14 Mar School Pilot Test: Overview of Results
There is evidence that CAAMS (Computer-Assisted Argument Mapping Systems) can improve students’ critical thinking skills (see our white paper). Most of this research has been done on US students aged 18+, but anecdotally, many girls ‘give up’ on critical thinking earlier in their teens, believing it to be too hard. It may therefore be of great benefit to see if CAAMS can be used to improve girls’ critical thinking in the 14 – 15 age group. Our 7 week school pilot test with GCSE students showed improved boldness in critical thinking due to understanding arguments better.
The Pilot Test
The purpose of the research was to see if Endoxa Learning could build Year 10 girls’ boldness in problem solving in Philosophy and Ethics. (In the context of Philosophy & Ethics, improving problem-solving can be equated with improving critical thinking skills.)
The research was conducted by an experienced teacher with 24 girls aged 14-15, from two GCSE classes, over 7 weeks. The intervention consisted of replacing textbooks with Endoxa Learning, covering the same topics but using “argument graph” diagrams to explain the key issues. The software was used to teach the arguments and subject knowledge, to allow students to record their comments and ideas and construct new arguments using a visual interface. This was combined with a collaborative pedagogy in which students worked in groups and frequently shared their thoughts with the class.
Multiple data sources were used to enable polyangulation to ensure the robustness of the results. These include: questionnaires with Likert scale ratings for boldness, focus groups to enable the students’ voices to be heard, student journals, automated testing within the software, the teacher’s detailed field notes and the students’ essays.
This results of this research will be presented to the Global Forum for Girls Education Conference in Boston 27-29 June 2022. The results section of this blog is embargoed until then.
The vast majority of girls self-reported in the final evaluation that Endoxa Learning builds their boldness in problem-solving. This agreed with the teacher’s field note observations. The main reasons for this are:
- Students understand the arguments better. This is demonstrated by the students’ questionnaire and focus group comments, and by an improvement in the average scores for all 10 Likert scale measures of critical thinking. Students mentioned the ability to go at their own pace, features of the Endoxa Learning software such as ‘brain’ icons for accessing supporting facts, and the conversations with their peers as reasons for increased understanding.
- Opportunities for independent learning. The teacher observed that students made much more effort trying to independently understand and reflect on the topics studied. They developed their own voice in essay writing to a greater extent than before. Students commented that the structure of the argument graphs lays out the material in a clear way, which makes it easier to access independently. Whilst this took some time to get used to, they speeded up once they had got used to it.
- Emotional safety while being challenged. Endoxa Learning allowed students to develop their critical thinking in the privacy of the software, then share it with their work partner, without worrying about loss of face in front of the class. They could also reconsider their arguments and then change their solution to the problem, again without emotional risk.
These results are strong evidence that Endoxa Learning can be used with teenage girls to improve their critical thinking, and therefore their problem-solving, in the humanities, arts and social sciences. This will enable them to practise finding their ‘voice’ and defend their opinions robustly. Further research is planned to extend this to younger girls (from age 11) and to other subjects. This research will be presented by the teacher to the Global Forum for Girls Education Conference in Boston in June 2022.
We asked the teacher to sum up the test for us in one sentence – here’s what she wrote:
“It is the most exciting new digital innovation, student engagement is phenomenal; they felt independent, challenged and bolder at problem solving.”
[Alexis Dowglass, Head of Philosophy, Ethics, Religion and Research, Brighton Girls GDST]