Doctor of Philosophy
James H. McMillan
This study describes teachers' attitudes toward critical thinking: their definitions of critical thinking, the importance of critical thinking in their daily lives, how important it is to them that their students use critical thinking in class, whose responsibility it is to teach critical thinking, and who or what has influenced their attitudes about critical thinking. Each of these aspects of critical thinking was analyzed by teaching level (elementary, middle, or high school) and by subject area assignment (English, social studies, mathematics, science, and "other") to determine if relationships exist between these attributes and attitudes toward critical thinking.
The population sample (n=408) consisted of 106 elementary, 123 middle, and 179 high school teachers from a large school division in central Virginia. These teachers completed a Critical Thinking Survey developed by this researcher.
Results indicate that teachers define critical thinking and critical thinking skills very broadly. There is a lack of consensus about the definition. This is consistent with the literature in the field.Teachers report a high level of importance of critical thinking in their daily lives. They also report that they believe critical thinking to be of great importance to their students, yet only half of the include assessment of critical thinking in their student evaluation procedures.
Teachers seem to accept the responsibility for teaching critical thinking to students. They seem confident in their ability to teach critical thinking, yet they report that they have not had adequate professional training for the task. College, graduate school, and job responsibilities have had a great impact on their attitudes about critical thinking.
There were no significant differences by level or assignment with regard to definition. With regard to identification of critical thinking skills, differences were significant for ten of the 23 listed skills. There were also differences on ten of 31 items measuring importance of critical thinking, and on three of ten activities for teaching critical thinking skills.
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