Center for Instructional
Innovation and Assessment


Brian Burton
Janice Lapsansky
Jeff Newcomer
Goals Contents
Janice Lapsansky
Biology Department

Institutional Goals

Listed below are selected learning outcomes in the area of critical thinking that Western Washington University is actively integrating into its curriculum. Each learning outcome is listed with its definition, along with a description of how Janice Lapsansky's teaching strategies meet each of these student learning outcome goals.


Critical Thinking

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identification Accurately identifies and interprets evidence. The assignment requires that students first identify issues in biology that warrant careful ethical consideration, and then thoroughly research the supporting evidence for a variety of positions related to that issue. They define the elements of the ethical problem by constructing a concept map that can be further developed and used during their classroom discussion.
Alternative Consideration Considers major alternative points of view. Students are asked to reflect upon and identify their own ethical position related to questions in bioethics. Through classroom discussion, students realize (perhaps for the first time) that their peers, policy makers, healthcare providers, and other people in positions of authority in their lives subscribe to one or another of the three competing, and partially overlapping conceptual ethical frameworks. In some cases, students self-identify as having a vested interest in a particular ethical dilemma, and fellow students must be sensitive to this fact.
Accurate Conclusions Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions. The primary purpose of this exercise is to provide students with an opportunity to practice the application of the basic concepts in bioethics, to enable them to make use of these concepts in their daily life. Students recognize that these are the kinds of ethical struggles fought everyday, whether they are aware of them or not, and that they may be asked to contribute to these kinds of decisions, as voting members of society and as consumers of the technologies that are at the root of these issues. For these reasons, students are conscious of the responsibility they must exercise in drawing conclusions from the available evidence, and live up to that responsibility.
Justification Justifies key results and procedures, and explains assumptions and reasons. A room full of your peers can be one of the most demanding of audiences, and students know that they must thoroughly explain their position (as assigned) and support their conclusions with objective evidence.
Adapted from the California Academic Press's Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR).

Information Literacy

Learning Outcomes Definition Course Outcomes
Identifying Need Recognizes and articulates the need for information, identifies potential sources, considers the costs and benefits, and reevaluates the nature and extent of the information need. Because students are asked to work in small groups, they quickly realize the need to gather information not based on personal experience or opinion. The design of the lab curriculum is intended to provide a great deal of background information in preparation for a discussion on bioethics in a variety of topic areas. However, the elements of the bioethical issue often require library research for a deeper understanding.
Search Strategies Matches information needs to information resources, organizes an effective search strategy and manages the information and its sources. Students must be prepared to present all of the information necessary for every student in an introductory biology class to understand what is at stake, and then explain one of several possible action positions. They are directed to seek out scientific journal articles or other publications containing information on their specific topic in bioethics, but they often bring to the discussion several possible sources of influence in the popular media.
Evaluating Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system. The bioethics discussion is extremely satisfying for instructors and students alike, because it opens the door for a personal assessment of the information sources we use in the process of selecting personal actions based on ethical reasoning.
Synthesis Applies new and prior information to the planning, creation, and revision of the development process, and communicates the product or performance effectively. Students are required to bring at least one journal article to the debate, but many bring a well-developed list of relevant citations, some identified as having the potential to misinform. They use this information to complete a concept map around their topic. Students are aware that they have a limited amount of time to present one of two possible positions, and that they must be well prepared and organized. They are expected to bring notes that will enable them to outline either position succinctly and effectively.
Responibility Understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally. Potential sources of information are discussed during the meeting the week before the debate. Students are limited to one internet source, and are directed to seek information about their topic in journal articles and similar professional print media. Students must bring a complete list of references, with full citations, and be prepared to describe their information sources.

Adapted from Western Washington University's Learning Outcomes for Writing II.