Using In-Class Writing to Promote Critical Thinking and Application of Course Concepts

Charity Butcher, Kennesaw State University


Recent reports indicate that employers are increasingly interested in hiring individuals that can think critically and are able to solve complex problems. Further, the ability to apply knowledge learned during college to real-world settings is a major sought-after skill. Overall, these findings emphasize the importance of teaching our students to think critically but also suggest the importance of including activities within our courses that promote the application of ideas. This paper presents research on short in-class activities to promote student learning in knowledge acquisition, application, and critical thinking. In particular, this paper considers the use of these activities in two different courses: Introduction to International Relations and American Foreign Policy. To assess student learning, this paper compares changes in student scores on these activities, as well as considers students’ self-assessment of learning. The findings suggest that the use of these in-class assignments improves students’ ability to define, apply, and analyze course concepts, and also increases student level of engagement.