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					                                  Cognitive Development in
                                  Metallurgical Engineering
Better thinking and practical problem solving skills are promised in higher education.
Unfortunately, not only is it a difficult area to adequately assess, but, by its very nature, is a very
difficult term to even adequately define. Nevertheless, many of the so-called “soft elements” in
criteria a-k are, in fact, embedded within this broader notion of cognitive development.

Cognitive development has been an area of research for the past 40 years and a number of useful
models have been developed. Perry’s model of cognitive development, the Reflective Judgment
Model, Schema Theory, Dynamic Skill Theory, and, most recently, Steps for Better Thinking are
all models used to explain student growth and development. For this assessment project, we
have adopted the Steps for Better Thinking Model for curriculum development and assessment.
The primary advantage of Steps for Better Thinking is that training is currently available for this
model and a rubric based on samples of student writing is available for placement on the
cognitive scale. The conceptual model for Steps for Better Thinking is shown below in Figure 1
and the assessment rubric is shown in Appendix 1.




                                 Figure 1. Steps for Better Thinking Model


For this assessment, samples of student writing in MET 310 from 9 students were scored using
the Better Thinking Rubric in Appendix 1. The required assignment was to write on the topic of
the global impact that a hypothetical plant might have on the precious metals market. Each essay
was reviewed for use of relevant information, prioritizing informational elements, and generating
sound conclusions based on that analysis. A summary of the results is shown in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Steps for Better Thinking Results for MET 310 Global Impact Essay
 Steps for              Less Complex Skill Patterns                           More Complex Skill Patterns
 Better Thinking   All skills Weak   Identify Skills   Exploring Skills   Prioritizing      Integrating
                                                                          Skills            Skills
 Step 4:                              8                6,9,7,5,2,3        1,4
 Integrating
 Step 3:                                               9,7,8,             6,5,1,2,3         4
 Prioritizing
 Step 2:                              8                9,7                6,5,1,2,3         4
 Exploring
 Step 1:                              7                6,8,9              5,1,2,3           4
 Identifying

In Table 1, each essay was evaluated for each skill pattern area. Each of the 9 essays are
identified by number but the numbers themselves are randomly assigned to a specific student.
Skill patterns for a typical student would tend to flow in a diagonal from upper left to lower
right. Shaded boxes would indicate the highest skill pattern we might see in a particular area.
For example, a student at Step level 3: Prioritizing would tend to exhibit weaker skill patterns at
Step 4.

In general, first-year students might typically exhibit skill patterns that are weak at all skill levels
or patterns that might coincide with the identification level. Following a four-year curriculum,
most students tend to operate at step level 2 or 3. Finally, graduate students tend to demonstrate
skill patterns at levels 3 or 4.

Conclusions
Based on a preliminary analysis of 9 students within the Metallurgical Engineering department, it
appears that most upper division students are operating at skill level 2 or 3. One student appears
to operating near step level 4. There are no students operating at skill level 1. This is actually
quite good. Indeed, initial assessment would place three students at level 2, two students at level
2-3, three students at level 3, and one student near level 4. While there is no direct translation
between the Perry scale and the Steps for Better Thinking Model, results depicted here would
indicate an overall average on the Perry scale of well over 4.0 (national average is roughly 3.5).
From the preliminary data, it appears that the Metallurgical Engineering department is doing a
good job of providing a challenging curriculum that provides appropriate levels of support.

