Professional Development - Academic Roundtables (ARTs)

An Academic Roundtable (ART) is a learning community of approximately six to twelve members focused on academic disciplines or related discipline clusters. The primary goal of the ART is to investigate general and discipline-specific strategies for teaching for critical thinking and to compile an Instructional Portfolio based upon Earnest L. Boyer's (1990) Ongoing Cycle of Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching. These communities allow faculty members to share ideas on fostering critical thinking in the classroom. In addition to the Instructional Portfolio, members of ARTs present their ideas and strategies in campus workshops and publications to SPC colleagues or the wider community.

Diagram of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Cycle

2011 (coming soon)


Dental Hygiene, Health Services, and Orthotics & Prosthetics

Faculty Champion: Valerie Carter

Critical thinking (CT) is an important skill that is necessary in all healthcare disciplines. Healthcare providers use critical thinking skills daily in the assessment and treatment of patients. There is an increase in responsibilities for patient care in our changing healthcare environment as well as an increase in demand for evidence-based health care. The Dental Hygiene, Health Services, & Orthotics & Prosthetics intervention is designed to help students understand and develop CT skills. This intervention involves presenting students with a case study that they will do individually. Once submitted, the students will then have access to an Instructional Module, where they will learn about critical thinking, inferences and assumptions and a CT model to use. An interactive tool/resource will also be available. Within this instructional module, the initial case study will be debriefed with the students. After providing this information, a second and different case study will be presented to the students to do at the end of the course. The initial case study will provide pre-assessment data and the second case study following the instructional module, will provide post-assessment data. It is hoped that the instructional module will help students learn and increase their critical thinking skills.

Emergency Medical Services

Faculty Champions: Bill Ballo and Martin VanBourgondien

How can you evaluate how a student thinks or the process of their decision making? In Emergency Medical Services (EMS), critical thinking becomes a life or death decision. The wrong medication can cause a patient to go into cardiac arrest where the right treatment could save the patient's life. A differential diagnosis flowchart is one of the tools that the EMS Department teaches and uses to evaluate the decision making process of future EMT's and Paramedics. The flowchart allows students to evaluate their own assessment process and provides the instructor with a step-by-step form to evaluate the thought processes students are using to decide on a treatment plan. The flowchart provides a center block for students to write their assessment findings for each body system. Encircling the center block are additional blocks for students to outline four possible field impressions that students might find based upon their assessments. In these blocks, students list the signs and symptoms that would support their field impression and list the signs and symptoms that would "rule out" that same field impression. Students then rate these signs and symptoms based upon their knowledge of how strong or weak these are in supporting or "ruling out" their potential field impressions. Using this flowchart allows the instructors to assess each individual step in the critical thinking process for each student.

Funeral Services

Faculty Champion: Gary Brown

Problem solving remains the preeminent trait of a good Embalmer and Funeral Director. Through a combination of hypothetical scenario -- as well as actual, embalming cases -- Funeral Service students learn to apply the six elements of critical thinking in Embalming Lab by working collaboratively and utilizing the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) to evaluate themselves and one another. Discipline specific topics such as pre-embalming, concurrent, and post-embalming case analysis, inter alia, all fall within the critical thinking context and will be included in weekly embalming reports. Students will have access to applicable RLOs within their ANGEL online component of the clinical to assist them in conceptualizing the principles studied.

Hospitality & Tourism Management and Parks & Leisure Services

Faculty Champion: Larry Goldsmith

This intervention is designed to teach students how to provide a superior customer experience by improving their ability to analyze and synthesize customer encounters. The central idea of this intervention is to train students on how to assume ownership of the customer's experience. Students learn through their participation in this activity that their responsibility to their customers is more than just another assigned task. This intervention requires students to develop their own customer service solutions where they must analyze their alternatives, and defend their conclusions by applying the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) approach of evaluation, analysis, and synthesis as a guide. The intervention incorporates a Reusable Learning Object from Wisc-Online [the Wisconsin Technical College System] which will help students differentiate between a customer encounter and that of a customer relationship. Students will discover how they can make higher level decisions by applying critical thinking.

