Critical thinking skills instruction for postsecondary students with and without learning disabilities: The effectiveness of icons as part of a literature curriculum

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Language and Literature|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special




Employers and educators have drawn attention to the deficiency of critical thinking skills among college students. Although increasing numbers of students with learning disabilities are enrolling in institutions of higher education, research attempting to design effective methods of instruction of critical thinking skills for postsecondary students with learning disabilities has been limited.^ This study examined the effectiveness of several methods of instruction of critical thinking skills for postsecondary students with and without learning disabilities. Seventy-five subjects were involved: 56 subjects without documented learning disabilities and 19 subjects with learning disabilities.^ Two instructional methods were used, one an enhanced version of the other. Three groups of students were involved. Two received explicit and embedded instruction of critical thinking skills as part of the curriculum of a literature course. One of those groups was also instructed in the use of icons which were designed to enhance instruction as aids to processing or representatives of analogous modes of thoughts. Inclusion of the icons was based on evidence of their effectiveness as found in a review of the literature (Grossen & Carnine, 1990: Montague & Bos, 1986). The third group was the control group.^ All students completed pre- and post-intervention tests: Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal Forms A & B. Data from writing samples required for the class were gathered, and dichotomously coded to assess the connections between LD status and method of instruction as well as transfer of those skills.^ Using the pretest as the covariate, analyses of covariance were used to determine differences between means. The findings revealed that students who received explicit instruction improved their scores; however, instruction enhanced by icons was not more effective than instruction without icons.^ Analysis of variance was used to determine differences on the percentage scores on the writing samples of the two treatment groups. Students with LD received consistently lower scores on the writing samples. Qualitative data, which included the instructor's journal and interviews with a subset of the sample, indicated that subjects were more focused on comprehending content than they were on acquiring critical thinking skills. ^