Recommendations
It should be noted that cognitive assessment is a relatively new area for SDSM&T. While Dr.
Kellogg is undergoing training in the Steps for Better Thinking Model, there is as yet no
individual fully certified to evaluate student cognitive levels. As training continues, there will no
doubt be additional refinement of both the framework for the essays as well as the overall
evaluation and placement on the cognitive scale.
                                                                                      Steps for Better Thinking Rubric
                                                       Less Complex Performance Patterns                                                                   More Complex Performance Patterns
                             "Confused Fact Finder"                      "Biased Jumper"                              "Perpetual Analyzer"                        "Pragmatic Performer"                       "Strategic Re-Visioner"
Steps for Better             Performance Pattern 0—How                   Performance Pattern 1—-How                   Performance Pattern 2—-How                  Performance Pattern 3—-How                  Performance Pattern 4—-How
   Thinking                  performance might appear when
                             Step 1, 2, 3, and 4 skills are weak
                                                                         performance might appear when
                                                                         Step 1 skills are adequate, but Step
                                                                                                                      performance might appear when
                                                                                                                      Step 1 and 2 skills are adequate, but
                                                                                                                                                                  performance might appear when
                                                                                                                                                                  Step 1, 2, and 3 skills are adequate,
                                                                                                                                                                                                              performance might appear when one
                                                                                                                                                                                                              has strong Step 1, 2, 3, and 4 skills
  SKILLS                                                               2, 3, and 4 skills are weak                  Step 3 and 4 skills are weak                but Step 4 skills are weak
Step 1:                      A0—Uses very limited information;
                               primarily "facts," definitions, or
                                                                         A1—Uses limited information, primarily
                                                                            evidence and information supporting
                                                                                                                      A2—Uses a range of carefully
                                                                                                                        evaluated, relevant information
                                                                                                                                                                  A3—Uses a range of carefully
                                                                                                                                                                    evaluated, relevant information,
                                                                                                                                                                                                              A4—Same as A3 PLUS includes viable
                                                                                                                                                                                                                strategies for GENERATING new
IDENTIFY                       expert opinions                              own conclusion*                           B2—Articulates complexities related to        including alternative criteria for          information to address limitations
A—Identify and use           B0—Either denies uncertainty OR             B1—Identifies at least one reason for          uncertainties and the relationships         judging among solutions                   B4—Exhibits complex awareness of
relevant information           attributes uncertainty to temporary          significant and enduring uncertainty*       among different sources of                B3—Exhibits complex awareness of              ways to minimize uncertainties in
B—Articulate                   lack of information or to own lack of                                                    uncertainty                                 relative importance of different            coherent, on-going process of
uncertainties                  knowledge                                                                                                                            sources of uncertainties                    inquiry
Step 2:                      C0—Portrays perspectives and
                               information dichotomously, e.g.,
                                                                         C1—Acknowledges more than one
                                                                           potential solution, approach, or
                                                                                                                      C2—Interprets information from
                                                                                                                        multiple viewpoints; identifies and
                                                                                                                                                                  C3—Evaluates information using
                                                                                                                                                                    general principles that allow
                                                                                                                                                                                                              C4—Same as C3 PLUS argues
                                                                                                                                                                                                                convincingly using a complex,
EXPLORE                        right/wrong, good/bad, smart/stupid         viewpoint; does not acknowledge              evaluates assumptions; attempts to          comparisons across viewpoints;              coherent discussion of own
C—Integrate multiple         D0—Does not acknowledge                       own assumptions or biases                    control own biases*                         adequately justifies assumptions            perspective, including strengths and
perspectives and clarify       interpretation of information; uses       D1—Interprets information superficially      D2—Objectively analyzes quality of          D3—Focuses analyses on the most               limitations
assumptions                    contradictory or illogical arguments;       as either supporting or not                  information; Organizes information          important information based on            D4—Same as D3 PLUS systematically
D—Qualitatively interpret      lacks organization                          supporting a point of view; ignores          and concepts into viable framework          reasonable assumptions about                reinterprets evidence as new
information and create a                                                   relevant information that disagrees          for exploring realistic complexities of     relative importance; organizes              information is generated over time
meaningful organization                                                    with own position; fails to sufficiently     the problem*                                information using criteria that apply       OR describes process that could be
