrote some examples on the blackboard, like (extracted from Anderson et al. 2001 based on Kuhn 1991) (a) ‘I am certain that the main cause of school failure is poor teaching. I have two kids myself. I have seen year after year what they have gone through, and one year if the teacher can really teach, the kids make great strides forward. But, then, by the same token, there have been years when the kids have gone down in their work.’ (b) ‘Of course, the main cause of school failure is poor teaching. I don’t need evidence to be sure of this. When it comes to kids, I can work by my good instinct. I can go by my life experience.’ (c) ‘To show you that poor teaching causes school failure, I would look at the grades they get in school. These would show that they are getting poor teaching.’ Students were asked to indicate which of the above examples best represents the deployment of ‘evidence.’ In fact, neither (b) nor (c) is evidence because they do not provide the listener with information to refer to when checking the claim and they do not relate to the information about poor teaching. This illustration enabled students to practise supporting views with strong evidence during group debates in the following lessons. Further instances of good and poor evidence for a claim were provided and discussed. After students illustrated their competence in perceiving the concepts of ‘factors’ and ‘theory’ in the sense of Kuhn’s model, another two elements, ‘counterargument’ and ‘rebuttal,’ were introduced in lessons 5 and 6. In particular, in the previous lesson, students were inclined to respond to the problems with their own counter-arguments, which could have given them good reasons for ignoring certain evidence. Hence, teachers used the students’ own examples to demonstrate the idea of ‘counter-argument’ (an argument to rebut the evidence from the other claims). Teachers initially looked for the students who could demonstrate their own counterarguments to check that they understood this abstract concept thoroughly. However, since the notion of counter-argument was considered to be challenging for some students, teachers illustrated it with the following examples: (a) (The speaker thought that poor teaching causes school failure, and the opposing view is that drugs cause school failure)—‘Not everyone is on drugs that fails in school. Some people that fail they come from better homes, or even if they don’t live in better…but they’re not on drugs and their mind is straight;’ (b) (The speaker thought that poor teaching causes school failure and the opposing view is that people who fail are born thick)—‘I couldn’t say anything cause I know there are people who’re born, you know, born with some screws loose;’ (c) (The speaker thought that poor teaching causes school failure, and the opposing view is that it is the home background)—‘I don’t think I’d even try to say something against. Because I feel he’s entitled to his opinion. He wants to believe it, that’s fine. I am not argumentative.’ Obviously, statement (a) attempts to provide rebuttals to the argument which is that ‘poor teaching causes school failure,’ whereas statements (b) and (c) cannot justify

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their corresponding counter-arguments. The teachers provided more examples to individual students who remained confused by the notion of counter-argument. Lesson 7 in the Liberal Studies project mainly emphasised on applying group work in the discussion of the practicability and timescales for the students’ independent enquiry projects. A distinction between aims and objectives and the need to construct a project plan was identified. More specifically, students worked in groups to ask their peers to support their topics by giving reasoned arguments. After the group discussion, the teachers raised a number of issues which the students should think about before justifying their topics. The following issues were recommended: (a) Personal interest is of course important, and it is usually what most people consider first; (b) It is important to choose something that is a significant social issue; (c) It is also important to choose something which is manageable within the timescale. Lesson 8 in the Liberal Studies research project (equivalent to Lesson 7 in the General Studies project) offered revisions to students regarding the ‘use of evidence’ and ‘completeness of evidence.’ Pinpointing a general tendency amongst students towards lack of confidence in evidence-giving, teachers followed Anderson et al.’s strategy of encouraging students by stating that: (a) Nobody got zero in the TCTS-PS pre-test, so everyone has some skills in evidence-giving; (b) Nobody got full marks, so there is some scope for improvement. Apart from that, to address issues around the validity of evidence, a brief introduction of the concept of statistical inference was provided. Students were asked to construct a data collection procedure in order to provide rational grounds for their independent enquiry projects. Approaching the end of the interventions, a revision session was conducted and the post-tests of TCTS-PS and CCTDI were administered. Finally, video-recording sessions in the last two lessons provided valuable evidence regarding the students’ skills in the area of argumentative thinking (Fig. 3.3).

3.6 Research Domains, Methods and Data Collection 3.6.1 Theme 1: Effectiveness in Students’ Academic Aspects Referring to the ‘research-based evidence’ and ‘theoretical argument’ presented in Sect. 2.3.2, a range of studies shows that critical epistemology is teachable, and welldesigned practice can help to improve critical thinking (Perkins and Tishman 2001). In relation to a dialogical-based teaching intervention (Alexander 2004), this theme aims to examine the ‘mutual’ relationship between group work and the learning of critical-thinking ‘skills.’ Specifically, this theme seeks to explore research questions: Q1-1 and Q2-1, ‘What is the effectiveness of ‘Students’ Self -directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ approaches

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Fig. 3.3 Schedule of the teaching intervention in the Liberal Studies project

in cultivating students’ critical thinking ‘skills?’ and ‘What is the effectiveness of group work for students’ academic achievement?’ Accordingly, two hypotheses were proposed in this theme as follows: Hypothesis 1 More evidence of critical thinking (‘skills’) exists in the ‘Teacher Guidance’ group (Type3) than the ‘Self-directed’ group (Type2) in the teaching interventions. Hypothesis 2 More evidence of critical thinking (‘academic’) exists in the ‘group work’ (Type2&3) students than the ‘conventional class’ (Type1) students. According to the research designs, data relevant to hypotheses 1 and 2 directly informed research questions Q1-1 and Q2-1, respectively. Concerning the research method of quasi-experiment in relation to this theme, the independent variable was the teaching ‘pedagogy’ (i.e. Type1, 2&3), whilst the dependent variable was the student’s ‘academic’ learning outcomes. In essence, this theme was situated in the ‘Domain of Skills’ and quantitatively investigated the results of the students’ criticalthinking skills. Basically, since the teaching interventions were infused in the school curricula of General Studies and Liberal Studies, students engaged in the programmes which constituted one section of their modules in school. However, all participants were told that their responses in the group debate and coursework were to be used only for academic purposes and would be kept confidential. Accordingly, three main sources of data were collected to address the first theme: (a) pre- and post-tests of TCTS-PS, (b) video recordings of group debates and (c) written work including graffiti sheets as well as the plans and outlines of the independent enquiry projects. In the following, each of these three sources will be described in turn.

