The Development of Critical Thinking Skills and Dispositions in First-Year College Students: Infusing Critical Thinking Instruction Into a First-Year Transitions Course
Ruff, Lauren G
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This study examines whether infusing explicit critical thinking instruction into a first-year transitions course can accelerate the critical thinking development of first-year college students. The focus of this study was critical thinking pedagogy and the impact of this instruction on a class of students. Employing action research, the instructor-researcher developed a quasi-experimental design with a control and an experimental section of the same course. The control class followed the standard content and format of a transitions course; the experimental class covered the same content as the control section using critical thinking activities aimed at developing both skills and dispositions. In addition to examining differences between the two sections, the effect of the experimental pedagogy was also examined across gender. Students in both sections were administered the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) as well as the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI) in a pre-test posttest design during the second and final class meetings. Independent samples and paired samples t-tests were used to compare total scores as well as subscale scores for each instrument (five for the CCTST, seven for the CCTDI). Due to the small sample size (n=39) most of the results are not statistically significant, and therefore not generalizable to larger populations. Gender comparisons were also conducted using t-tests as well as ANOVA to test for interaction between gender and the "treatment," participation in the experimental section. The most meaningful analyses were those comparing difference scores - increase or decrease in score - from pre-test to post-test. On the CCTST, the total difference score for the experimental group was significantly higher than that of the control group. The findings for the CCTDI were inconclusive. These findings are consistent with the literature on the impact of critical thinking instruction. For the gender comparisons, females and males in the experimental group outperformed their peers in the control group, particularly on the CCTST. On the CCTST, there was some indication that females in the experimental group might have benefited from the "treatment" more than the males; this did not hold for the CCTDI.