Human Services

Faculty Champion: Cheryl Kerr

The Human Services program will implement the critical thinking intervention in the introductory course HUS 1111-Introduction to Intra and Interpersonal Processes. During the first class meeting, the instructor will explain critical thinking and how this will be a focus throughout this course as well as the Human Services program. The instructor will identify which of the six critical thinking performance elements (communication, analysis, synthesis, problem-solving, evaluation, and reflection) might be emphasized in this activity. In groups, students will individually read the Human Services ARC Scenario. Each student will consider the six questions (ARC performance elements) regarding the scenario and take notes on their own while reading the scenario. Students will use Socratic thinking to probe their assumptions, alternate points of view, and the implications of their conclusions. In a collaborative effort, the group will organize their main thoughts and develop a consensus regarding their responses to the six questions that is satisfactory to all members. The instructor will structure collaborative activities throughout the course where the students will learn the 6 human services skills as well as learning the six critical thinking performance elements. Students will complete weekly journals where they will address which of the six performance elements they worked on during that week. The ARC scenario focuses on six critical human services skills that are demonstrated and learned throughout this course. It is the goal for students to develop a respect for each other's viewpoints, values and beliefs and work as a member of a team to foster critical thinking collaboratively.

Medical Laboratory Technology

Faculty Champions: Valerie Polansky and Mitch Watrous

The intervention for the Medical Laboratory Technology Program is a critical thinking module that will be placed in Week 15 of MLT 1022, Introduction to Clinical Laboratory Science, starting in Fall 2010. The module defines and explains the elements of critical thinking, discusses the importance of critical thinking in clinical laboratory work, and provides a model for analyzing a case study. The literature supports the use of case studies as an effective method for improving students' critical thinking and they are used extensively throughout the MLT program, but students often have difficulty with them, perhaps because they have never been taught how to approach them. By providing a model for case study analysis and placing it in the first course in the program, the hope is that students will be better prepared to analyze case studies in subsequent courses and that their critical thinking will improve overall. Because students don't have a great deal of medical knowledge in the first semester of the program, the intervention uses a simple iron deficiency anemia case study. The module walks the students through a step-by-step approach, starting with looking up unfamiliar medical terms, then researching the possible clinical significance of the patient's signs, symptoms, and laboratory test results.

The module introduces the students to reputable websites, such as WebMD and Labtestsonline, to help them construct the knowledge base needed to analyze the data. Annotated web page screen shots illustrate how to acquire the needed information, and charts are provided to record and organize it for further analysis. The module concludes with a section on mind mapping, to provide an alternative approach that might be more effective for non-linear thinkers. Two short videos explain the benefits of mind mapping and how to construct a mind map, and a mind map of the case study is included as an example. To see if the intervention and further practice with case studies improve the students' critical thinking, two assessments will be done--one at the beginning of the critical thinking module in MLT 1022 and another in MLT 2150, Clinical Correlations, the program's capstone course. Students will be presented with the same discipline-specific scenario. Their responses will be graded using the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) and each student's pre- and post-scores will be recorded on a spreadsheet. Since the students will progress through the program at different rates, depending on whether they are enrolled in the full-time or part-time track, it will take several years to obtain data for all of the students involved in the first intervention.

Natural Science

Faculty Champion: Monica Lara

The intervention for the Natural sciences will be based on the use of peer-reviewed journal articles to teach the scientific method and to get students to promote analytical and creative thinking. Students will be taught the principles of Hypothesis Testing and Experimental Design by reading and discussing a published scientific journal article. They will be required to learn how to identify an original research paper and use the library's databases to find one they will then write about. The students will turn in an assignment where they have identified the parts of the paper and assessed the strength of the experimental design to test the study's hypothesis. They will discuss alternative strategies and alternative outcomes as well as discuss the significance of the area of research and how it relates to course topics.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Faculty Champions: Mary Hanlon & Barb Heier

Physical Therapist Assistants follow the plan of care directed by the Physical Therapist. Each day in the clinic, PTA’s are involved in clinical reasoning and clinical decision making with their patients’. We will be presenting a series of discipline specific critical thinking and problem-solving podcasts for case scenarios, therapeutic interventions, and peer assessments. Podcasts will be presented in the 1st and 2nd semester PTA courses (lecture and lab). There will be pre-podcast discussions in classes and a post-podcast discussion forum in the PTA commons in ANGEL addressing the ARC Rubric questions. (Example case study discussions.....The students will be presented a case study and discussions will revolve around treatment choices, such as heat versus cold, and their rationale.)