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The TCTS-PS, which was designed by Yeh et al. (2009) with regard to the Chinese context, comprises five subtests with a total of 24 items, each measuring a varying dimension of critical-thinking ability. In particular, the test is administrated to evaluate acquisition of critical-thinking skills through formal instruction, to estimate learning outcomes in programmes in which critical thinking is crucial and to examine how critical-thinking skills relate to other capabilities or characteristics. This scale has a possible total score of 72. Previous research indicates that TCTS-PS has a reasonable level of reliability and validity when used in Taiwan to measure the critical-thinking skills of 227 elementary school and middle school students, with a satisfactory internal consistency coefficient (Crocker and Algina α  .80) and high criterion-related validity (using thinking attitude, achievement motivation and school grades as criteria). Specifically, this test was expected to be completed within 30 min and to be suitable for evaluating the teaching interventions. The pre- and post-tests were implemented in the first and the ninth lessons, respectively. Moreover, the students’ dialogic interactions were systematically observed during the teaching intervention of the Liberal Studies project. Some focal group debate sessions were video-recorded in the first two lessons (i.e. pre-intervention data collection) and the last two lessons (i.e. post-intervention data collection), respectively. In particular, two occasions were video-recorded before and after the teaching programme, although participation in the video recording was on a voluntary basis. More specifically, each video-recording session of a group debate lasted for 20–30 min. As a result, a total of approximately 100 contributions and about 8 h of group debate were obtained. The frequency of a series of dialogue variables was subsequently counted. This helped to ascertain whether any patterns of dialogue relevant to critical-thinking skills were discernible. In addition to the dialogical evidence, data in written form were also collected. Graffiti sheets were collected during the teaching programme of the General Studies project, whilst outlines, worksheets and plans of the students’ independent enquiry projects were constantly synthesised throughout the teaching programme of the Liberal Studies project. The final drafts of the students’ independent enquiry projects were assembled approximately two months after the accomplishment of the programme, which provided evidence for the impact of dialogues on the students’ written work.

3.6.2 Theme 2: Effectiveness in Students’ Attitudinal Aspects The hypotheses relating to the second theme are as follows: Hypothesis 3 More evidence of critical thinking (‘attitudinal’) exists in the ‘Teacher Guidance’ group (Type3) than the ‘Self-directed’ group (Type2). Hypothesis 4 More evidence of critical thinking (‘attitudinal’) exists in the ‘group work’ (Type2&3) students than the ‘conventional class’ (Type1) students.

3.6 Research Domains, Methods and Data Collection

49

Theme 2 further investigated the effectiveness of group work regarding students’ critical-thinking ‘dispositions.’ As indicated in Sect. 3.3.2, quantitative and qualitative research methods were deployed sequentially to investigate this theme, thereby combining their breadth and depth of validity. Practically speaking, by using the CCTDI in this theme, the results of a two-way ANOVA (analysis of variance) were obtained which compared the pre- and post-level of students’ critical-thinking ‘dispositions’ as a function of the type of teaching. These results were triangulated by the data collected in the follow-up interview in Theme 3. Theme 2 relates to research questions: Q1-2 and Q2-2, ‘What is the effectiveness of ‘Students’ Self -directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ approaches in cultivating students’ critical thinking ‘dispositions’?’ and ‘What is the effectiveness of group work for students’ learning motivation?’ Quantitatively speaking, the instrumental tool that was selected to assess criticalthinking dispositions was adapted from the CCTDI created by Facione and Facione (1992). It consists of seven subsets with a total of 40 questions. Each subset evaluates a different dimension of critical-thinking disposition, namely willingness to discover truth, broad-mindedness, analytical skills, tendency of approaching problems in a systematic manner, eagerness for knowledge, maturity and self-efficacy. This specific self-report tool enables research participants to assess themselves using a six-point scale (1 indicating that a statement fails to describe them and 6 indicating that a statement accurately defines them). Research has shown that the CCTDI is an instrument of reasonable reliability and validity for identifying the critical-thinking disposition of junior high students in Taiwan (Yang and Chung 2009). Internally consistent reliability has been obtained for the total scale with Cronbach coefficient α  .83. Administration of this test followed identical procedures to those used with the TCTS-PS as detailed in the last section. Besides the CCTDI, a questionnaire-based survey was used to address the second theme in the context of Liberal Studies. The rationale for employing a questionnaire was twofold. Firstly, the research participants consisted of approximately 140 students and 8 teachers. The method of questionnaire-based survey, regardless of whether it employs open or closed questions, is one of the most effective ways to obtain information on a large scale. It therefore offers distinct advantages in yielding a large volume of information on a given research topic within a short time (Morgan 1979). Secondly, with approximately 70 students in the experimental and control group, respectively, there were a large number of potential candidates for personal conversations or interviews. Thus, it would be difficult to carry out individual interviews on a one-to-one basis with all students and teachers in Theme 3. Therefore, questionnaire-based surveys were regarded as a method for ‘screening through’ the respondents for follow-up interviews. As a result, the questionnaire-based survey method was well suited to the research design, at least as regards Theme 2 of the projects. In order to investigate the students’ dispositions towards group work, a ‘reflective’ questionnaire-based survey was designed to address both perceptions and attitudes towards group work after the teaching intervention. Previous studies provided a number of frameworks to the construction of the questionnaire-based surveys. Specifi-

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3 Research Design: A Mixed Methods Approach with a Three-Theme …

