The UNC Asheville QEP will focus on enhancing students’ critical thinking through participation in academically rigorous experiences that involve inquiry, application, reflection and communication.
The Four Components of Inquiry ARC
The focus of the UNC Asheville QEP is on enhancing critical thinking through student participation in academically rigorous courses and co-curricular experiences.
The pedagogical modes for these courses is titled Inquiry ARC and is described as follows:
Inquiry refers to the process of identifying and developing an issue or concept. It is a question-driven search for understanding that demands asking relevant and probing questions from multiple perspectives. Good inquiry gathers information from a variety of sources (literature, experts, communities, or individuals), and asks the right questions to fairly judge the reliability and relevance of that information.
In critical inquiry, one considers the significance of a topic, comes to a clear and accurate understanding of the topic, logically analyzes information, and concludes by crafting a specific question or concept to explore. Practice of good inquiry is also good practice of information literacy.
Application can take many forms. In applying ideas the student must make meaningful connections between their positions and the positions of others. In order to do this well, the critical thinker distinguishes unexamined assumptions from considered beliefs, and uses well-reasoned interpretation to identify fallacies. The critical thinker is able to identify valid conclusions and analyze how they relate to supporting premises.The Inquiry ARC learner considers evidence and implications before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion.
Reflect refers to the practice of reviewing, evaluating, and deepening learning. Reflection invites the critical thinker to slow down and contemplate on assumptions and biases that may be operative in positions or decisions. Reflection asks the thinker to think deliberately: it is thinking about thinking. Reflection contributes to a deeper understanding of issues and ideas, and enhances the ability to connect learning to one’s own life, furthering one's inclination to engage in future critical thinking.
Good Inquiry ARC communication clearly articulates a clear focus and significant purpose, adapting tone and style to the appropriately identified audience and context. Good communication approaches topics and concepts fairly to make meaningful and relevant connections for the listener, reader, or viewer, demonstrating the capacity to explain concepts in logical and compelling ways to someone who is new to these ideas. Good communication therefore often involves listening as a critical component, and the capacity to change one's position in response to what the evidence shows and to adapt one's approach to what the audience needs.
Defining Features of a Successful Inquiry ARC Experience
- Is guided by an educator who has QEP training in critical thinking pedagogies and assessment methods;
- Facilitates the development and demonstration of inquiry skillson a meaningful issue, concern, or problem by guiding the students to ask relevant and probing questions from multiple perspectives and sources (literature, experts, communities or individuals);
- Requires the application of that inquiry to the learning process, a proces that often results in a product (e.g., oral presentation, paper, film, poem, experimental design, marketing campaign, installation, program, or musical composition);
- Incorporates ongoing, directed reflection by the student with feedback from students, educators, and others involved with the experience;
- Requires communication about the project in oral, written, or visual form to, at least, the educator. In addition, some Inquiry ARC experiences may also feature an opportunity to communicate with an audience outside the discipline (e.g. the campus, the local community, undergraduate research conferences, national and global partners). Communication with an audience outside the discipline means that the student must conduct a dialogue and respond to feedback;
- Encourages the student to act on what has been learned;
- Often will include opportunities to engage with individuals within or outside the discipline throughout the experience. For example, the inquiry stage may involve connecting with the community to identify significant topics to explore. In the apply stage, learners may interact with individuals affected by a problem or issue in order to gather insights for designing and implementing a project that addresses a selected question.
- Provides multiple opportunities for students to receive meaningful feedback on how they are developing their capacities as critical thinkers, thereby helping students to become more independent learners and more self-aware about their thought processes.
Implementing the QEP
During the implementation of the Quality Enhancement Plan, the University will 1) develop a definition of critical thinking that establishes a shared standard; 2) provide opportunities for professional development in pedagogies that have been shown to improve critical thinking; 3) develop Inquiry ARC designated courses and learning experiences across campus; 4) iteratively assess changes in students’ critical thinking; and 5) evaluate the assessment results, retooling the enhancement plan as appropriate.
Although pedagogies of critical thinking may be present in a variety of forms in many courses at UNC Asheville, the QEP will provide professional development opportunities to help educators develop more focused and intentional approaches to critical thinking by employing the pedagogical modes of Inquiry ARC in combination with current best practices in teaching critical thinking.
Each Inquiry ARC educator will participate in two days of professional workshops that serve as an introduction to the program. In this training, they will learn ways to adapt the pedagogy of the Inquiry ARC to their classes with an eye towards enhancing critical thinking. Instructors will work from a shared definition of critical thinking, one generated by UNC Asheville staff and faculty. The professional development curriculum further draws from the Foundation and Center for Critical Thinking. The concepts provided by this Center offer a broad-ranging and flexible language well-suited to our interdisciplinary approach, insofar as it identifies shared elements and standards that can be readily adapted across disciplines. Furthermore, students can adapt this approach to critical thinking across their curriculums. It is our hope that a shared language of and approach to critical thinking will enhance student capacity for and inclination to use critical thinking.