Teaching reflection 2 – critical appraisal
Posted by knockels on 18 November, 2008
For a while I have run a class on critical appraisal/critical reading (“how to read a scientific paper”), as part of the PhD training in Medicine and Biological Sciences, and as a drop in workshop for Student Learning Centre. It has taken a lot of tinkering to get it where it is, and last year I did feel that it was about right. This year it doesn’t feel quite so good, though.
Why is this? We have run two classes this year, for the first time, one for biomedical sciences, and one for non-biomedical. Is that it? I am not sure that we need two classes (except in the PhD programme for logistical reasons), but I am not sure that this is the reason. The SLC workshop is prone to being attended by people who are not having to read scientific journal papers. Is that it? Yesterday, I had one psychologist, one management PhD, one psychologist, and one political scientist. I deliberately looked for an idea of how useful it was to them, and it did seem to be very useful.
I have also become interested in the idea that “critical thinking” is the broad topic here, and that “critical reading” is applying “critical thinking” to reading papers. If that is the case, then the skills ought to apply across disciplines, and not be the exclusive preserve of the sciences. I have come at this topic from the point of view of the medical librarian working with health practitioners to critically appraise papers (as part of the process of evidence based medicine). The critical thinking approach might make the subject more relevant to wider groups of people. This has been one of the most interesting things about this class, applying things across such a wide range of people, and maybe this new approach will help.