Fig. 3.4 Variables related to the students’ attitude towards group work

cally, various reputable studies which emerged during the 1990s and the 2000s were selected for scrutiny including Duncan and McKeachie (2005), Gillies (2004), Hancock (2004), Hanze and Berger (2007), Nichols (1996), Pintrich and De Groot (1990) and Wolters et al. (1996). Broadly speaking, these studies all investigated students’ attitude towards group work, which shared some common features as regards questionnaire construction. Firstly, closed questions were used in most of the studies, whilst open questions were only occasionally used to validate and triangulate the qualitative results. Secondly, the majority of the research employed a five-point Likert scale measuring the responses to the closed questions. Thirdly, two important variables (see Fig. 3.4) emerged as significant indicators of the student’s disposition towards group work. The first is: (a) ‘Self-efficacy’ which is conceptualised as ‘beliefs in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments’ (Bandura 2000, p. 3). In particular, it is perceived to influence learners’ study and motivation (Schunk 1990; Zimmerman 1995). It also affects individuals’ actions to take, their commitment to their goals, persistence in achieving success despite impediments, and whether ways of thinking are impeding factors or facilitating factors. In view of the research focus on group work, another facet that previous research suggests the questionnaire should include was the variable: ‘Learning styles.’ This may refer to the acknowledgement that the two learning styles, namely cooperative and individual, are equally beneficial instead of one being more preferable than the other. Certain prominent prototypes of cooperation indicate that cooperation encompasses component competencies which occasionally occur in a series of stages (Good et al. 1992; Stipek 2002) through which students can assist one another. It also seemed possible that individual learning is facilitated through component competencies. Besides covering these two variables, the questionnaire oper-

3.6 Research Domains, Methods and Data Collection

51

ationalised the students’ attitudes towards group work by incorporating Johnson and Johnson’s (1985) five fundamental ‘cooperative learning’ elements. Thus, the five variables, namely Interdependence, Interaction, Accountability, Interpersonal Skills and Group Processing, were also used in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was composed of two sections. The first section comprised 28 closed questions in seven subsections (A–G) in relation to the seven identified variables. In this way, four questions in each subsection were designed to provide an evaluation of a variable. In the second section, two open questions were included to elicit the participants’ responses concerning group work and independent learning. These questions afforded participants an opportunity to express their views freely. To motivate respondents to provide their personal contacts for further investigation (Frazer and Lawley 2000), some postcards were prepared to be delivered as gifts to those willing to be involved. Moreover, messages of thanks were included at the end of the questionnaire. Concerning the format of the questionnaire, five-point Likert scales were adopted to assess the closed questions, which conformed to the ‘international standard’ set by previous work and therefore facilitated possible comparison. In addition, a ‘selfcompletion’ approach was adopted which means that respondents would respond to the survey items on their own (Robson 2002). However, an online survey, rather than the conventional method of delivering the questionnaires in class, was conducted. This provided a convenient way to collect and analyse data. Accordingly, the Web link to the survey was distributed through the mailing lists supplied by the schools (i.e. the Liberal Studies project), with the students’ and teachers’ agreement.

3.6.3 Theme 3: Influence of Chinese Culture on Group Work Several studies (e.g. Flowerdew 1998; Nguyen et al. 2006; Reid 1987; Vogel et al. 1999) indicate that cultural factors exert a strong influence on the incorporation of group work. Thus, this theme set out to examine the influence of Chinese traditional culture on the incorporation of group work in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools. Specifically, it investigated cultural factors as constraints on the group work strategy. This relates directly to the third research question: ‘How does Chinese traditional culture influence and constrain the incorporation of group work into Hong Kong primary and secondary schools?’ Concerning the research method, in-depth interview is arguably treated as an informal conversation which produces less valuable findings than other types of interviews (Cohen et al. 2007). However, as Kahn and Cannell (1957) indicates, in-depth interview can be ‘a conversation with a purpose’ (p. 149). It can be used to probe into some general topics and reveal the respondent’s perspective, whilst also respecting how responses are structured (McKernan 1991). In the context of the reported projects, the method had two main advantages. Firstly, in-depth interview is closely related to the constructivist epistemological stance adopted by the research. Practically speaking, compared to structured and semi-structured interviews, it confers a higher degree of

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3 Research Design: A Mixed Methods Approach with a Three-Theme …

freedom on interviewers and interviewees to mutually construct the content of the conversation (Cohen et al. 2007; Robson 2002). Since most of the respondents in the interviews were mature persons, such as primary school teachers as well as secondary school students and teachers, comparatively speaking, there were strong grounds for believing that they would be capable of framing their responses to the research topics. Secondly, the research design in the context of Liberal Studies, which adopted indepth interviews by selecting the potential candidates from the questionnaire-based survey, combines both ‘survey’ and ‘individual interview’ to optimise the respective strengths and minimise the corresponding weakness of each approach. The flexibility of the interviewing strategy might also help to elicit some unexpected findings. A total of twelve secondary school students and eight teachers were interviewed in the Liberal Studies project, whereas given the time constraint of the General Studies project, four primary school teachers were interviewed. To ensure confidentiality, the interview was on an individual basis, and it comprised two retrospective sections. The first section was concerned with the potential cultural factors affecting the students’ learning when they are working in groups. Their worksheets and drafts of project outlines collected in the classes were used as a stimulus for the students and teachers to recall their considerations. The second section was unstructured by nature, so teachers were asked open-ended questions related to the limitations of practising group work in classrooms. Follow-up questions were asked depending on individual responses. Interviewees’ views and comments were also noted down, and their anonymity was guaranteed based on their preference. All interviews were audio-taped unless any of the interviewees felt that this was intrusive.

3.7 Training Workshop Three training sessions for each participating school were arranged prior to the pilot and main studies. The researcher led all the training sessions, and the participating teachers also attended the sessions and sometimes acted as models, showing ways of raising questions, expressing ideas alternatively and providing explanations. Each training workshop lasted for around an hour, and some slight adjustments regarding the content of the training materials were made based on experience in the different classes. In the first training session, the participating students, who would join the main study at the later stage, were prompted to propose approaches of forming a group for their training programme. Amongst the great variety of suggestions made, three grouping methods were focused upon and received support from the students (i) random allocation, (ii) teacher’s assignment and (iii) student’s own composition based on friendship. After the students were instructed about the benefits and disadvantages of different methods of the group formation, they were offered the opportunities to discuss and vote for their preferred methods. Eventually, after several vigorous discussions, the students voted for random allocation.

