We talk a lot about critical thinking and how we expect students to apply it. But how do we as instructors apply critical thinking? Do we stop to think about we’re doing? Do we questions the information we work with daily?
In a recent conversation, Ginny Price from the Veterinary Technology Center, shared her experience of uncovering an error in one of the vet tech textbooks, how she addressed the error, and what she learned in the process.
I understand that you uncovered an error in one of the vet tech textbooks – can you tell me about that?
Well, I don’t know that I would call it an error, but I did notice three of our texts had different information about the efficacy and duration of contact time needed for 70% isopropyl alcohol. I found it confusing, and these types of inconsistencies upset students a great deal. I felt I needed to investigate it as I am asking them to think critically. I felt this was an opportunity to model the behavior for them.
Did this surprise you? Have you uncovered mistakes in texts before?
I have found inconsistencies and typos before. The students go nuts, and it can be difficult to explain the reasons behind the inconsistencies.
What impact could this error have had if not caught?
This issue with this inconsistency was students were lead to believe by one text that using alcohol was not necessary or useful, and it is necessary and useful. The other text stated it was a rapid antimicrobial. These ideas were clearly at odds. Students could have caused an infection in an animal by not using an alcohol wipe before an injection. That would be a problem for me.
What steps did you take to correct this error?
I went to the CDC as this was one of the reference for the text that stated alcohol was a rapid antimicrobial. I then checked out some of the references for the CDC article. I found a reference for the CDC article was a text we had at HEC, and it listed many studies about alcohol efficacy and the mechanism alcohol uses to kill microbes. I went over there to find out more about the topic. The CDC article and my discussion about alcohol and my notes from the disinfection and sterilization text are attached – Isopropyl.Alcohol.summary
What steps would you recommend to other instructors regarding reviewing their texts? You mentioned the necessity of critical thinking. Which step in particular are you focusing on?
I am focusing on intellectual integrity and perseverance. These are qualities of critical thinking from the Paul and Elder model. Students need models of these qualities they often lack. It took me a few months to get all the information together and written up, but I kept at it. Another issue was I wanted to get the best information for my students. I wanted to teach them the correct information, and I wanted them to know what chemical would kill microbes and how. I wanted them to feel confident about what they knew and what they were doing.
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Did you mention this to students? Would you recommend a check to students? How would you handle a student finding an error?
I did tell the students right away. I showed them the issue, and we compared the statements in class. I then showed them the evidence I had collected and how it changed my ideas about the use of alcohol before puncturing the skin of any animal for injections, etc. Students were surprised by the entire process.
Generally, I recommend students question me and any material I use in class. I support the material with evidence. If I cannot, I want students to point this out. They need to learn how to question authority. I encourage students to come to me if they find errors and to share it with other students. I encourage them to search for evidence to answer their questions about the material. This is how it is in real life. Sometimes we hear, see, or read an article, and not all of it is true. People should question the reality. They should look for support for claims. A huge benefit for thinking critically is being able to adjust your ideas and beliefs based on evidence.
Thank you, Ginny, for this great example of how to apply critical thinking to our work, as well as how to model it for our students! Share your experiences in teaching and applying critical thinking with your peers in the comments section below!