Counterfactual historical scenarios as organizers of the sources of insightful understanding

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University of Alabama Libraries

Researchers have explored history expertise as a model for developing critical thinking in students. However, if students are not interested in history, they may not see any reason to engage in critical reflection in that area. Therefore, this dissertation compares students' reflection in a domain they described as being more interested in and more knowledgeable about, fiction, with their reflection in history. In a pilot study, participants generated more fictional events than historical events but generated an equal number of historical and fictional counterfactuals. These results are interpreted as support for the idea that, while interest can lead to knowledge, by itself knowledge is insufficient for insightful reflection on a topic. To further explore the role of counterfactual scenarios as a context for insightful reflection, a follow up study was conducted with two types of counterfactual scenarios (fictional, historical) as within-subjects factors, two sources for counterfactual scenarios (student, non-student) as within-subjects factors, and presentation order (fictional counterfactuals 1st, historical counterfactuals 1st) as a between subjects factor. The dependent measures were rated feasibility, interest, and insight quality. The overall purpose of the study is to explore the relationships among counterfactual thinking, interest, and insightful reflection.

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Educational psychology