Do Active-Learning Strategies Improve Students’ Critical Thinking?

Larry P. Nelson, Mary L. Crow


Improving students’ ability to recognize work-related problems and apply effective strategies and solutions to fundamental challenges in the field is at the crux of a good college preparation. This paper attempts to investigate if active-learning strategies improve students’ critical thinking ability in this regard. Participants were pre-service teachers in physical education and athletic training education taking a teaching methods service-learning course. Findings showed significant improvement with critical thinking measures across both quasi experimental conditions. As a result, gains were largely attributed to the service-learning field component common to both conditions. Furthermore, academic tracking showed students pursuing a B.A. in physical education benefitted significantly more from the active-learning assessment than students pursuing a B.S. in athletic training. The paper also discusses how the active-learning sequence was a preferred method of instruction and how these strategies were purposeful with problematizing teaching situations and engaging students with course content. This paper may draw interest from educators who are research-minded and eager to apply critical thinking approaches in a learning environment.

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Higher Education Studies  ISSN 1925-4741 (Print)   ISSN 1925-475X (Online)


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