Relations among Topic Knowledge, Individual Interest, and Relational Reasoning, and Critical Thinking in Maternity Nursing

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
Fountain, Lily
Alexander, Patricia A.
Critical thinking in learners is a goal of educators and professional organizations in nursing as well as other professions. However, few studies in nursing have examined the role of the important individual difference factors topic knowledge, individual interest, and general relational reasoning strategies in predicting critical thinking. In addition, most previous studies have used domain-general, standardized measures, with inconsistent results. Moreover, few studies have investigated critical thinking across multiple levels of experience. The major purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which topic knowledge, individual interest, and relational reasoning predict critical thinking in maternity nurses. For this study, 182 maternity nurses were recruited from national nursing listservs explicitly chosen to capture multiple levels of experience from prelicensure to very experienced nurses. The three independent measures included a domain-specific Topic Knowledge Assessment (TKA), consisting of 24 short-answer questions, a Professed and Engaged Interest Measure (PEIM), with 20 questions indicating level of interest and engagement in maternity nursing topics and activities, and the Test of Relational Reasoning (TORR), a graphical selected response measure with 32 items organized in scales corresponding to four forms of relational reasoning: analogy, anomaly, antithesis, and antinomy. The dependent measure was the Critical Thinking Task in Maternity Nursing (CT2MN), composed of a clinical case study providing cues with follow-up questions relating to nursing care. These questions align with the cognitive processes identified in a commonly-used definition of critical thinking in nursing. Reliable coding schemes for the measures were developed for this study. Key findings included a significant correlation between topic knowledge and individual interest. Further, the three individual difference factors explained a significant proportion of the variance in critical thinking with a large effect size. While topic knowledge was the strongest predictor of critical thinking performance, individual interest had a moderate significant effect, and relational reasoning had a small but significant effect. The findings suggest that these individual difference factors should be included in future studies of critical thinking in nursing. Implications for nursing education, research, and practice are discussed.