Measuring critical thinking skills and dispositions in undergraduate students

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis investigates critical thinking with a particular focus on measurement in undergraduate students. A higher education context was chosen because many regard critical thinking development as a primary goal for third level education. Nine studies, both cross-sectional and longitudinal in design, were conducted with undergraduate psychology students (N=387), using the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST). Studies 1-3 revealed psychometric weaknesses in the CCTDI and revised the scale with factor analysis and reliability analysis to form the CCTDI United Kingdom revision (CCTDI-UK). Study 4 investigated convergent validity and showed significant inter-correlation between the sub-scales of the CCTDI-UK, and significant correlations with the Openness scale of the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R). The study also provided evidence for improvement in scores on three of the six sub-scales in the CCTDI-UK (Truth-Seeking, Inquisitiveness, Open-Mindedness) during the course of an undergraduate degree. Study 5 explored a two factor structure for critical thinking dispositions. Study 6 used reliability analysis to revise the CCTST to produce the CCTST-UK. Study 7 showed that the CCTST-UK had a moderate correlation with degree attainment and a slightly higher correlation with a test of non-verbal intelligence (Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices short form); in addition, the study showed that scores on the CCTST-UK improved during the course of the degree. Studies 8 and 9 investigated the potential of critical thinking for predicting degree attainment. A-levels predicted approximately 10% of the variance of degree attainment while entry level scores on the CCTST-UK predicted an additional 5%. Exit level scores on the CCTST-UK and the Inquisitive sub-scale of the CCTDI-UK were found to be predictors of degree attainment The main conclusions of the thesis were that these tests had significant potential for predicting degree attainment and that they measured a substantial proportion of the theoretical constructs identified by the major authors in critical thinking.
    Date of AwardOct 2004
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorCarol McGuinness (Supervisor)

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