Critical Thinking in a College of Business Administration

Article excerpt

Critical thinking is an essential component of education, and it is an important life skill that eveiyone should acquire (Case, 2005; Giancarlo, Blohm, & Urdan, 2004). Critical thinking has been defined as,

... the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome (Halpern, 1998: 450).

Reid defined it as,

The conjunction of knowledge, skills, and strategies that promotes improved problem solving, rational decision making and enhanced creativity (2009a: 1).

The evidence showing this essential knowledge and skill set is not being taught or acquired is ample (Helsdingen, Bosch, Gog, & Merriënboer, 2010; Marin & Halpern, 2011; Orr, Driscoll, Taymans, Alonso, David, & Fabrizio, 2011a; 2011b; Stupnisky, Renaud, Daniels, Haynes, & Periy, 2008; Willingham, 2007). Devore (2008) reported that 87 percent of business school graduates had received no training in critical thinking skills. In a recent survey, business managers and corporate-suite executives were overwhelmingly unimpressed with the skills acquired by business school graduates (Woods-Bagot, 2012). Leading their list of unacquired skills was problem-solving and critical thinking, along with the inability to work with others.

The authors addressed these problems in a quasiexperimental pedagogical investigation involving 55 graduating seniors from a Midwestern college of business administration. Subsequently, this treatment has been in use in the college for three years. Many students have graduated and are now working in businesses, applying their education. The authors wanted to understand the effectiveness of the critical thinking treatment, especially the transfer of knowledge, skills, and strategies into the business, academic, and personal lives of the graduates. This article briefly discusses the original study and reports the results of a survey used to learn about the transfer of the critical thinking treatment into the lives of the graduates.

The Critical Thinking



In 2009, the authors introduced a critical thinking pedagogical treatment to seniors taking their final capstone course in a college of business administration at a Midwestern university. Two classes of seniors became the experimental group; one was the control group. The pedagogy was based upon Diane Halpern's book, Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum (Halpern, 1997). One of the authors developed this pedagogical treatment based upon the cognitive-behavioral instructional system design of Foshay, Silber, and Stelnicki (2003). The treatment used the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) as the assess-ment instrument (Facione, 1990). The researchers implemented this treatment within the capstone classes being taught. They incorporated critical thinking skills into the case studies the students were evaluating as a normal part of the course, to emphasize the use of these skills in real business environments. The results of this study are shown in Figure 1.

Student critical thinking scores increased significantly in six of the seven parameters of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test. The results of this research have been published extensively (Anderson & Reid, 2010; 2011; Reid, 2009b; Reid & Anderson, 2012a, 2012b). The question remains, however, as to whether the knowledge, skills, and strategies taught in the course were transferred into the personal, academic, and professional lives of the graduates.


The researchers developed a 16-question survey to provide both quantitative and qualitative information concerning the pedagogical treatment. Two questions were used for screening purposes. Eleven questions were quantitative, based upon a 7-point Likert scale. On this scale, 1 was the worst possible score, 7 the best possible score, and 4 was defined as neutral. This relationship is shown in Table 1.

The researchers mailed copies of the survey along with a stamped return envelope to the graduates previously identified. …


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