Faculty Champion: Todd VanAuken

Radiography students currently take positioning labs during the first two semesters of the program. The labs offer a hands-on approach to patient positioning that is learned didactically. Students simulate routine exams typically done in a x-ray room. They practice on each other before they perform the same type of study on a real patient in order to gain competence. Problem-based scenarios will now be added to lab curriculum in order to improve the critical thinking needed for positioning trauma patients. Students will be given a problem along with these steps to follow: 1) Meet the Problem 2) List Known Facts 3) List Unknowns and Research Unknowns 4) Generate Possible Solutions 5) Choose Most Viable Solutions 6) Report Solution They will then go a step beyond the cognitive domain by applying and simulating the solution using a portable x-ray machine. This additional step will enhance the desired psychomotor skills of our students. These problem-based scenarios will undoubtedly aid the students when they are faced with challenging situations in the clinical environment and better prepare them for graduation and beyond.

Respiratory Care

Faculty Champion: Steven Hardt

Critical thinking is so important to the practice of Respiratory Care that SPC graduates cannot be fully credentialed until they demonstrate adequate critical thinking skills on a specialized national examination known as the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE). The Respiratory Care Academic Roundtable has introduced a discipline specific critical thinking and clinical problem solving model (the Mishoe model) to their students, and will allow them to work with this model in several interactive exercises available in ANGEL. They will then measure the impact of this intervention on the student's ability to solve complex clinical cases scenarios by using the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC). They will also review the impact of this intervention on the student's scores on the national Clinical Simulation Exam. The Repiratory Care faculty feel that allowing students to use a Critical Thinking model developed by a respiratory therapist for respiratory therapists will not only develop better critical thinkers but better clinical problems solvers as well.

Veterinary Technology BAS

Faculty Champions: Cynthia Grey & Wendy Rib

Collaborative learning (CL) is a learning methodology where learners are involved in an interactive, team based, problem solving process to achieve a common learner outcome. Collaborative learning is effective because learners become actively engaged and socialize, creating a supportive learning community. Collaborative learning requires interaction between learners to communicate knowledge and understanding, thereby enhancing critical thinking and developing problem-solving strategies and skills. Literature supports collaborative, team based, learning as a high-quality teaching methodology that enhances team building, problem solving, and critical thinking skills through group interaction. Faculty in the BAS/VT program identified that many learners prefer to work independently. In an effort to develop team projects that are more accepted by learners, this intervention is the instrument for a phenomenological study that seeks to gain knowledge from learner's perceptions regarding team v. individual assignments. After the completion of the written assignment, learners will be asked to complete a questionnaire that explores learner's perceptions regarding his/her selection process (team v. individual). The question that the BAS-VT faculty is exploring is how to enhance a team project and create a project that learners will see as a favorable learning assignment, positively increasing their learning experience which, by the nature of the benefit of CL, will enhance their problem solving and critical thinking skills.


Lori Van Valkenburg, Veterinary Technology BAS student, speaking about her experience with SPC's critical thinking initiative and how she applied this knowledge to her capstone project. "The primary focus of my research project was to identify a need for critical thinking in the classroom and incorporate new, alternative instructional techniques that would help students to increase their comprehension level of the subject material while also providing a more enjoyable learning experience. I truly believe that if all colleges were to adopt a critical thinking initiative like SPC has, then high-quality graduates would be produced from every program."

Veterinary Technology AS

Faculty Champion: Ginny Price

Students will use the Critical Thinking grid (Paul & Elder, n.d.) to complete a 200 word essay about one of four topics available each week. They will then use the Critical Thinking worksheet (Paul & Elder, n.d.) to critiquie a classmate's essay. These discussion essays are completed for twelve lessons throughout the semester. Example of one week of topics are: Issue Post (1): 10 points, 200 words, cite source, use Critical Thinking Grid Response Post (1): 10 points, 100 words, critique classmate's post using Critical Thinking Worksheet Topics: Topic One-Note two ways in which clicker training is different from another method of animal training that you are familiar with. Note two new vocabulary words you learned in this unit and their definitions. Topic Two-What do you do specifically to condition an animal to a clicker? List the steps involved. Which type of learning is involved when an animal is conditioned to the click sound? Topic Three-How might you use a clicker in a veterinary hospital to change an animal's behavior? Note the behavior you are teaching or changing. Note how you use the clicker to teach or change this behavior. Topic Four-Define free shaping. Explain how you would free shape a specific behavior. List the steps involved.


