If you ask students to be critical …


Getting students to think for themselves is the hardest task I have faced so far when giving courses. Unfortunately, many students choose the easy way when presenting articles by other authors in the course — they go through the article step-by-step (sometimes even using the exact words of the authors!), without thinking of a better way to present the research, without adapting it to the research question that is in focus in that session, and — very often — without criticizing the work of the author.

I’m currently trying out a few things to “get” them to become more critical — starting by asking them to evaluate each others presentations, an idea I got from Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”. Last semester it was a very quantitative evaluation form that each student (should) fill out for the presenters, this year it’s more qualitative — and it looks like the qualitative form is much, much more useful.

And, it seems, that they seem to catch on that constructive critique is not only something that they should do, but that they see the need themselves (see photo).

I wonder what’s so hard about it — did they never learn it in school? Did they make bad experiences in their first semesters at the university? Are they just cognitive misers? Do they not see the need? Have to few other teachers the goal to “get” them to think critically, because, if they think critically, they will also criticize the teacher (again, see photo)?

If you have made good practical experiences with “getting” students to think for themselves, I’d be happy about a comment.