An investigation into the critical thinking of elementary school students

Margaret Louise Foss, Purdue University


A five part definition of critical thinking was developed, including identification, analysis, inference generation, determination of causality and elaboration. The nature of critical thinking in elementary school students was examined using three critical thinking instruments (Captain Watts Task (Hudgins & Edelman, 1988); Critical Thinking Test (Soloff & Moutz, 1991); Critical Thinking Scale for Children (author)) and Raven's Progressive Matrices (1983) with 158 Midwestern students in grades four, five, and six. The scores were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively to determine the presence and nature of developmental or gender differences in performance. Statistically significant differences were found between grade levels on the Critical Thinking Scale for Children, and Raven's Progressive Matrices. Statistically significant gender differences were found on the Critical Thinking Test.^ Qualitative findings indicated developmental trends in the application of themes to explain answers on all three instruments. Identification of the situation was that crucial step in critical thinking. Students at each grade level spontaneously generated analogies. The oldest students in the sample chose appropriate analogies more frequently than younger students.^ Moderate correlations between two application s of the Critical Thinking Scale for Children indicated the consistent measurement critical thinking consistently in different contexts, showing promise as an applied measure of critical thinking. Further investigation with older students and in a variety of contexts is suggested. ^




Major Professor: Ernest McDaniel, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

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