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53

After the groups of students were formed, a team-building activity was introduced, with the aim of developing their ability to build trust, take turns and justify their arguments with evidence. The name of the activity was called ‘Tell Three Things’ which aimed to let the students become acquainted with one another and familiarise themselves with the group work process. In particular, each group member wrote down three things about him/herself on a list. Two things were truth, whilst one thing was a falsehood. Upon completion of their lists, students alternated in telling the three things on the lists and encouraging their peers to find out the ‘falsehood’. They were requested to support their answers with evidence. It can be seen from the students’ self-reflection after this activity that they learned more about how to communicate with each other. After the team-building activity, the researcher went over materials which suggested approaches for raising, responding to and explaining questions. Importantly, the students were not obliged to follow every suggested method, since they were encouraged to make adjustments according to the real situation. Consequently, the participating teachers demonstrated how to be a good ‘inquirer’ and ‘respondent.’ Subsequently, the students practised the relevant skills in groups through role play, thereby gaining a preliminary understanding of peer cooperation. The teachers concluded the first training session with a discussion over the problems the students encountered, and then worked out the resolution whilst revising and consolidating the techniques. In the second training session, in order to let the groups learn to work together, a challenging activity called ‘Untying Knots’ was introduced. The activity not only built up students’ sense of responsibility, but also required them to cooperate to address the challenge. Specifically, the teacher in each group took a long rope and tied one knot about every three feet until there was one knot for each student. The teacher then laid the rope on the ground in a straight line, and each student stood by a knot on the rope. Subsequently, the students started to pick up the rope, but they had to grip on either side of the rope. Meanwhile, they had to untie the knots without letting go of the rope. Afterwards, follow-up reflection in each group offered the students opportunities to strengthen their presentation skills. They had to share their strategies with their peers related to how they had to behave in group work, which could include appropriate interpersonal behaviours such as specifying the task objective, clarifying the prescribed task, reinforcing the group members with frequent praise and encouragement, i.e. well done, be friendly and patient, be sensitive to group members’ needs, do not ignore any signal of non-understanding and consult the teacher when necessary. Indeed, the students’ reflections also showed that they gained a better understanding of the task arrangement that included the role, responsibility and resources sharing expected of each group member. Building on the presentation and sharing, the students were encouraged to keep a log to record briefly what they had learned in the activity. The teachers picked some sophisticated students from different groups to demonstrate the presentation skills in front of the whole class. The teachers also provided assistance to the weaker

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students, as identified from observations of the activity, followed by discussions to consolidate the cooperative abilities. The final training session reminded the students of the importance of regulation in group work. They learned the notion of ground rules before engaging in a group task named ‘Solve the Equation.’ To begin with, the researcher presented two equations (i.e. r + r = r and r − r = r) to the students who were then required to provide their interpretation of the equations. The participating teachers offered some tips and implied that they were related to the regulations in class discussion. The students then had discussions in groups, attempting to come up with words with an initial of ‘r’ that were pertinent to classroom rules. Amongst these words, they selected those that can fit the equation whilst making sense. The students indeed successfully provided many answers, such as rules + resolve = reunion and repeat − respect = redundant. Furthermore, the students also thought of other r words including rewards, reflection, regard and recall. The second part of the final training session demonstrated the techniques for having group discussions, defending and engaging in argumentative reasoning activities. Methods of receiving peers’ criticism in an effective and productive manner were also covered. At the end, a feedback session was provided specifically for the participating teachers and students to evaluate the training workshops.

3.8 Pilot Study The pilot study was conducted in the Liberal Studies project and in the tenth-grade classes of the two participating secondary schools. Thirty-five students were randomly chosen from School A and School B, respectively, who were not selected for the main study of the project, to pilot a few lessons of the teaching intervention. The purposes of the pilot study were: (i) to make a preliminary evaluation of the appropriateness of the teaching intervention, (ii) to observe and verify whether the group work learning approach was being used in a successful way in the classroom and (iii) to pilot TCTS-PS and provide statistical results relating to its reliability in the two schools. The lessons delivered by two teachers, Gloria and Jane, were used as pilot lessons in School A and School B, respectively. Jane was an experienced teacher who had taught in School B for about 15 years. Gloria had accumulated three years of teaching experience in School A at the time of the pilot study. Their pilot sessions were observed with their informed consent. They appeared to be very cooperative and supportive of the research. In School A, Gloria piloted lessons 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the teaching intervention. In Lesson 1, she made great efforts to create a class atmosphere suitable for the use of group work. In addition, she encouraged students to have discussions in group and think about their expectation of the pilot study. The students were then engaged in describing their peers in the ice-breaking game. In Lesson 3, Gloria taught Kuhn’s model by following the slides prepared by the researchers for the intervention, and

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55

she presented the idea of ‘factors’ to the students. Although the majority (around 30) of the students understood the concept of ‘factors’ after Gloria cited several dailylife examples, there were still a few students who found the meaning of this concept difficult. In the post-lesson feedback session, Gloria suggested that since the students lacked experience in cooking nowadays, the exercises of ‘Making an evening meal?’ could be usefully replaced with ‘Buying a mobile phone, like the iPhone3G?’ The students appeared to be more interested in this scenario and proved more capable of understanding the concept of ‘factors.’ In Lesson 4, most students correctly voted for the answer of ‘evidence’ in the sample questions after they learned the idea of ‘theory.’ However, Gloria found that the schedule was quite tight, and she had little time to spare for the students to discuss their projects. Thus, she proposed that the discussion could be moved to Lesson 5 when the main study would be conducted. Finally, in Lesson 5, as the content of the teaching schedule was very straightforward and comparatively simple, Gloria ran the lesson without any difficulties. In the case of School B, Jane was competent at employing group work strategies and had provided many exemplary practices to her colleagues. In her lessons during the pilot study, she afforded her students many opportunities to express themselves and exchange their ideas with one another. As a result, it was observed that the students were more inclined to provide justification for their claims in group discussions. They also seemed to be more willing to listen to their classmates and provide feedback on their views. The third objective of the pilot study was to pilot the TCTS-PS test (see Table 3.3) and provide statistical results relating to its reliability. The 35 students in each school spent 25 min completing the test in the first pilot lesson, and their results were subjected to rigorous analysis. As mentioned before, the reliable consistency coefficient (Cronbach) of the TCTS-PS reached α  .80 amongst 227 students from elementary and middle schools in Taiwan. More recently, this test has been used by other researchers, Yang and Chung (2009), who conducted an experimental research on fostering critical thinking in civic education in the context of junior high school in Taiwan. It has also been widely adopted by researchers such as Chen et al. (2010) and Yeh et al. (2009) to investigate gender differences in practising critical-thinking skills. However, in order to ensure that this test was suitable for Hong Kong students and adequate for the reported study, its reliability level was checked in the pilot study. Several analytical procedures including item analysis (such as item difficulty and item discrimination), reliability testing and correlation were sequentially performed. Item difficulty (p) is the proportion of respondents who answered the item correctly (Nunnally and Ator 1972). High p values (max  1) indicate that the item is easy, and conversely, the item is relatively hard if it has a low p value (min  0). According to Rani (2004), it is desirable to have a mixture of difficulties in items on a test if it is intended to evaluate different levels of abilities or skills. Referring to Table 3.4, the item difficulty of TCTS-PS ranged from p = .39 to .86 and its average was equal to .65. As a result, the overall difficulty of the test was moderate. There was a good range of difficulty levels across the items.

