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Evaluating critical thinking skills development: One community - two approaches

Joy A McGuirl-Hadley, Johnson & Wales University


The acquisition and application of knowledge is a prerequisite for many jobs, yet increasing numbers of employees are entering the business world without higher-order thinking skills (Achieve, 2005; Paul, 1995; Robbins & DeCenzo, 2005). This study examined the effectiveness of the existing curriculum at building critical thinking skills in two types of settings: community college and manufacturing businesses in Southeastern Massachusetts. Using the Test of Everyday Reasoning (Facione, 2000), pre- and post-tests were conducted with community college students (n = 67), business employees (n = 36), and a control group (n = 23). Utilizing semi-structured interviews, data were gathered from a randomly selected sub-sample (n = 22) and from the course instructors (N = 6) to determine use made of acquired critical thinking skills. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to equate the three groups and no significant differences was found among the pre-test scores by group, F(2, 94) = 1.35, p = .27. Using the Pearson correlation coefficient, a strong relationship was found for the pre- and post-test scores, r = .83, r2 = .64, p < .01. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with the pre-test as covariate and the Scheffé test to adjust for difference in group sizes, showed no significant difference among the adjusted post-test scores F(2, 93) = .38, p = .69. In comparison with normative data, the average for the sample of college students and business employees was at the 36th percentile. The qualitative data suggested two findings: that all instructors defined and embedded critical thinking skills in their syllabi, though this was not done intentionally by the community college instructors; and that subjects concretely demonstrated critical thinking skills and attributed these skills to what they learned during courses. Based on the study findings, two recommendations were made: (1) bring critical thinking skills into the classroom, identify it, teach it directly, and share it with students to increase their critical thinking skills and metacognition; and (2) promote collaborative partnerships between education and business to foster coherent and effective education and workforce development systems.

Subject Area

Community colleges|Adult education|Continuing education|Business education

Recommended Citation

McGuirl-Hadley, Joy A, "Evaluating critical thinking skills development: One community - two approaches" (2005). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3234454.