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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