The impact of the integrated assessment on the critical thinking skills of the first-year Extended Curriculum Programme students in the Department of Management Accounting at the Durban University of Technology
Cloete, Melanie Bernice
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Empirical evidence highlighted the problem of underprepared graduates who lack critical thinking skills required in the work environment. Institutions of higher learning have been mandated to provide graduates with these critical thinking skills. However, in order to achieve this mandate, teaching, and, in particular, assessment practices at institutions of higher learning would need to be rethought and transformed. Integrated assessments that mirror real life situations are particularly useful in the development of critical thinking skills. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the integrated assessment conducted with the first-year ECP students in the Department of Management Accounting at the Durban University of Technology has enhanced the critical thinking skills of these students. This descriptive and inferential study employed a quantitative strategy, with a quasi-experimental, pre-test, post-test, non-equivalent group design and it was longitudinal in nature. The target population consisted of two groups: all the first-year students registered on the Extended Curriculum Programme in the Department of Management Accounting in 2014, which was approximately 40 students (experimental group); and all the first-year students registered on the Extended Curriculum Programme in the Department of Financial Accounting in 2014, which was approximately 40 students (control group). All five categories of the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal UK edition were administered to both the control and experimental groups in a pre-test and post-test measure. However, only the experimental group was exposed to the integrated assessment. The aim was to measure the change, if any, in the students’ critical thinking skills over a period of time. The findings revealed a statistical significance in the overall post-test scores in favour of the experimental group. The norm group comparisons also revealed that, after the completion of the integrated assessment, the experimental group’s post-test mean scores were higher than the US grade 12 students and were closely matched to the US first year of 4 year colleges. In addition, the experimental group’s pre-and post-test mean scores were closely matched to the SA norm group. These results suggested that the experimental group experienced gains in their critical thinking ability in the post-integrated assessment. It is, therefore, recommended that integrated assessments, which are based on real world problems, should be conducted in the first year and in subsequent years. It is not always possible for universities of technology to offer cooperative education/ in-service training to all students. Contextualized integrated assessments, therefore, bridge this gap by allowing students to experience workplace requirements without physically being in the work environment.