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Table 3.3 Distribution of Questions in TCTS-PS Differentiating Deciding Inference theory from evidence assumptions Section

I

Finding alternative theory

Evaluation of arguments

TCTS-PS

Total 5 sections Total 24 questions

II

III

IV

V

Question 1–5 No.

6–10

11–15

16–20

21–24

Marks

5

5

5

4

5

Total 24 marks

In addition, item discrimination is the correlation between item score and total score (Nunnally and Ator 1972). It ranges from −1 to 1, and a positive value closer to 1 is desirable for each question. According to Fischer (1973), researchers need to consider dropping or revising items with discrimination lower than .30. In the pilot study, the indices of item discrimination for the TCTP-PS questions were all above .30 (see Table 3.4); thus, no question was dropped or revised. Indeed, the indices of item discrimination ranged from .31 to .72 and the average was equal to .46. Therefore, the ‘discriminability’ of the TCTP-PS test for the research was good. As regards Cronbach’s alpha, it is a ‘coefficient’ of reliability. It indicates levels of internal consistency, which means the extent to which items of an instrument are related to one another as a group (Fraenkel and Wallen 1993). In the pilot study (see Table 3.5), the internal reliability of the TCTS-PS attained Cronbach’s α  .82 (M = 15.12, SD  1.08) amongst the 70 students from the two schools. It was even higher than the value (α  .80) amongst the 227 students from elementary and middle schools in Taiwan. Since Nunnally (1970, p. 135) indicated that ‘the higher the score, the more reliable the test is’, and α  .70 is usually treated as an acceptable reliability coefficient in the literature, the pilot study provides good evidence showing that the TCTS-PS is a reliable test for the research. Another scientific method was adopted to estimate the internal consistency by calculating the index of interitem correlation (Cohen et al. 2007). Specifically, it measures the relationship (dependence) between different items and ranges in value from −1 to 1 in which the higher values represent a closer relationship (reliability) between different items. According to Table 3.6, correlations between the individual results of the five sections (I–V) and the total scores of TCTS-PS (from ***r = .33 to .81 were strongly significant p < .001 in all cases). Therefore, the items in the test were internally consistent. All in all, by using the interitem correlation as a triangulation of the methods of Cronbach’s Alpha, item difficulty and item discrimination, the TCTS-PS adopted in the research was reliable.

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Table 3.4 Item difficulty and index of discrimination of TCTS-PS (N  70) Section Question Item Index of difficulty (p) discrimination Theory

Evidence

Inference

1.Chan said: ‘This semester, I must perform the best in examination in the school’ 2. The weather report said: ‘Typhoon is coming soon, the village should prevent landslide and the low level area should carefully guard the flooding’

.86

.40

.51

.42

3. Squad leader said: ‘Sports competition will be held in next week, we must stay together in Saturday afternoon for practice in order to win the highest honour’

.83

.31

4. Ling said: ‘To survive, we must drink this water!’ .84

.36

5. School’s rule: ‘In order to prevent the spread of .53 bad atmosphere, those who bring video games and comic books to the school will be punished heavily’

.32

1. Xiao-Ming will represent the school to take part in a junior high school basketball league; the league is very competitive, and there are 30 teams participated

.71

.52

2. Some mathematicians are programme designer

.74

.33

3. Recently, a primary school selected the top five .54 students in the first term examination to take a natural science test. The questions in the test covered some materials which are not included in the school curriculum 4. According to a survey, crab is very sensitive to .39 water quality and living environment, so it has become an important indicator for environmental protection. Therefore, if the natural environment is poor, the number of crab will be reduced or they will perish. Recently, we have seen that crab was sold on the roadside stall which was very rare in the past

.52

5. It is reported that: ‘About 70% of lung cancer patients have a smoking or drinking habits’

.49

.72

1. Summer always has sunshine; under sunshine, we will sweat 2. Xiaoyu said: ‘when we walk, we always leave marks on the ground’; animals will leave marks on the ground too

.69

.57

.67

.45

3. People who dislike black must like red, and people who like black must hate white

.61

.68

4. Some teachers are lovely; most teachers who are .59 lovely will be welcomed by students

.42

5. Any person who can win the game must be skilful; most people who are skilful have good rackets

.64

.73

.40

(continued)

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Table 3.4 (continued) Section Question

Item Index of difficulty (p) discrimination

Alternative 1. Primary and secondary school students are easily .47 Theory tempted by gangsters outside schools. Many students then became members of the gangsters which resulted in violence inside campus. Police units have already intervened and wish to get rid of all the gangsters in schools

.45

2. Based on statistics, the average height and .67 average weight of students in 2008 is 1 cm and 1 kg larger than those in 1998. But there are 70% of students in 2008 are short-sighted

.54

3. In the Chinese society, most people are very extravagant for wedding banquet in order to show off their wealth and status. Recently, Zhang-San held a very grand wedding banquet

.44

.36

4. There are 50 small tomatoes, a teacher wants to give them all to 16 students, and each student should at least get one, then

.71

.61

5. Due to recent economic downturn, many people like to buy cheap products. So, if the companies want to make a great deal in market, they will ‘let you feel confidence in the companies, and then catch the big fish’

.63

.52

Arguments 1. In Taiwan, all elementary school students should .83 learn computer studies? (1) should be; because IT technology is the future trend, if they do not learn, they cannot follow the trend of the new generation which is unhealthy to the whole society

