Critical Thinking to Writing

Supporting materials

Other materials used: 2 midwifery articles (Workplace support and breastfeeding duration & Strategies for success), marking criteria, Padlet

Practicalities

  • Group: 80
  • Discipline: Any, examples can be changed and marking criteria can be changed.
  • Level: Level 5 Midwives

Learning outcomes

  • Use the marking rubric to establish your own learning objectives
  • Identify what critical thinking is.
  • Recognise the types of journals to use at Level 5.
  • Employ a critical writing and note-making technique.
  • Recall principles of effective referencing and academic writing.

Content

Welcome video from Craig Morley (embed video)

Stepping up to Level 5

Congratulations on entering your second year at university! When stepping up to second year, it is important to take some time to reflect on what you achieved in first year and to identify what you need to work on this year.

To do this, take a look at your marking criteria (this tells you what your assessments will be judged on), and identify an area or skill/s that you want to develop further this year to help you with your assessments and other work. You may also find it useful to look through your assessment feedback last year to identify any patterns in the advice and suggestions you received. After you have decided on which area/s you want to develop this year, take a look at the which My Learning Essentials resources may help you achieve your goal. (marking criteria embed pdf.)

Planning how you will achieve your goal is just as important as recognising what areas you need or want to develop. Read through “The Big Picture: Achieving your academic goal” resource below to find a really useful strategy that you will you make an effective plan to achieve the goals you have set yourself this year.

Image of ‘The big picture: achieving your academic goals’ online resource
The big picture: achieving your academic goals.

Activity 1 — Reflecting on and sharing your previous successes

It is also important to remember the skills and strategies that helped you succeed in first year! Take some time now to reflect on what habits, strategies or techniques you found helpful in first year. These could be about writing, referencing, researching or anything else!

In the Padlet (Column 1) below, share the tips and strategies you thought of that you think other students may find useful. Look at the Padlet beforehand for some examples if you are unsure about what type of things to share.
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

Take some time to look through the tips other students have shared, you may find something useful that you have not thought of yourself. If you do, make a list of the things you want to try yourself and think about how you can incorporate these into your own current ways of working. You may wish to include these in your plan to achieve the academic goals you set yourself earlier.

Reading and Researching at second year

“Evidence of reading that is appropriate, relevant, broad, and accurately recorded.”

As you can see from the above line in your marking criteria, an important part of succeeding in second year is using higher level sources when reading and researching for assessments.

The infographic below was made together with your lecturers, and shows some examples of the type of sources and journals they expect you to be reading this year.
(embed infographic)

To find out more about journal articles and why you should use them as your core reading material at Level 5 read this post [link to JH post on journal articles when ready/QA’ed] (embed link to medium post)

For a refresher on finding and evaluating sources of information the following My Leaning Essentials resources will be helpful Start to Finish: Searching. You may find it useful to use these again when your start researching for your first assessment.
(embed resource)

Activity 2 — Thinking about Critical Thinking

“Evidence of interpretation, critical evaluation and analysis appropriate research findings”

This criterion from your marking criteria shows that another important element of stepping up to second year is showing your own critical thinking about the information you are reading and others’ arguments and ideas.

To get us started with this, use the Padlet (Column 2) to record what you think being critical means and what your lecturers mean when they say they want you to be more critical.
Use the next column in the Padlet to record what you find most difficult about being critical or any questions you have about how to be more critical this year (we will reflect back on these further on).
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

Activity 3 — Being Critical

Work through the Being Critical: Thinking, Reading and Writing Critically resource to find out more about what being critical means, discover some useful strategies and practice identifying critical and descriptive writing.

While working your way through this resource, make a note of the strategies or tips you think are particularly helpful and think about how you will incorporate them into your own ways of working. You may wish to include these in your plan to achieve the academic goals you set yourself earlier.
(embed resource)

Image of the My Learning Essentials online resource: Being Critical
My Learning Essentials Being Critical online resource

After you have worked through these resource, reflect and record what you have learnt. Use the Padlet (Column 4) to note down your key learning point from the resources. To help with this, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What did you discover that did not know before?
2) What strategies or tips will you incorporate into your own study habits?
3) What did you remember that you had forgotten over the summer?

After adding your own thoughts, read through other students put down. Is there something you hadn’t considered yourself that you might think about now? You may wish to include these in your plan to achieve the academic goals you set yourself earlier.
(To add a new box for your comments click on the + sign at the bottom of the column)
(embed Padlet)

A Critical Thinking Strategy — ‘It Says, I Say, And So’

A strategy that you can use to ensure you are being critical and applying your critical thinking skills to the evidence you read is the “It Says, I Say, And So” strategy. Watch the video below to find out how this strategy works and how you can use it. (embed video)

Activity 4 — Applying the It Says, I Say, And So strategy

Now that you are more familiar with how the strategy works, it is time to practice using it to aid your critical thinking!