                                                                           break down the problem                                                                   across different viewpoints and allow       used to systematically reinterpret
                                                                                                                                                                    for qualitative comparisons                 evidence
Step 3:                      E0—Fails to reason logically from
                               evidence to conclusions; relies
                                                                         E1—Provides little evaluation of
                                                                           alternatives; offers partially
                                                                                                                      E2—Uses evidence to reason logically
                                                                                                                        within a given perspective, but
                                                                                                                                                                  E3—Uses well-founded, overarching
                                                                                                                                                                    guidelines or principles to objectively
                                                                                                                                                                                                              E4—Articulates how a systematic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                process of critical inquiry was used
PRIORITIZE                     primary on unexamined prior beliefs,        reasoned conclusions; uses                   unable to establish criteria that apply     compare and choose among                    to build solution; identifies how
E—Use guidelines or            clichés, or an expert opinion               superficially understood evidence            across alternatives to reach a well-        alternative solutions; provides             analysis and criteria can be refined,
principles to judge          F0—Creates illogical implementation           and information in support of beliefs        founded conclusion OR unable to             reasonable and substantive                  leading to better solutions or greater
objectively across the         plan; uses poor or inconsistent           F1—Fails to adequately address                 reach a conclusion in light of              justification for assumptions and           confidence over time
various options                communication; does not appear to           alternative viewpoints in                    reasonable alternatives and/or              choices in light of other options*        F4—Implementation plans address
F—Implement and                recognize existence of an audience          implementation plans and                     uncertainties                             F3—Focuses on pragmatic issues in             current as well as long-term issues;
communicate conclusions                                                    communications; provides                   F2—Establishes overly complicated             implementation plans; provides              provides appropriate information and
for the setting and                                                        insufficient information or motivation       Implementation plans OR delays              appropriate information and                 motivation, prioritized for the setting
audience                                                                   for audience to adequately                   implementation process in search of         motivation, prioritized for the setting     and audience, to engage others over
                                                                           understand alternatives and                  additional information; provides            and audience*                               time
                                                                           complexity                                   audience with too much information
                                                                                                                        (unable to adequately prioritize)
Step 4:                      G0—Does not acknowledge significant
                               limitations beyond temporary
                                                                         G1—Acknowledges at least one
                                                                           limitation or reason for significant
                                                                                                                      G2—Articulates connections among
                                                                                                                        underlying contributors to limitations;
                                                                                                                                                                G3—Adequately describes relative
                                                                                                                                                                   importance of solution limitations
                                                                                                                                                                                                              G4—Identifies limitations as in G3; as
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 next steps, suggests viable
ENVISION                       uncertainty; next steps articulated as      and enduring uncertainty; if                 articulates next steps as gathering        when compared to other viable                 processes for strategically
G—Acknowledge and              finding the “right” answer (often by        prompted, next steps generally               more information and looking at            options; next steps pragmatic with            GENERATING new information to
monitor solution               experts)                                    address gathering more information           problem more complexly and/or              focus on efficiently GATHERING                aid in addressing significant
limitations through next     H0—Proceeds as if goal is to find the       H1—Proceeds as if goal is to stack up          thoroughly                                 more information to address                   limitations over time*
steps                          single, "correct" answer                    evidence and information to support        H2—Proceeds as if goal is to establish       significant limitations over time          H4—Proceeds as if goal is to
H—Overall approach to                                                      own conclusion                               an unbiased, balanced view of           H3—Proceeds as if goal is to come to             strategically construct knowledge, to
the problem                                                                                                             evidence and information from              a well-founded conclusion based on            move toward better conclusions or
                                                                                                                        different points of view                   objective consideration of priorities         greater confidence in conclusions as
                                                                                                                                                                   across viable alternatives                    the problem is addressed over time*
 2003, Susan K. Wolcott. Permission is granted to reproduce this information for noncommercial purposes. Please cite this source: Wolcott, S. K. (October 29, 2003). Steps for Better Thinking Rubric [On-line].
Available: http://www.WolcottLynch.com. Based in part on information from Reflective Judgment Scoring Manual With Examples (1985/1996) by K. S. Kitchener & P. M. King. Grounded in dynamic skill theory (Fischer
& Bidell, 1998).
* Shaded cells most closely related to "stair step" model. Performance descriptions to the left of a shaded cell characterize skill weaknesses. Performance descriptions to the right of a shaded cell characterize skill strengths.

				
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