Reflections on “Advancing Critical Thinking and Information Literacy Skills in First Year College Students” by Mark Afino, Michele Pajer, Linda Pierce, and Kelly O’Brien Jenks

This article provided a case study of recent curriculum development in a freshman skills program at Gonzaga University which included a block of “thought and expression” courses. These courses gave instruction in writing and speech communication. The authors made a comparison of these courses to the medieval university “trivium” of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. I feel these classes are important requirements for a quality college education. Many people go to college because they believe a college education will improve their job prospects. If you ask employers in the job market today what the most important quality for a potential employee to possess is, at the top of the list is being able to communicate their thoughts and ideas, both orally and in writing.

For the case study, library faculty were integrated into the instructional team and helped design several innovative assignments that supported the critical thinking goals of the “thought and expression” course block. They believed the goals of the courses could be enhanced by promoting information literacy skills as part of a set of three assignments. These included a wikipedia assignment, a point-of-view assignment, and a researched argument essay. Results of the study were generally positive, with faculty reporting that the quality of the research papers, as well as student research behaviors, were higher the semester the study was conducted than previous semesters.

I think many modern college students today are in college to get a degree in order to make them employable, and undervalue a quality well-rounded college education. They often complain about having to take their freshman introductory courses, such as ENG 101 or COMS 101, thinking that “this is not the career I am going into, why do I need these?” not realizing that the skills they learn in these courses will in fact benefit them. Being able to communicate your thoughts and ideas is a vital part of both personal and professional relationships. The skills learned in these “thought and expression” courses will help students not only in their career, but in life.


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