Research from Oxford University suggests that International Baccalaureate (IB) students “appear to hold an advantage” over their non-IB contemporaries in their ability to think critically.
The study, commissioned by the IB, examined the impact of its diploma programme (DP) on students’ critical thinking abilities. Researchers focused on more than 560 students from eight schools in Australia, England and Norway.
“The DP philosophy ensures that critical thinking instruction is not assumed to follow from other gains in knowledge, but is purposefully taught within the classroom,” reads the summary of the report.
“This approach may represent one of the likely ways that DP students gain a competitive critical thinking advantage because national programmes rarely include general critical thinking instruction courses.
“After controlling for covariates – including student personality variables, cognitive abilities, socio-economic status indicators and demographic characteristics – participation in the DP was a significant predictor of critical thinking. Specifically, DP students had significantly higher critical thinking than their non-DP peers.”
While we can’t know for certain whether IB participation improves critical thinking, it is noteworthy that, even after controlling for many pre-existing differences, IB students appear to hold an advantage when it comes to critical thinking – Dr Therese Hopfenbeck, Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment
Dr Therese Hopfenbeck, director of the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment, who received an IB-funded $100,000 grant to act as principal investigator on the year-long project, said: “While we can’t know for certain whether IB participation improves critical thinking, it is noteworthy that, even after controlling for many pre-existing differences, IB students appear to hold an advantage when it comes to critical thinking.
“The findings suggest that instructional approaches that focus on teaching critical thinking skills explicitly, as well as embedding opportunities for students to think critically within each subject, may facilitate the development of critical thinking skills.
“IB students and teachers have identified many potential avenues by which the IB encourages the development of critical thinking and hopefully in the future we can build an even clearer picture of how to improve students’ critical thinking skills.”
An environment systems and society teacher in England commented: “I feel like our students end up maybe more rounded than other students would because we facilitate both sides and thinking about things from different perspectives and then coming up with their own validated conclusions. And I think that’s a very valuable part of the course.”