Development of Integrative Skills in Higher-Education Students

Author Name(s): *Nailia F. Plotnikova, Irina G. Kondrateva
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This study deals with the development of critical thinking in higher‑education students and identifies the integrative skills that a graduate student will need in their future professional activity. Also, the article exposes the features of teamwork in the development of critical thinking in students. We suggest a model of development of critical thinking in higher-education students and identify pedagogical conditions for the effectiveness of critical thinking development in higher-education students during teamwork.


It is undeniable that investigations related to the study of critical thinking are of prime relevance in modern society. Our analysis of studies on critical thinking that have appeared in recent years in various abstracts and full-text databases, namely EBSCO, Elsevier (Science Direct), and Taylor & Francis, has shown the existence of increasing interest in this subject. Many studies claim a need for the development of critical thinking in higher-education students jointly with other skills needed for their future professional activity.

Masumeh Taie [1] considers the development of critical thinking abilities and introduces the concept of the “critical thinking movement”. This movement has evolved as a reaction against the failures of many educational programs to meet their objectives since many college graduates are not qualified enough for real professional endeavors and do not possess higher-order thinking skills.

Slađana Živković [2] describes a “critical movement model”, i.e. a “critical thinking model” suggested by researchers for teachers and students involved in the process of developing critical thinking. Preparing students for real professional activities requires them to have “high-order thinking skills” allowing to discover a prospective professional activity and educate graduate students as independent doers capable of thinking creatively and critically.

Researchers at a Malaysian tertiary institution [3] consider critical thinking among “soft skills”, as integrative skills, together with such skills as problem-solving, lifelong learning, and information management.

Two Australian researchers, Al-Mahmood and Gruba [4], have studied critical thinking in the field of computer sciences. They replace the term “soft skills” with “employability skills”. These authors believe that, even though the above-mentioned skills are integrated into higher‑education programs and are developed during the learning process, “employability skills” are actually realized only when graduates get into a real professional environment.

The point of view of the authors of the present paper is that future professionals’ critical thinking starts forming during their learning process and it is an inseparable part of their professional competence. The latter is just a set of skills of a certain type (e.g., mental, practical, communicative, etc.), motivational guidelines, and value orientations able to be applied in a professional practical activity. The process of development of the latter includes learning various competences that can be identified with skills based on knowledge and experience of practical application in different situations.

The integration of skills in the training process in higher-education schools, namely teamwork skills, critical thinking, the ability to put into practice their own ideas using a creative and innovative approach, also appears in Renée‑Pascale’s study [5], which is aimed at researching students’ teamwork during the study of various disciplines.

The study [6], performed by another group of scientists, had the goal of assessing the efficiency of teamwork in the completion of students’ projects. A total of 165 respondents participated in the survey. Based on the outcome of the study, the authors of the paper gave the following list of skills ranked according to their efficiency in students’ teamwork:

Leadership skills—43%;

Critical thinking and problem solving—36%;

Communication skills—34%;

Teamwork skills—30%.

The above-mentioned results point to the following conclusion: a group of students becomes a single unit only when each member possesses the integrative skills that must be present among the competences of every future professional, namely critical thinking and teamwork abilities. These conclusions have been confirmed, in particular, in our experimental study, which had a more complex structure than the one described above (see [7]).


Integrative skills: teamwork and critical thinking ought to be included in the professional competences of future specialists. The development of these skills is only possible in a dedicated training system of students in special courses and seminars, using interactive technologies that teach thinking and working in practical situations.

Critical thinking of higher-education students consists of a system of socially and personally significant critical thinking qualities acquired as part of the learning and teaching process. Teaching students in teams contributes to developing their critical thinking, namely acquiring and suggesting assumptions and hypotheses and searching for the most rational methods to solve problems and tasks, finding mistakes and shortcomings in the course of learning as well as in social life in order to overcome them, creating an atmosphere of interaction, teaching to accept criticism and respond to it after careful consideration, taking an active stance.


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