Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Paul Englesberg

Abstract

University instructors can improve how they promote critical thinking in the classroom by fostering reflective writing habits with students. Midwest University requires all undergraduate students to complete 2 capstone courses, which are framed around a critical thinking curriculum. The skills of analyzing and reflecting on experiences are important components of critical thinking. Despite this acknowledged importance of critical thinking, there is currently no structured training for instructors of the capstone course on how to develop critical thinking abilities among adult students. The purpose of this case study was to examine the perceptions of the instructors of the capstone courses and their approaches to promoting critical thinking. Literature on critical thinking and reflective writing provided the framework for this study. Participants included 5 instructors with experience teaching one of the capstone courses. Data collection included semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and reflective journals. Analysis was inductive using open coding and constant comparison to identify emergent themes. Findings indicated that a common practice to promote critical thinking was through probing questions and deep discussions, that a challenge to promoting a critical thinking curriculum was student engagement, and that more importance should be placed on assessing critical thinking in the grading rubrics. Results prompted the creation of a professional development workshop to offer training to instructors that included the experience of progressing through reflective activities and deep discussion to better guide their students through the same process in an effort to strengthen critical thinking development. University instructors may glean best practices from this study to guide students in developing the capacity to think from a more critical and global perspective.