A College can remain Focused on Critical Thinking Skills as seen in a typical Liberal Arts School and Incorporate Technology and Technical Careers to effect Positive Change, through Blended Learning.
The current age has seen technological improvements and increased globalization. This has led to students being encouraged to use their critical thinking skills more effectively. There is vast access to information with technology providing both opportunities and challenges to the learner. The traditional model of education allowed teachers to be dominating, and to be test-oriented, an aspect that provided fewer opportunities for learners to advance their critical thinking skills. The present age has better instructional strategies which enable a student to focus on meeting their educational needs, and in turn, getting prepared for their careers (Pucer, Trobec & Zvanut, 2014). Technology can support critical thinking skills by using blended learning, as seen in typical liberal art schools. Blended learning enhances critical thinking skills, which will prepare college students for the workforce in the 21st century. It offers education encounters that enable the development of critical thinking skills through effective technology use in online settings, and through face-to-face settings of interpersonal interactions.
New approaches have identified that critical thinking skills can be successfully enhanced through an environment that is rich in technology, to improve factors of; guidance, feedback, and motivation. A blended learning environment ensures that technological tools in the classroom enhance effective communication, enabling students to develop arguments backed up by evidence, explaining opinions, and making the processes of thinking visible, fostering enhancement of critical thinking skills. Through blended learning, students are motivated to be self-dependent thinkers. The use of technological sites such as google docs, CiteULike, and del.i.cious enable learners to manipulate, share and understand information and allows them to make better connections between the students learning content and real-world science (Kirkwood & Price, 2014). In a world that has accessibility to technology, educators need to empower their students appropriately in all circumstances, including in making decisions and judgments and in using systems to think.
As a leader who is planning for a positive change, my responsibility in the blended learning environment is to direct and guide my students in a step-by-step procedure, so that I can ensure that any difficulty they face might be solved. I plan to promote and encourage students, monitor their progress, and give them feedback so that their confidence and motivation in the classroom can be reinforced. A blended learning environment will enable teachers to manage the activities of their students, guide their students, and will aid the learners to enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills (Auster, 2016). The time frame needed for incorporation of the blended learning system requires one academic year when the students and teachers will be fully aware of what they need to do, to make it successful. Also, this time frame will enable the restructuring of class hours so that the schedules are followed effectively. Students who have problems with managing their time are helped in working independently. By creating a supportive online community, teachers can develop the critical thinking skills of their students.
The change I plan to implement as a leader in the development of learning behaviors among college students. This change can be accomplished through effective and efficient use of blended strategies such as; weblogs, digital storytelling, and photographic assignments. Successful blended learning requires that college teachers are fully dedicated to guiding and supporting their students. Teachers need to offer high expectations, constructive feedback, and modeling of their students. They need to promote social interactions and facilitate their students learning processes (Westermann, 2014). Students who lack familiarity with the types of technology used in the blended environment should be guided, and their few problems should be resolved.
The goal of blended learning is to prepare college students for authentic settings such as workplaces, where an individual is required to develop critical thinking skills that will enable them to interact with different people at different hierarchical levels. Workplace learning such as meeting with professionals can be provided and structured in the face to face settings, while the resources for education and other course materials can be supplied to students online (Auster, 2016). Achieving a blending environment, which will be most appropriate for students, requires some factors that must be considered. These factors include;
Educator has to identify the learning outcomes of their students so that they can identify learning opportunities. This can be done by setting clear objectives for each lesson.
Educators can look for activities that need to be incorporated for their students in the class. They could focus on communicative activities which enhance their critical thinking skills through group work. Events that students need to participate in, online should be identified, such as students watching a lesson at home and discussing it in class (Westermann, 2014).
It takes time for students to blend in a learning environment. Hence, teachers need to ensure that their students can work independently to make their own decisions and be responsible for their learning outcomes. Blended learning offers flexibility to the student.
Blended learning is an asset for both the learner and the teacher as it aims at supporting and engaging student-centered learning. It offers the teacher and the learner a chance to work online, share ideas, concepts and construct knowledge through online interactions. It integrates skills that are needed for independent students to work alone. Blended learning creates a learning environment that motivates students to collaborate and develop their critical thinking skills. Blended learning is a symbol of a restructuring of class hours so that critical thinking skills can be enhanced by an extension of access to learning opportunities based on the internet. A thriving blending environment requires students to gain an advantage from technology, and at the same time ensure they build excellent interpersonal associations with their peers and teachers, to develop the social and technical skills needed for the workplace in the 21st century. While most college students do not make effective use of technology for improving their levels of expertise, each one of them needs to be aware of the type of technology they need in the blended environment. Face-to-face settings fill gaps in problem-solving at the workplace by providing an understanding of social interaction skills. A few problems in the learning environment can be solved through blended learning, to improve and develop students' critical thinking skills.
Auster, C. J. (2016). Blended learning as a potentially winning combination of face-to-face and online learning: An exploratory study. Teaching Sociology, 44(1), 39-48.
Kirkwood, A., & Price, L. (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is 'enhanced' and how do we know? A critical literature review. Knowledge, media and technology, 39(1), 6-36.
Pucer, P., Trobec, I., & Zvanut, B. (2014). An information communication technology-based approach for the acquisition of critical thinking skills. Nurse education today, 34(6), 964-970.
Westermann, E. B. (2014). A half-flipped classroom or an alternative approach?: Primary sources and blended learning. Educational research quarterly, 38(2), 43.
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