“The ability to think critically is probably the most transferable of the skills you will develop at university – and your future employers will expect you to be able to use it to tackle professional challenges” (McMillan et al, 2006, p 137).
A critical approach to learning, be it lectures or practicals, demands clear thinking. It may be helpful to be aware of some of the common faults in thinking, presentation and assessments of arguments, evidence and conclusions.
Causative Fallacy :
This is the assumption that since A and B occur together that A caused B or vice versa.
It is good to be aware of the common faults of thinking as this will enable you to think critically.
Anything can be proved by carefully selecting the data examples which best fit the point to be proved - all data should be considered, even negative data.
Saying the same thing twice while giving the appearance of an argument.
Exceeding the Evidence:
It is very tempting to develop exotic theories based on evidence extended beyond its validity.
Appealing to Authority:
X must be true because Y says so, or because it is a "well known fact", even the safest authorities are wrong sometimes.
To avoid these pitfalls you should:
- understand both the evidence and the theories
- avoid statements which have no supporting evidence
- consider all the evidence
- consider the topic from all viewpoints - including extreme conditions
Intellectual abilities, skills and knowledge have been organised into a hierarchy of six categories by Bloom (1956) as shown in Fig 1. The assertion is that the higher order abilities depend on a mastery of the lower order abilities.
Figure 1: Bloom's (1956) hierarchy of the cognitive domain.
- Knowledge concerns 'what there is to know' and would include facts, terminology, classifications, conventions etc. The skill is basically of description.
- Comprehension or 'making sense of' consists of translating, interpreting and extrapolating from the knowledge attained at the first level.
- Application refers to an ability to use the knowledge and understanding of principles, methods and theories to a 'real world' situation.
- Analysis involves breaking down material into its component parts and discovering and explaining the relationships between the parts. This may involve inductive (generalising from specific situations) or deductive (moving from generalisations to a specific example) thinking.
- Synthesis involves using the acquired knowledge in a new and unique way to solve problems and to predict likely consequences of actions. Abilities involved include originality and creativity.
- Evaluation involves making judgements about the value of various methods, ideas, findings, solutions etc. Judgements should be supported by evidence from research, literature etc. The basis/criteria for the stated judgements must be made explicit.
In higher education much assessment within undergraduate courses will focus on the four higher level categories identified by Bloom. Essays for example will ask the student more commonly to 'assess', 'evaluate', 'how' or 'why', rather than 'describe' or even 'discuss'. Clearly knowledge is rarely the only end trying to be achieved through assessment; higher education is concerned with the way in which people think as well as with what they know. Therefore assignments will often be trying to develop/assess skills such as 'critical thinking', 'problem solving', 'independent thinking' or the like. In order to demonstrate these skills, some knowledge of the set issue (encompassed in the assignment) will be required.
To gain the highest grades you can, familiarise yourself with the marking schemes to find out what is required for those top marks! Find out more about this
You will encounter a range of different assignments within your degree course. The assignments set in the modules run by the school may have varied educational objectives i.e. they will be testing a number of different things. You need to be aware of these.
- First class >70%
- Upper second (2:I) 60-69%
- Lower second (2:2) 50-59%
- Third class 40-49%
- Fail 30-39%
- Threshold failure <30%
Clearly, the criteria for the assessment of any particular assignment will reflect the varied educational objectives trying to be achieved. Find out more about this in the assessment criteria section.
"Don't be alone - talk to other people on your course to thrash ideas about. It really helps!"
Emma Burton, Community Pharmaceutical Healthcare student
"Practise questions and exam papers fully."
Aneri Shah, Pharmacy student
Course Work Grades explained
- 70%-100%: First Class
- 60 %-69%: Upper Second Class
- 50%-59%: Lower Second Class
- 40%-49%: Third Class
- 0%-39%: Fail