  1. Read these two articles (or ones you are already reading). Suggested articles: Workplace support and breastfeeding duration or Strategies for success: a tool box of coping strategies used by breastfeeding women.
  2. Pick one idea or piece of information from the Discussion section of each article that you think supports the authors’ arguments particularly well (i.e. something that you find convincing).
  3. In the Padlet (Column 5), complete the ‘It Says, I Say, And So’ strategy about your chosen piece of information from the articles. There are two examples in the Padlet that you can take a look at to help you get started.
    (To add a new box for your comments, click on the + sign at the bottom of the column).
    (embed Padlet)

Getting into the habit of writing down why you think a piece of information is important or significant, as well as noting the information itself, is important in ensuring your notes themselves are being critical, not descriptive. The ‘It Says, I Say, And So’ strategy can help you do that.
Try and incorporate this into your own note-making approaches next time you are reading for an assignment or doing some lecturer preparation.

As we shall see in the next section, this gives you a head start when it comes to writing critically in your assessments!

Now that we have work on our understanding of being critical and looked at useful strategies, reflect on the questions you had or difficulties you have in being critical which you noted earlier in the Padlet — consider how you might use your new understanding to answer these questions or incorporate these new strategies into your own work to help you overcome these difficulties.

Critical Writing

After thinking critically and making critical notes from your reading, the next stage is to put your thoughts into writing.

Coherent arguments, demonstrating a high level of understanding of the topic and associated issues/debates”

This criterion from your marking highlights how important writing critically will be this year. In the Being Critical: Thinking, Reading and Writing Critically resource, you have already been introduced to the difference between critical and descriptive writing. The activities in this section will help build on this knowledge and the notes you have already made in the Padlet to write critically yourselves.

There are three main aspects to writing critically:
1. Building an argument
2. Using and citing evidence
3. Structuring your writing

Here we will focus on the third aspect, structuring your writing, but the two interactive resources below can help develop your skills in building an argument and using evidence.
(embed resources)

Image of My Learning Essentials online resource on Developing and organising your argument.
My Learning Essentials online resource: “What’s the big idea: Developing and organising your argument”
An image of the My Learning Essentials one resource: Original thinking allowed: Avoiding plagiarism
My Learning Essentials online resource: “Original thinking allowed: avoiding plagiarism”

Moving from critical thinking to critical writing

We will be using information from this post on Writing Your Main Body to help us structure effective critical paragraphs. It also gives useful information on further questions you can ask of evidence to prompt your own critical thinking and tips to build connections between paragraphs, so please do take the time to read through it.

In this video, I will talk you through an annotated example of a critical paragraph and show how it relates to the ‘It Says, I Say, And So’ strategy you have already used.
(embed video).

Activity 5 — Critical Writing Activity

Now that you have seen what a critical paragraph looks like, it is time to write your own! Following the approach discussed in the video above, combine your two ‘It Says, I Say, And So’ notes from the Padlet together to write your paragraph in the Google Doc.

When writing your analysis and concluding sentences you may find some useful phrases on the Academic Phrasebank to present your own thoughts in an academic way.

Peer-to-Peer activity.

After you have written your own paragraph, read through a paragraph another student has wrote.
1) Look at the language they have used. Are there any phrases or signposting words you would look to incorporate into your own writing?
2) Next, look at how they have constructed their evidence sentences. Have they used quotations or paraphrasing? How does this compare to your own?3) Next, read their conclusion sentence. Do you agree with what they have said? Does it make sense in relation to their evidence and analysis sentences?

Take part in some peer-review by colour-coding to see if you can identify the different sentence types in that paragraph (take a look at the example in second page of the Google Doc for one that is already done). This can help you by aiding your own recognition of the different sentence types, and it will also help your fellow students by showing which part of their paragraph they may need to develop.

Questions and Answers

If you have any questions about the work or themes we have looked at here, put them into the Menti below, and I will record a short video answering as many of those questions as I can.
(embed Menti) (embed code — <div style=’position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; padding-top: 35px; height: 0; overflow: hidden;’><iframe sandbox=’allow-scripts allow-same-origin allow-presentation’ allowfullscreen=’true’ allowtransparency=’true’ frameborder=’0' height=’315' src=’https://www.mentimeter.com/embed/19ae39c117f1f7309671913f4aed40ab/b9823d90e83b' style=’position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%;’ width=’420'></iframe></div>)

(embed evaluation)

Contact the Library

The Library and the My Learning Essentials Team are here for you, so get in touch with us using any of the following methods.

  • Email us uml.teachingandlearning@manchester.ac.uk
  • Use the ‘Ask a question’ tab at the right side of the page on any Subject Guide.
  • Use Library Chat by going to the Library Website or MyManchester (log in required).

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