Asking Those Critical Questions?

Over the past week and a half, I lead four different Composition sections doing a research based paper on whether or not violent video games increase aggression in college students. I’ve talked about the findings of the articles before, but what struck me during the past week was the discussions the students had.

Students that disagreed with the findings of the articles didn’t just right off the conclusions as wrong or false. They began asking questions about the method and sample size. They started looking for variables that were not controlled for and could affect the results. They were engaged and motivated in the assignment. If we can start students asking the critical questions now and thinking critically from the beginning… then they are better equipped to do so on their own. And that is a pretty good gauge of success.

The other key to student success in this research unit, is making sure they move beyond the point I just mentioned - and use the data from the articles. The students should critically analyze the information and question it, but they still need to rely on the data that was reported... and not their own opinion. The classes have done a pretty good job of pulling out the key data (and understanding most of it), but now they are off to write their papers and that is the real test.

As a class, we decided on a class thesis and outlined how they could set up their paper. Their thesis is a variation on this statement: Playing violent video games increases short term aggressive thought and behavior in college students.

This thesis still generated some debate among the students today, but as I told one student who approached me after class,

"The evidence is there, time and again, now the question is what do we do with this increased aggression? How and if we act on it is the test of our character."

And that is a much larger debate.

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