The ability to critically evaluate by lindayy

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The ability to critically evaluate

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									                                               to put yourself in the position of       We set two assignments - one at          be available on the unit of study        may provide a good introduction
                                               the student. Why should they, with       the beginning and one the end of         WebCT site so that students can          for second year students. We would           Dr Melanie Collier is a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Lecturer in the Faculty of
                                                                                                        semester, where stu-     work in their own time. We have          expect third year students to criti-         Veterinary Science involved in the
                                                                                                        dents were expected      also included context specific exam-     cally engage in all aspects of the           teaching of endocrinology,
                                                                                                        to produce a critical    ples in the workshop of critical eval-   research article.                            reproductive and renal physiolo-
                                                    Giving students the ability and                                                                                                                                    gy to first and second year stu-
                                                                                                        review of a nomi-        uation in the hope that this may
                                                   confidence to critically evaluate                                                                                                                                   dents of Veterinary Science and
                                                                                                        nated journal article    make the task more relevant for our      Some may say that by teaching crit-
                                                                        scientific literature                                                                                                                          second and third year Animal
                                                                                                        on a topic they were     students.                                ical evaluation in a very context            Science students.
                                                  Melanie Collier, Faculty of Veterinary Science        currently studying.                                               specific way we are not preparing
                                                                                                        Students were asked      Curriculum design to aid                 our students to be true critical read-       She is a Unit of Study co-ordina-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       tor for a third year unit of Animal
                                                                                                        to read at least three   development of critical                  ers. But it is a starting point. I know      Science. She completed the
                                                                                                                                 evaluation
    The abilityfor students studying
    ate attribute
                    to critically evaluate
        scientific literature is a gradu-
                                               limited knowledge in the topic, be
                                               able to find fault with work pub-
                                               lished in a refereed journal by
                                                                                        other articles in the same topic area
                                                                                        to allow them to place the current
                                                                                        paper in context of findings by
                                                                                                                                 Since the third year students obvi-
                                                                                                                                                                          that I would be more cautious
                                                                                                                                                                          about critically evaluating some-
                                                                                                                                                                          thing outside my area of expertise
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Graduate Certificate in Higher
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Education in 2001 and has acted
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       as a mentor to subsequent can-
                                                                                                                                 ously found this a daunting task we
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       didates for the same course.
    the four-year Bachelor of Animal           someone with expertise in the            other authors. The first effort of       have decided to introduce a verti-       than within a topic I am comfort-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Melanie has presented at the
    Science degree and a generic attrib-       topic? The fourth year of the            most students was poor, with most        cally integrated approach to critical    able with.                                   last two Vice Chancellor’s
    ute that many units of study would         Bachelor of Animal Science degree        reviews lacking critical evaluation      evaluation and expose students in a                                                   Showcases the results of a
    see as desirable. Critical evaluation      requires students to carry out a         and being merely descriptive. In         second year unit of study to critical    This work is already proving to be           Teaching Improvement Fund
    of information is one of the six                                                                                                                                      vital in increasing students' confi-         (TIF) funded project studying the
                                               research project and present a the-      the second assignment, I asked stu-      evaluation. This will be built on in                                                  conception and approach to
    standards put forward in the               sis in which an important part is a      dents to peer review the critical        third year and prepare the students      dence and ability to critically eval-        learning of students of second
    Australian and New Zealand                 literature review. Presumably, the       evaluation of one of their cohort.       for their thesis in fourth year. This    uate scientific literature. Even             year Veterinary Science students.
    Information Literacy Framework             topic of the thesis is one that          The surprising finding from this         approach is supported by com-            though it has been a difficult task,         She is the Faculty representative