Business Technologies

Faculty Champion: Holly Hoopes

Typically, students had not performed well on a certain portion of study. Prior exams asked the students to read a business scenario and to create and implement an appropriate solution based on the given criteria. In an effort to increase the student’s ability to respond to a scenario, one was created for them but this time with four different solutions. The students were tasked with implementing a DHCP solution that included fault tolerance, minimized costs, and one that did not use a specific address space. They were given a diagram of the network and told that their superiors had proposed four different solutions for implementing DHCP solution based on certain criteria. Students found it much easier to research given solutions and to critique someone else’s solution.

For further details, review the Business Technologies Portfolio Report summarizing the Business Technologies Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.


Faculty Champion: Bonnie Jefferis

The Academic Roundtable for Communication opted to study two areas: physical performace classes, and written work classes. In the physical performance classes, face-to-face speech professors digitally recorded performances of students' classroom speeches, then sent those recordings to each student for futher analysis. Online-only speech professors collected student speeches that were digitally recorded and submitted. Then the professor critiqued the recording using a program that added professor comments throughout the recording. Then the professor returned the recording with comments to each student. Sign language professors assigned various performances for students to record outside of class time. Then professors critiqued these performances and returned these graded recordings to the students for further analysis.

In the written work classes, students completed Lesson 12 in the ENC 1101 Course of Record (COR). The Dean of Communication worked with a team of faculty to create the Composition One Course of Record (COR). She decided to have every adjunct professor at every campus use this COR to teach Composition One, starting with Fall 2009. The specific assignment designated as "Critical Thinking Intervention" was Lesson12, and centered around critically analyzing a print advertisement (newspaper or magazine) using three persuasive appeals.

For further details, review the Communication Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.


Faculty Champions: Chad Mairn & Mika Nelson

The Library Academic Roundtable believed that students need help analyzing and synthesizing information from a variety of sources. As a result, an intervention was constructed to help assess these skills. The focus of the intervention was to allow students to explore an article with clear biases, to analyze it, and to derive and defend their own conclusions. When writing the intervention the Elements of Thought and Standards Model was referenced in order to construct some of the questions. Access to the intellectual standards (e.g., clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness) also helped instructors ask engaging questions when moderating the intervention.

The intervention assignment was difficult for most students at first because students (and faculty) tend to skim text in order to find sources quickly, but many students did begin to realize the importance of reading critically when working through the assignment.

A scenario was created asking students 6 questions regarding water conservation. The questions asked students to define the problem in their own words, to compare and contrast the three proposed solutions, to select one of the proposed solutions that they felt would be the most effective for protecting our water supply and to defend that solution, to describe any weaknesses in their selected solution, to make suggestions on ways to improve/strengthen their solution, and to reflect on their own thought process after completing the assignment.

The scenario was assessed during an Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) Scoring Workshop. When reviewing the submitted scenarios it became clear that the scenario needed to be edited some so that there is no misleading and/or ambiguous information presented.

For further details, review the Library Portfolio Report summarizing the Library Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.


Faculty Champions: Cathy King & Sarah Moseley

The purpose was to develop a project or intervention that would improve nursing students’ ability to think critically by changing pedagogy. After completing a review of the literature, the Academic Rountable (ART), chose to focus
on the journaling assignment that senior level nursing students complete during their Nursing Care Management leadership practicum course (NUR 2811C).

Two projects were completed, one for observation of reflective journaling and one as an assessment of the College of Nursing (CON) Critical Thinking Scenario assignment. The “Observation Group” of students was asked to write an essay based on a problem or situation they encountered during their Spring 2009 Nursing Care Management leadership practicum. The “Assessment Group” of students was asked to write an essay using the CON faculty-developed Critical Thinking Scenario during their Fall 2009 Nursing Care Management leadership practicum. Both student groups used the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) as their guide.

Over 100 senior level nursing students participated in the Observation Group, Spring 2009. The essays demonstrated that this group had the ability to collect and analyze pertinent patient clinical data in order to identify a problem. Approximately 60 senior level nursing students participated in the Assessment Group, Fall 2009. Most of the students in this group did not identify the “main problem” as identified by CON ARC scoring key. These students made broad assumptions based on the limited clinical data provided.

For further details, review the Nursing Portfolio Report summarizing the Nursing Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.

Paralegal Studies

Faculty Champion: Christy Powers

It is essential for the paralegal or attorney to know the potential cause of action and apply the facts of the case(s) to the elements of that action. The critical thinking involved here translates into case assessment. The legal professional will then demonstrate the competence to address a client's case with a good faith understanding of all available options... even if there are none.

