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The purpose of our study was to explore the impact of a nontraditional approach, competing narratives, in a large-enrollment higher education course. Post-secondary students enrolled in a Natural Resource Conservation 101 course participated in a project to evaluate the efficacy of a competing narratives analysis on the development of critical thinking skills. Students’ critical thinking skills were evaluated before and after the competing narrative coursework using a standardized critical thinking assessment test scored by faculty graders. The pedagogical approach consisted of a series of writing assignments to critically assess readings from two popular, opinionated texts with contradictory messages on the topic of anthropogenic climate change. A third authoritative, neutral-toned text on climate change was provided as a reference. Students were asked to confirm data interpretation, identify logical fallacies and biases and generally compare and contrast the competing narratives. Using paired t-tests for comparison of pre-/post-course scores, critical thinking skills improved for five of the 15 specific skill areas assessed by the test. Students’ post-course scores were also higher than national norms for seven of the 15 skill areas. Specific critical thinking skill areas for which students’ scores improved to higher than national norms aligned with competing narratives assignment learning objectives.
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