Automating the measurement of critical thinking in discussion forums : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Information Systems at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Critical thinking is seen as an essential skill for survival in the 21st century and those
involved in education agree that encouraging students to think critically is an
essential requirement of the educational system. There is considerable debate among
educationalists concerning the most effective way to encourage the development of
critical thinking skills and little agreement on the best way to measure evidence of
This study examines what is meant by the term critical thinking and investigates
some of the tools that have been used to measure evidence of critical thinking. The
study concentrates on the measurement of critical thinking among discussion forum
participants and describes the development and testing of a tool designed to automate
the process of measuring critical thinking.
Since the study involved the design, development and testing of a computerised tool,
an action research approach was adopted. Action research gained popularity among
information systems developers around the mid 1990s. It is seen as a methodology
that encourages the generation of scientific knowledge by allowing the researcher to
modify intentionally a real setting and carefully evaluate the results.
The study describes the development of an automated text classification system that
uses content analysis to classify discussion forum transcripts using critical thinking
models developed by Garrison, Anderson, & Archer (2000), Henri (1992) and
Perkins & Murphy (2006). The findings from the study suggest that automated tools
have the potential to assist in the measurement of critical thinking abilities and are
worthy of further investigation.