.32

(2) should not be; because primary school students .70 play video games by using computers which will affect their homework and cause them short-sighted

.38

2. Teachers are role models for students; they are .77 also play a key role in teaching students the correct values. But sometimes they will ‘beat’ students if they are naughty. So, whether the teachers should beat students for punishment? (1) should be; because when students are naughty, beating them is the most effective way to stop them

.40

(2) should not be; because teachers very often beat students for punishment, it may adversely affect students and let them feel violence is the best way to solve problems

.46

.76

3.9 Main Study

59

Table 3.5 Reliability of TCTS-PS Section I Alpha (α) (Crocker and Algina)

.30

II

III

IV

V

Total 5 sections

.49

.65

.45

.54

.82

Table 3.6 Interitem correlation of TCTS-PS (***p < .001) Correlation Theory Evidence Inference Alternative theory Theory

Arguments

TCTS-PS

1.00

Evidence Inference Alternative theory

.45*** .41*** .46***

1.00 .52*** .55***

1.00 .51***

Arguments

.33***

.35***

.38***

.39***

TCTS-PS

.70***

.81***

.79***

.77***

1.00 1.00 .62***

1.00

3.9 Main Study 3.9.1 Participants The main study of the General Studies and Liberal Studies projects was conducted in two primary and two secondary schools in Hong Kong, respectively. In the first instance, the schools were written to and invited to join the research projects, and their formal agreement was obtained before the commencement of the projects. The participants in each of the two primary schools were three whole classes of Primary 5 students (roughly 11–12 years of age), whilst those in each secondary school were two whole classes of Form Four (tenth-grade) students (around 15–17 years of age). A total of 205 primary students and 140 secondary students were distributed into the experimental and control groups. Two teachers were invited in each primary school, whereas four teachers were invited in each secondary school to engage in coteaching. Both the primary and secondary schools were similar in many aspects including academic standards, classroom layout and dropout rates. Upon enrolling in either school, the students were placed in different classes according to their positions on a normal distribution obtained from their last year’s examination scores. This was done in a fashion that equalised ability distribution across classes. In theory, therefore, classes could be identified that had roughly equivalent overall ability levels. Critical-thinking ‘skills’ were assessed by the Test of Critical Thinking Skills for Primary and Secondary School Students (TCTS-PS) prior to the teaching intervention. Independent sample t tests were employed to ensure that no statistically significant differences existed between the two groups of students in the General Studies and Liberal Studies projects.

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3.9.2 Procedure Prior to the teaching interventions, as mentioned above, training sessions for teachers and students were provided. The participants were instructed about group formation and collaborative techniques including assigning responsibility, turn taking, facilitating interaction, trust building, resources sharing. Such instruction fulfilled Galton et al.’s (2009) requirement for enhancing the quality of group work, which involves teachers’ important role in teaching students group work skills in advance. Furthermore, in order to satisfy Mercer’s (2000) idea of setting ‘ground rules’ for discussion, regulations related to debating, group discussion and presentation were further emphasised during the research, such as how to argue, negotiate, justify and apply argumentative reasoning. After the students familiarised themselves with collaborative and debating skills, they were instructed in critical-thinking skills through the teaching interventions. The teaching procedures in the experimental groups were as follows: A. Critical-Thinking Modelling Activity: The instructors integrated Kuhn’s (1991) model into critical-thinking modules and taught the model in an explicit manner with the aid of a set of handouts further expounding the key notions. Primary students received around 70 min of explicit teaching of critical thinking in each of the ten General Studies lessons, whilst secondary students received around 90 min in each of the ten Liberal Studies lessons. B. Constructive Group Work Activity: Collaborative graffiti activities were conducted in the General Studies lessons in which students were required to work in groups and write their responses to several given questions on a large sheet before passing it to other groups for evidence-based critiques. In the Liberal Studies lessons, students were provided with learning sheets which were designed to expand their knowledge of some Liberal Studies topics for effectively applying Kuhn’s model. Collaborative activities, such as group discussion and shared tasks, were consistently conducted. C. Group Debate: In the Liberal Studies project, the experimental class was divided into two subgroups, the ‘student’s self-directed’ (Type2) and ‘teacher guidance’ (Type3) group work. With reference to the sample questions in Liberal Studies, the group members were further separated into ‘for’ and ‘against’ sides, and then, they debated the views they represented for 15 min. The teacher was involved in the Type3 group and guided students to improve their communication, such as suggesting possible solutions whenever the debate reached a deadlock. He/she encouraged students to express their views without ‘face’ concern, but did not dominate the discussion or steer the interaction. Each student then wrote down his/her argumentations for addressing and responding to the issues and questions posed by their peers, and provided them with feedback. Students then switched sides and entered another discussion session. The tasks permitted students to

3.9 Main Study

61

Fig. 3.5 Sample questions for group debate in Lesson 1. Source Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination Liberal Studeis Paper 2. Question-Answer Book (Sample Paper). Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), Hong Kong (2010). For further information about the cartoons, please refer to Fung (2014), Fung and Howe (2012)

gain experience in supporting or opposing a certain stance. This enhanced mutual interaction and communication prompted them to challenge their views, thereby promoting their critical-thinking ‘skills’ and ‘disposition’. D. Group Presentation: Upon completion of the group discussion, each group reached an agreement and reported their standpoints in order to make an ultimate conclusion. The group presentation encouraged students to freely demonstrate their views clearly and be open and inclusive to diversified opinions. The group debate and presentation encouraged learners to foster critical thinking and engage in issue analysis, whilst learning sheets stimulated learners’ constructive reflection. E. Reflection and Evaluation: The group presentation presented an array of viewpoints which the students discussed and evaluated afterwards. They were thus motivated to question one another’s claims and then refined or defended their initial stance. F. Student Task: Students were asked to finish the sample questions which they had discussed in class. They needed to refer to the agreement or conclusion they made during the group discussion (see Figs. 3.5 and 3.6). Students who were assigned to Type1 learned critical thinking under the conventional, whole-class teaching instruction. Rather than undertaking collaborative learning like Type2 (self-directed) and Type3 (teacher guidance) students, Type1 learners studied in a separated class, sat apart from each other and worked independently when accomplishing the class tasks. In the lessons, students delivered their own presentations, had class discussions and raised personal questions. They were provided with a large amount of time to construct their projects in an independent manner. Interesting topics, well-justified abstracts and appropriate timescales were carefully selected by teachers. The students who constructed good pieces of work were invited to share their ideas during the debriefing sessions. The only difference between the group work settings for the Type2 and Type3 students was teachers’ participation in facilitating students’ verbal, meaningful interaction.