Briefing is a crucial legal skill for the student. For the faculty, the importance of a valid rubric and student feedback is crucial, as well. The Academic Roundtable (ART) for Paralegal Studies opted to create supplemental questions to assure that critical thinking was being utilized to the fullest extent. The Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) was incorporated in addition to the standard Brief. This was implemented in the Summer of 2009 in all paralegal classes. Each Instructor was required to post a memo with an applicable case to their course(s) taught on the first or second class meeting. The students were able to discuss the Brief and what the professor expects. Next, it was continued to be stressed throughout the semester that every case reading deserves a Brief as well. In the Labor and Employment class, students were required to Brief every case as part of their grade.

The students were receptive to the idea of briefing, but not necessarily the amount of work that goes into streamlining the process of briefing. By establishing this method of approaching research and locating prior decisions, the student started to find a common system of analyzing cases.

For further details, review the Paralegal Studies Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.


College of Education

Faculty Champions: Ann McNicol & Nancy Watkins

The Academic Roundtable (ART) for the College of Education (COE) explored how implementing action research into its curriculum showed gains in critical thinking skills, measured through SPC’s Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC). Since 2006, the COE has had a capstone project called the Student Learning Inquiry Project (SLIP). This requires final interns to identify a problem in their classroom, choose an intervention, collect data to measure the effectiveness of the intervention, and reflect upon the results. When SLIP was first introduced, students did not have prior experience conducting action research, and it was introduced at a time when they spent the entire semester in the field and did not receive “traditional” instruction. The COE then decided to scaffold action research throughout a student’s program of study.

The study compared 10 SLIP projects completed before action research scaffolding occurred throughout the COE curriculum, to 10 projects completed after the scaffolding occurred. The ARC was used to evaluate the critical thinking skills demonstrated in these projects.

The results did not show that significant gains in the critical thinking elements measured by the ARC occurred after the intervention. Communication showed the largest gain, leading the COE ART to infer that scaffolding action research has led students to identify problems more effectively. Synthesis and Reflection did not show large gains, and mean scores were still below 2.0 for these two elements in the post-intervention group.

For further details, review the College of Education Portfolio Report summarizing the College of Education Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.

Early Childhood Education

Faculty Champion: Anne Sullivan

The Academic Roundtable (ART) for Early Childhood Education (ECE) wanted to create a repository of critical thinking ideas, find ways to assess their students’ ability to utilize critical thinking, involve the ECE Advisory Committee in this process and use this experience as a foundation for the development of a critical thinking focus as ECE continues to make changes to coursework and develop new coursework for the Educational Studies track in Early Childhood Education.

They administered the Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) test to one class of ECE students in Session III, 07-08. They looked at the template for critical thinking activities and began putting current practices into this template. The ECE Advisory Committee was very interested in the process and sent ideas for the Critical Thinking Essays that we were developing for Session I, 08-09. They incorporated a Critical Thinking Essay into four of ECE courses in Session I (EEC 1603, EEC 2271, EEC 2002 and EEC 1308).

For further details, review the Early Childhood Education Portfolio Report summarizing the Early Childhood Education Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.


Faculty Champion: Maureen Mahoney

The Academic Roundtable (ART) for Ethics worked on a standardized assignment, using the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC), that all Ethics instructors would use. The thought was that the compiled data could be used to see how Critical Thinking was being learned by students, and how they improve. After sharing many different ideas, activities and assignments, the ART decided to take the Application Paper currently being used and revamp it following the ARC. They spent quite a bit of time on this process as the members of the ART had varying ideas on how to complete this project. In the end the “new” assignment is called the Critical Thinking/Application Project.

For further details, review the Ethics Portfolio Report summarizing the Ethics Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.

Student Life Skills

Faculty Champions: Mike Earle & Kim Molinaro

The goal of this process was to infuse critical thinking in student life skills courses, according to the six performance elements in the critical thinking process. The Academic Roundtable (ART) for Student Life Skills (SLS) began designing three critical thinking exercises; however, none of them were scenario-based. The scenario applications are more conducive to assessment than the critical thinking exercises that were originally designed. Consequently, a scenario application was implemented that was scored using the Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC).

The results indicated that students tended to score below average on each critical thinking element. This guided us into understanding that we needed to compose a Reusable Learning Object (RLO) that walked students through each performance element. Then, an additional scenario would be used to assess the performance elements with the ARC.

For further details, review the Student Life Skills Portfolio Report summarizing the Student Life Skills Instructional Portfolio for Critical Thinking.