Having made the move from a professional practice role to an educator position, I decided that it would be beneficial to improve my understanding and capability to support student learning in the higher education setting. As such, I made the choice to take up doctoral studies. While working with students and other instructors, the subject of critical thinking frequently arose—what it is and how to teach it. Students often voiced their lack of understanding of what they were to attain. Instructors were challenged as to facilitating student development of critical thinking and would explain this absence as “they don’t get it” or “they can’t make the connections.” I therefore chose to examine critical thinking and determine useful strategies for undergraduate student instruction. As the presence of technology is extensive in today’s educational and employment arenas, it was a practical course to incorporate two technology-enhanced environments as platforms to support student instruction and learning. Facilitating the development of graduates capable of critical thinking, and efficiency with information and communication technology, is a significant outcome for higher education institutions.
With the varied descriptions of critical thinking used, and the range of instructional strategies recommended, it can be a dilemma on how best to teach and learn this capability. Therefore, to examine critical thinking instruction and determine the potential of technology-use to support teaching and learning in and out of the classroom, a mixed-methods study was designed. Aiming for pragmatism, the research study was implemented in the educational practice setting of a classroom, with an actual course with novice undergraduate students. In striving to provide instruction that students will take up and actively engage in their learning, gathering the student perspective of instructional strategies implemented is important.
The benefits of research in real-life practice are valuable and practical to helping educators align research with actual educational practice. However, challenges were encountered with conducting a research study in a dynamic, real-life course and classroom, including acquiring student participation, acknowledging instructor preferences, and limiting disruption to class and course content. For the purposes of this case study, a brief overview will be provided on the different data collection and analysis methods used, with focus on issues arising from using a mixed-methods approach, executing research in practice, and the inclusion of technology for attaining research data.