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Fig. 3.6 Sample questions for group debate in Lesson 3 Source Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination Liberal Studeis Paper 1. Question-Answer Book (Sample Paper). Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), Hong Kong (2010). (accessible on http:// www.hkeaa.edu.hk/DocLibrar/HKDSE/subject_Information/lib_st/ls-sample-papers-e.pdf)

3.9.3 Data Analysis In the first theme, regarding TCTS-PS, as previously indicated, the two groups were assumed not to differ in their critical-thinking abilities prior to the teaching interventions; thus, a simple two-way ANOVA should be adequate to compare them at post-tests to demonstrate whether the experimental group had improved significantly in comparison with the control group. Similarly, the same data analysis method was applied to the experimental group (i.e. ‘Self-directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ students) with the aim of examining the influence of the productive group work

3.9 Main Study

63

Fig. 3.7 Codes and definitions based on Kuhn’s critical-thinking model and adapted from Anderson et al. (2001)

strategies. With respect to the analysis of the dialogic interactions, a coding scheme (Anderson et al. 2001) developed, according to Kuhn’s definition of critical thinking, was adopted (see Fig. 3.7). However, before starting to code the dialogue, ‘utterance’ (Joiner and Jones 2003) or a ‘unit of meaning’ (Henri 1992) needed to be defined to avoid inconsistency. Accordingly, utterance constituted the unit of analysis for the research. Interrater reliability was calculated to make sure that the degree of subjectivity in the coding remained acceptable. A second rater participated in 30% of the coding process followed by a comparison of interrater agreement. As the above figure shows, 21 dialogue categories were employed to guide the coding of the utterances. The category representing critical thinking at the highest level was ‘weighs evidence’ as this refers to the capability of critically treating evidence so as to make a reasoned judgement. This echoes Kuhn’s (1991) conceptualisation of critical thinking as one kind of evidence-based argument and requires students to justify their standpoints with supporting evidence. Hence, ‘justification with evidence’ constituted another dimension of critical thinking. In justifying their stances and judging evidence of various theories, students should prefer concrete evidence to anecdotes, values and generalisations. For the purpose of assessing the ‘quality’ of arguments made in critical-thinking process, written work (e.g. graffiti sheets and project outlines) was subjected to coding with reference to the framework which specifies three types of justification (Anderson et al. 2001; Guiller et al. 2008): ‘No’ justification indicates that students fail to justify their claims with evidence; ‘weak’ justification means that students support their arguments with anecdotes or insufficient evidence like generalisation; ‘strong’ justification indicates that students justify their beliefs or decisions on the grounds of formal, convincing types of evidence such as research data. A conservative approach of coding was applied in the sense that only obvious examples of justification were coded; that is, assertions and the corresponding justifications needed to be made in the

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same sentence or its preceding and following sentences. This means that sentences not relating to arguments or choices in an explicit manner were excluded. For the second theme, regarding CCDTI, a two-way ANOVA was used to compare the students’ performance at pre- and post-tests to determine whether the experimental class had improved significantly when measured against the control class. The ‘Self-directed’ and ‘Teacher Guidance’ group work students were also contrasted to investigate the effects of the group work strategies. Considering the questionnairebased survey, each respondent’s scale scores in the questionnaire were recorded and subsequently analysed. This quantitative data analysis procedure facilitated comparison of teachers’ and students’ scores for each closed question. Furthermore, coding was performed on the open-ended responses. Similar replies were classified and discussed to facilitate the interpretation of the responses to the closed questions. Moreover, a computer command was set in the online questionnaires that required participants to answer all the closed questions in order to minimise the impact of incomplete responses. Regarding the analysis of responses from the closed questions, the online questionnaire platform served the function of basic data analysis (e.g. calculating item percentage, showing distribution). In addition, SPSS was used to compute reliability statistics and perform the main [e.g. ANOVA, MANOVA (multivariate analysis of variance) and correlation] analyses. For the third theme, discourse analysis was adopted as the tool of data analysis. Edwards and Potter (1993) argued that gathering, transcribing and interpreting discourse data enable discourse researchers to explore the psychological ‘history’ of a social phenomenon of their interest. In addition, the fact that discourse places an emphasis on meaning construction suggests the importance of conducting discourse analysis from an action perspective (Cohen et al. 2007, p. 389). As a result, it is unsurprising that discourse analysis is closely related to linguistic research or language studies. However, although the reported projects cannot be classified as either of these two kinds of studies, it is argued that discourse analysis can still be applied. This is because, according to Taylor’s (2001) four approaches to shaping the development of discourse analysis, one of the major approaches is to ‘look for patterns within much larger contexts, such as those referred to as society or culture’ (p. 7). This approach resonates well with the research designs which investigate group work from a smaller to a larger context from a cultural perspective. The major component of the discourse analysis involved transcribing the audiotapes and then using codes to identify any patterns in the conversations. In general, as Kerlinger (1970) defined, coding involves categorisation of respondents’ utterances for further analysis. Therefore, in the research, the responses were categorised and considered as ‘descriptors’ that revealed the cultural impact on group work. In view of the use of unstructured in-depth interview, categorisation of responses occurred after all interviews had been conducted and transcribed.

3.10 Ethical Issues

65

3.10 Ethical Issues With respect to the research, at the very beginning, participants were assured that any information about them would be kept in strict confidence. Anonymity was guaranteed so that no member of the public could access their identities. Furthermore, all raw data were stored and locked in a cabinet. The research team was responsible for data safe keeping, and duplicate data were kept securely. Each participant was assigned an identity number and a pseudonym in the data collection process throughout which their identities were totally sealed. As regards the tapes obtained from video recording of student discussions and audio-taping of in-depth interviews, they were transcribed and destroyed upon completion of transcribing and coding. Participants’ real names were removed from all transcripts or visual tools and do not appear in any section of the charts, tables and appendices. During the coding process, personal information was kept in strict confidence. In addition, the signed consent forms, tapes and transcription were numbered for the purpose of data analysis. Only numbers or pseudonyms were used in the transcripts and in the book.

