For a study on critical thinking

UU PhD candidate seeks five hundred students

Buste Socrates
The Greek philosopher Socrates called for critical thinking. Photo: Flickr / Bradley Weber

The PhD candidate is working on a large-scale study on critical thinking among students. Haen states that critical thinking involves the ability to arrive at well-considered and reasoned considerations, judgements, and decisions. 

He believes that learning how to improve your critical thinking capability is therefore not only essential within education at UU, but also in the outside world. When people fail in this aspect, it can have major negative consequences. Take, for example, a doctor making a wrong diagnosis or a judge convicting an innocent person.

Thinking critically is also important in everyday life, such as understanding information about vaccinations. "By enhancing your ability to think critically, you avoid thinking errors. And those who make fewer thinking errors make better decisions", Haen says.

Statistical literacy
Haen’s research is a collaboration between UU and Avans University of Applied Sciences and focuses specifically on critical thinking about statistics and probabilities. This skill, also known as 'statistical literacy', is more important today than ever before.

"Think of statistical information in news reports, in the corporate world or even in sports. In order to function well in society, it’s important to know how to interpret, critically evaluate, and communicate these statistics."

Haen knows that improving students' critical thinking doesn’t happen automatically. Research shows that students should receive explicit training in critical thinking. "Critical thinking doesn’t develop automatically as a byproduct of mainstream education."

Scholars hypothesise that individual differences, such as prior education and prior knowledge, affect the ability to learn to think critically. "These differences are likely to play a role in how much training students need and how much they will benefit from this. To investigate that properly, we need a large sample of UU students from all kinds of different programmes."

Interesting for students themselves
For this study, Haen is therefore looking for as many as five hundred UU students to complete two online surveys. In the first session, participants answer background questions and are asked questions on statistical reasoning. A week later, they are given a short training session and then revisit the tasks from the first session.

According to Haen, it’s very beneficial for students to participate in the study. "First of all, participants receive training in this important aspect of critical thinking. The training is proven to be effective and can improve study performance, so you really learn something. And as icing on the cake, you get to earn 25 euros."

Training modules for critical thinking
The scientists hope that a future generation of students will benefit from the results. The intention is that the findings from this research will be reflected in teaching in some way, Haen enthuses. "The aim is to develop a training module in critical thinking, which can be used in different programmes, also outside UU."

"But we are not at that stage yet. First, we need to collect enough data to address our research questions, and securing the participation of those five hundred students is crucial for achieving that goal.”

Only students who are fluent in Dutch can participate. If you are, you can sign up via this link.