Does Human Geography Increase Critical Thinking?

Authors: Todd Lindley*, Georgia Gwinnett College, Tom Lilly, Georgia Gwinnett College
Topics: Education , Migration, Economic Geography
Keywords: critical thinking, education, assessment, migration, innovative teaching
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Students do not meaningfully gain critical thinking skills in college! Such is the claim made by Arum and Roksa in their 2011 book, Academically Adrift. The authors assert that students do not achieve meaningful progress and that 75 percent of employers state that college graduates lack the ability to think critically in problem-solving contexts. Meanwhile, those in the humanities and social sciences and specifically human geography educators claim that liberal arts education does, in fact, teach valuable critical thinking skills through in-depth class discussions, contextualization, map reading, and interrogations of place and space. A thorough reading of the literature on critical thinking assessment reveals that a gap exists between what educators believe they are delivering and a meaningful measurement of student performance gains (or lack thereof). This paper addresses such a gap by applying the nationally normed Critical Thinking Assessment tool (CAT) developed at Tennessee Technological University at the beginning and end of the semester across multiple sections of the same introductory human geography course to account for changes in student's critical thinking performance. The control group was taught as normal, while the experimental group included two specifically designed active learning modules related to migration and to manufacturing. Results indicate that those in the control group did not experience meaningful gains, while those in the experimental group did. This paper shares the specific interventions that were designed and implemented by the author. Specific data on results are presented in a different forthcoming publication.

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