This study explored the use of a scaffolding technique in order to develop critical thinking skills and dispositions while using the infusion method of teaching critical thinking within the context of specific subject matter. Two specific skills were examined: the students were asked to compare and contrast Biblical textual stories (analysis) and then to generate abstract categories to describe the elements they had compared (evaluation). The disposition examined was the self-confidence to reason independently, without teacher direction, in order to encourage learner autonomy.
The study developed as action research in a teachers college Bible class, after pre-service education students complained that they were unable to compare and contrast texts on their own. In an attempt to solve this problem, the study began with a preliminary non-textual exercise involving analyzing and evaluating two everyday leisure activities. It then continued by transferring these skills to Biblical text comparisons. Findings showed that beginning the study with the scaffolding step of a non-textual exercise before moving on to text comparisons was an effective method of helping students overcome their former reluctance to autonomously compare texts without teacher intervention.
This study explored a way to develop both critical thinking skills as well as a critical thinking disposition in freshmen teachers college students. While the students CT skills of analysis and evaluation improved over the course of the intervention, the strongest success of this study was in the thinking disposition developed over the course of the study, as they gained self confidence in their own ability to reason. They worked on their CT skills without teacher direction, thus developing their ability to learn autonomously. Given that before this study was undertaken, the students had complained that they were not able to compare and contrast texts by themselves, this study shows that the preliminary scaffolding exercise gave them a boost of confidence as they saw that the task could be accomplished and they could achieve biblical text comparisons and abstractions on their own.
Using a scaffolding technique was thus found to be an effective method of encouraging students CT disposition. While Faragher and Huijser (2014) found that working on students thinking skills could prevent a loss of confidence in their academic abilities, this study showed that working on students thinking skills by using a scaffolding technique could actually boost their confidence in their academic abilities, by enabling them to analyze and evaluate texts on their own when in the past they had expressed feelings of frustration and incompetence in their abilities to accomplish these thinking skills. Rooting the ability to abstract in a concrete familiar situation helped them develop the confidence to attempt abstract thinking in the context of textual analysis. While additional work could contribute to a more advanced level of analysis and evaluation, this scaffolding intervention initiated a learning process that is likely to continue throughout their college education.