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A critical missing element: critical thinking at Rwanda's public universities and the implications for higher education reform

Schendel, Rebecca (2013) A critical missing element: critical thinking at Rwanda's public universities and the implications for higher education reform. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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Abstract

In the years since the genocide, the Government of Rwanda has contributed significant financial resources to the re-establishment and development of its public higher education sector. This investment has largely been justified in terms of the contribution of university graduates to the country’s vision of becoming a service-based knowledge economy, capable of reducing its reliance on foreign aid and technical assistance. Implicit in this vision for the future is an assumption that a university education will help students to improve in their ability to think critically about problems and to use evidence when making decisions. This study empirically investigated this assumption by administering a version of the Collegiate Learning Assessment – a performance-task-based test of critical thinking, adapted for use in Rwanda – to a random sample of 220 students enrolled at three of Rwanda’s most prestigious public institutions. Assessment results were supplemented with in-depth case studies at two of the institutions involved in the study. Results of the study suggest that Rwandan students are not significantly improving in their critical thinking ability during their time at university. Critical thinking ability in Rwanda seems to be largely influenced by the academic experiences provided within university Faculties, as the use of innovative classroom practices appears to have a positive impact on the cultivation of critical thinking skills. However, results indicate that such practices cannot be assumed, as faculty motivation and understanding of pedagogical innovations can significantly affect their effective implementation. The international community has largely focused its higher education reform efforts on improvements in institutional efficiency, but the results of this study indicate that student learning outcomes cannot be ignored. Without similar support for initiatives that seek to improve pedagogy, regional revitalisation efforts are unlikely to have a substantial effect on development objectives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Controlled Keywords: Education, International Development
Subjects: Departments > Psychology and Human Development
Depositing User: Mr Graeme Naylor
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2013 11:55
Last Modified: 05 Nov 2015 11:55
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