    (Bundy, 2004). The framework               appeals to the student and will          was that students were very good                                                  we want our students to realise that         on the University's Working
                                                                                                                                 ments from students “the critical
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Group on Research-led teaching
    outlines the required standards of         involve engaging with the current        at picking out the lack of evalua-       review was the first we had ever         “even students can legitimately cri-         and the scholarship of teaching.
    an information literate person and         literature and building up a body        tion in the work of their peers even     done - perhaps more coaching in          tique a published paper” (Jones and
    thus a life long learner. It is inter-     of knowledge that should aid in          when their own submitted work            these areas would be helpful” and “      Barmuta, 2002). In fact, it is a skill       You can engage with Melanie
    esting to note that we have been           developing the confidence to eval-       was similarly devoid of critical         I already realised the importance of     that should be transferable across           and others in a conversation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       about this article. Visit the online
    addressing another of the stan-            uate material. But, what of their        comment. The students seemed to          this attribute but do not believe I      units, applicable throughout a stu-          discussion forum at:
    dards - the ability to find infor-         ability to critically evaluate?          find it difficult to synthesise their    have mastered it in this course.         dent's whole degree program and              www.itl.usyd.edu.au/synergy/forum
    mation effectively and efficiently -                                                own arguments even though they           Work should begin in earlier years”.     into their professional practice.            or email at:
    over the last four years through           Where in the curriculum is               had been provided with guidance                                                                                                melaniec@vetsci.usyd.edu.au
    engaging students in workshops on          this attribute addressed?                in the Learning Centre workshop.         Last year the second year students       References
    information retrieval provided by          So what do we do to help students                                                 were given reading material to           Bundy, A. (2004) Australian and New
    the Faculty’s Liaison Librarian.                                                    What further improvements                introduce them to ideas about crit-      Zealand      Information     Literacy
                                               gain the ability and confidence to
                                                                                                                                                                          Framework Principles, Standards and
    Contrast this with the results of a        critically evaluate scientific litera-   have we planned?                         ical evaluation and an assignment        Practice 2nd Edition, Adelaide:
    survey of second year students.            ture? We know students start sec-        Despite the students receiving feed-     where they chose a paper from a          Australia and New Zealand Institute
    80% answered no to the question,           ond year without formal exposure         back, there was little improvement       list of published papers to critical-    for Information Literacy.
    “did you undertake exercises in any        to the development of these skills       between the second and first assign-     ly review. They were expected to
                                                                                                                                                                          Denyer, G. (2000) Strategies for build-
    first year courses designed to devel-      and similarly, their second and third    ments indicating that further work       source two additional papers relat-      ing criticism skills in undergraduate bio-
    op skills in critical evaluation of sci-   year courses have no formalised          was required by some students to         ed to the topic. 66% of students         chemists. Biochemical Education,
    entific literature?” and 91%               time devoted to it. Yet, in their the-   help them grasp the concept.             said their confidence in critically      28:74-75.
    answered they were not confident           ses, students are expected to criti-     However we are unable to find fur-       evaluating material had increased
    in their ability to critically review                                                                                                                                 Jones, M.J and Barmuta, L (2002)
                                               cally evaluate research material! I      ther room in the timetable for this      as a result of completing the assign-
                                                                                                                                                                          Challenging students to think critical-
    scientific literature.                     decided this situation needed            and we have decided for this year to     ment (encouragingly, 97% also            ly: development of a new zoology unit.
                                               redressing but the question was how      provide examples of good and poor        reported an increase in their knowl-     HERDSA News, 24:24-25.
    Anecdotally, many staff members            to find the time in an already crowd-    critical reviews submitted by stu-       edge of the topic). This year we are
    lamented the fact that students            ed timetable to devote to this task?     dents. With the help of the Thyne        hoping to initiate a timetabled
    believed if they had read something                                                 Reid Innovations Education Unit          workshop to introduce the topic;
    in a journal it must be true and           What have we done?                       in the Faculty of Veterinary Science     set an assignment and provide exer-
    that they would never be able to           In 2003 we introduced into a third       we have developed exercises that         cises in WebCT to support stu-
    question its findings. Staff also          year unit of study, a workshop from      involve reading these good reviews       dents. The approach taken by
    reported a lack of critical analysis       the Learning Centre on Writing a         and answering questions that ask         Denyer (2000) of giving students
    of material read by students, find-        Critical Review. The workshop            the student to highlight specific        the materials and methods section
    ings that were also reported in            included examples of critical eval-      areas where critical evaluation of       of a paper without the “expert”
    Zoology students by Jones and              uation although these were not in        methods, results or discussion are       commentary of the introduction or
    Barmuta (2002). It is not difficult        the context of Animal Physiology.        demonstrated. These exercises will       discussion to critically evaluate,



3   Issue 19                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Synergy     4

								
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