Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Laurel L. Walsh


Psychiatric nurse educators in Canada’s western provinces identified a need to create innovative, collaborative, and technology-rich online educational programs to support new nurses in delivering increasingly complex care. The purpose of this study was to explore psychiatric nursing student perceptions about critical thinking development in online courses and to explore how student experiences influenced their entry-level competencies and problem-solving development. Critical thinking stage theory, which is characterized by complex interactive and social phenomenon involved in learning, provided the conceptual framework for the study. The research questions focused on student perceptions about professional problem solving and critical thinking skills. A phenomenographic design was used to capture the insights of 15 students from 2 cohorts through semistructured interviews; a purposeful sampling process was used to select the participants. Emergent themes were identified through open coding, and the findings were developed and checked for trustworthiness through member checking, rich descriptions, and researcher reflexivity. The findings revealed that how instructors teach content and how they provide feedback have a significant influence on critical thinking and problem-solving skill development. An educational blog was created to provide students with a forum to share their diverse experiences and to engage in critical thinking with peers. This study has implications for positive social change by offering a supportive setting to enhance student growth in critical thinking and to support professional problem solving among psychiatric nursing students.