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Chapter 4

How Effective Is Group Work in Improving Students’ Academic Performance?

Abstract In this and the following chapters, the data collected from the main study will be analysed. Firstly, in this chapter, hypothesis testing and content analysis will be adopted to investigate the students’ academic performance in the areas relevant to Theme 1. In subsequent chapters, MANOVA will be employed to analyse the data obtained from the questionnaire-based survey, which examined the students’ criticalthinking dispositions (attitudes) relating to Theme 2. In addition, with the last theme which concerns the influence of Chinese culture on group work, discourse analysis will be used to explore the findings related to the in-depth interviews. Specifically, this chapter aims to examine hypothesis 1: ‘More evidence of critical thinking (‘skills’) exists in the ‘Teacher Guidance’ group (Type3) than the ‘Self-directed’ group (Type2) in the teaching interventions,’ as well as hypothesis 2: ‘More evidence of critical thinking (‘academic’) exists in the ‘group work’ (Type2 and Type3) students than the ‘conventional class’ (Type1) students.’

4.1 TCTS-PS in the Main Study Before proceeding with the major analysis of the research projects, fulfilment of the prerequisites for ANOVA was checked by Levene’s test. Specifically, Levene’s test is employed to assess the ‘variance homogeneity’ for parametric tests such as the t-test, ANOVA and factor analysis. Conceptually, in studies which investigate more than two samples, Levene’s test provides precondition analysis of homogenous variance. If the test produces a significance value less than .05, it means that significant difference exists in variances. In other words, the null hypothesis of no difference can be rejected. Under these circumstances, the variances in a random sample will not have significant differences, and as a result, ANOVA cannot be used (Levene and Olkin 1960).

The data followed by *, #, @, ^, % are also reported in Fung and Howe (2012), Fung and Howe (2014), Fung (2014a), Fung (2014b), and Fung, To and Leung (2016), respectively.

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019 D. C.-L. Fung and T. W. Liang, Fostering Critical Thinking Through Collaborative Group Work, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-2411-6_4

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4 How Effective Is Group Work in Improving Students’ Academic Performance?

Table 4.1 Two-way mixed model (3X2) factorial ANOVA Independent variables Type1 (conventional Type2 (self-directed) (3 × 2) class)

Type3 (guidance)

Pre-test

Type1 (pre-test)

Type2 (pre-test)

Type3 (pre-test)

Post-test

Type1 (post-test)

Type2 (post-test)

Type3 (post-test)

In the Liberal Studies project, regarding the pre-test with TCTS-PS, Levene’s test showed that the variance in the scores between the Type1 (Conventional Class), Type2 (Self-directed Group Work) and Type3 (Group Work with Teacher Guidance) was homogenous, F(1,138)  .08, ns. As the p value is higher than .05, the null hypothesis of equal variance was supported. Similarly, Levene’s test showed that there was similar variance in the scores of the post-test, indicating the value F(1,138)  1.15, ns. Given that the pre- and post-tests met the requirement of variance homogeneity, the precondition for ANOVA was satisfied, and this test was used to compare the means of the three groups instructed by varying pedagogical approaches. With the aim to examine the impact of two independent variables, namely pedagogical approaches (Type1, 2&3) and tests (pre- and post-tests), on the TCTS-PS results, a two-way factorial ANOVA was adopted for data analysis. It featured a 3 (Type1, 2&3) X 2 (pre- and post-tests) ‘mixed model’ analysis (see Table 4.1). Specifically, in the Liberal Studies project, two-way ANOVAs were conducted on the TCTS-PS results obtained at pre- and post-tests. The within-participants factor is ‘Tests’ whilst the between-participants factor is ‘Pedagogical Approaches’ (Type1, 2&3). The ANOVA showed that tests had significant main effects, F(1,274)  4.62, p < .01. Similarly, in the General Studies project, significant main effects of tests were found, F(1,404)  7.12, p < .01. In both projects, all three groups of students obtained significantly higher scores at the post-test of TCTS-PS than at the pretest. The main effects of different pedagogical approaches were not statistically significant, with F(2,274)  1.53, ns in the Liberal Studies project and F(2,404)  1.82, ns in the General Studies project. Nevertheless, a significant interaction effect existed between ‘Tests’ and ‘Pedagogical Approaches,’ with F(2,274)  4.23, p < .01 and F(2,404)  4.89, p < .01 in the Liberal Studies and General Studies projects, respectively. Accordingly, one-way ANOVAs were performed to examine the interactions. As Table 4.2 shows, no significant differences were found between the pre-test scores of TCTS-PS of all student participants. However, one-way ANOVA followed by Bonferroni t-tests revealed that the pair-wise differences in post-test scores were statistically significant (see Table 4.3). As mentioned above, since the one-way ANOVA showed that no significant difference existed between the pre-test scores of all three types of students (Type1 to Type3), they had roughly equivalent levels of critical-thinking prior to the commencement of the research. However, Type3 students (Teacher-guided Group Work) achieved significantly higher post-test scores of TCTS-PS than Type2 students (Selfdirected Group Work). This indicated that Type3 students demonstrated more remarkable critical-thinking skills than Type2 students, which provided statistical support to

4.1 TCTS-PS in the Main Study

71

Table 4.2 Estimated means and one-way ANOVA of the Type1–3 groups on TCTS-PS (Liberal Studies project)* Type of Estimated mean Estimated mean Std. error 95% confidence interval pedagogy (pre-test) (post-test) (post-test) Lower bound Upper bound Type1

15.14

15.34

.22

14.95

15.82

Type2

15.01

17.48

.30

16.79

17.96

Type3

15.10

18.02

.34

17.52

18.37

One-way ANOVA

F(2,137)  1.19, ns

F(2,137)  4.65, p < .01

Table 4.3 Bonferroni t-tests of the scores at post-test (Liberal Studies project) Teaching Teaching Mean difference Std. error pedagogy (A) pedagogy (B) (a − b) Bonferroni t-tests

Type1

Type2 Type3

Sig.

Type2

−2.14

0.18

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