Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) location:Limassol, Cyprus date:25-29 August, 2015
Critical thinking (CT) helps students to confront a multitude of challenges that they will face in their careers and personal lives. Hence, it is an important task of higher education (HE) to promote students’ CT. However, students do not enter higher education as a blank slate. Background characteristics of students should be considered when developing instruction. The present study investigates the impact of students’ secondary education (SE), a background characteristic that has been shown to be related to several study-related variables in HE, on CT in the first year of HE. More precisely, the impact of the educational track in SE (academic, technical/artistic) is studied. Furthermore, it is investigated whether this relation differs in different types of HE. The CT of college freshmen is measured by the Scipio, an instrument consisting of both constructed response items and forced choice items. The results indicate that (1) the growth in CT during the first year of HE is on average small, (2) students with a background in academic SE have higher entrance performances and show more CT growth during the first year than students with other educational backgrounds, (3) students in professional bachelor programs grow more in CT during the first year of HE than students in academic bachelor programs, and (4) there is an interaction effect between educational track in SE and program type in HE (professional or academic) on CT growth and performance.