Team-designed improvement of writing and critical thinking in large undergraduate courses


  • Daniel Bernstein University of Kansas
  • Andrea Follmer Greenhoot University of Kansas



team-design, cognitive apprenticeship, critical thinking, writing, assessment


Helping students achieve advanced critical thinking and writing skills in large undergraduate classes is a challenge faced by many university faculty members. We addressed this challenge in a three-year project using team course design, built around a cognitive apprenticeship model, to enhance undergraduates’ writing, critical thinking, and research skills in courses ranging in size from 70 to over 400 students. Faculty members partnered with specialists from the university library, writing center, and teaching center, and with graduate student fellows who received supplemental training in those units. Together they designed progressive learning activities and written assignments based on meaningful, situated critical thinking scenarios. Instruction teams also developed rubrics for tracking students’ progress on each step, and they used this information to inform the next wave of course enhancements and generate continual and iterative improvement. Assessments developed by the instruction teams showed that students in the team-designed courses improved in their critical thinking and writing skills from the beginning to the end of the semester. Furthermore, an evaluation of student work from the team-designed courses using the AA C&U Value rubrics showed that these students displayed more advanced critical thinking and writing skills than students in roughly comparable but conventionally designed courses. Our results demonstrate that team design involving specialists and graduate students can be a feasible and worthwhile strategy for engaging faculty members in developing advanced instructional and assessment designs that enhance high-end learning in a large university setting.


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Author Biographies

Daniel Bernstein, University of Kansas

Daniel Bernstein is a Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas.

Andrea Follmer Greenhoot, University of Kansas

Andrea Follmer Greenhoot is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Kansas.


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How to Cite

Bernstein, Daniel, and Andrea Follmer Greenhoot. 2014. “Team-Designed Improvement of Writing and Critical Thinking in Large Undergraduate Courses”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 2 (1):39-61.