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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Mission: Critical

by David Mesher
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

3.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 3.5 stars
Reviewed: Jul 18, 2008 by Psychology
Overview: This website, which features links to several past versions of the same site as well, appears to be designed as a resource for a college level course in critical thinking. The site features sections reviewing/discussing various relevant topics, asks probing questions to elicit student thought regarding the topics and provides links to additional resources to aid student understanding.
Learning Goals: The goal of this material is to familiarize users with the basic concepts of critical thinking in a self-paced, interactive environment.
Target Student Population: The site appears oriented toward college undergraduates or possibly an advanced high school course in logic and critical thinking.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None, though some familiarity with rhetoric and advanced math may be helpful.
Type of Material: This material is primarily drill and practice.
Recommended Uses: This material is designed to give students practice with specific types of persuasive arguments and appeals. Concise descriptions and examples are provided to students, and they may complete exercises and exit tests to assess their learning. Instructors could utilize various portions of the site as assignments or optional work to improve student understanding of concepts in logic.
Technical Requirements: There are no technical requirements for use of this material.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The topic sections present essential concepts well and provide more detailed sections through links at the top of each section. In addition to the topic discussion, short exercises are made available to enable students to practice what they have just read and self-evaluate their understanding of the material. The content is well-written and the illustrative examples are interesting and draw on a large variety of domains.
Concerns: Some sections of the site may be broken and/or outdated; the most recent version appears to be from 1999.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: There are many exercises designed to have students assess their learning. There are also exit tests that serve the same function. If instructors are trying to teach a specific kind of argument (or class of arguments), then they could send their students to those particular parts of the site.
Concerns: Critical thinking is not an easy skill to acquire. It requires training, practice, and trial-and-error. Because of this, students may have difficulty persisting with these materials. They may experience frustration working with the large number of argument and appeal types.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3.5 stars
Strengths: The materials are clearly laid out and easy to find and navigate through. The left-side menu (after the introductory page) provides quick access to a sequence of concepts to be covered each week and each day. The left-side menu also allows access to additional activities.
Concerns: There is no "roadmap" or guide for users (e.g., where to start, how to best use the materials). The introductory page, while containing all necessary information, is not very easy to navigate and is extremely “busy”. The overall page UI/layout is not optimal and can make it unnecessarily difficult to locate a desired resource. Having an archive of older pages is a beneficial resource, but the most recent version should be far more prominent than older versions (and the user’s eye should be immediately drawn to it).

Other Issues and Comments: It would be useful if the author provided a general overview of critical thinking as part of the site. For example, the author could provide links to other web-based critical thinking resources that could be used to supplement or complement these materials. In addition, there is no clear organizational structure that might help users determine where to start and how to proceed through the materials.