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Journal of Information Systems Education

Article Title

Invited Paper: Teaching Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Design Thinking: Preparing IS Students for the Future

Abstract

Critical thinking and problem solving skills are included in the IS curriculum as foundational skills. IS education researchers recognize the importance of these skills for future IS practitioners given the complexity of the technology based society and economy of the future. However, there is limited work on how these skills are best taught in IS. This research reports on a course focusing on the explicit development of critical thinking and problem solving skills of first-year IS students at the University of Pretoria. The critical thinking part of the course focuses on the analysis, evaluation of, and response to arguments. Class discussions and assessments are based on local, authentic arguments. In the problem solving skills component of the course, students are taught to understand the nature of a problem and to classify it as belonging to one of three categories: puzzles, problems, and messes. For each category, appropriate problem solving approaches are suggested and practiced. To illustrate the role of design and creativity in problem solving, students have to create an artefact using the Maker Space of the university. They have to apply the five phases of design thinking as suggested by the Stanford d.school design thinking approach. The course has been presented since 2016, and feedback is collected from students annually. Based on a feedback questionnaire that the students complete at the end of each course, we have reason to believe that they find the course valuable and consider those skills to be applicable to other courses as well as elsewhere in their lives. They also point out the value it holds for their future as IS practitioners. As part of our ongoing research, we are investigating ways to develop a critical disposition amongst students, an important component of critical thinking.

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