School of Education
Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)
critical thinking, critical thinking disposition, faith development, Christian college, higher ed, higher education
Schwartz, Mark Edward, "Threats and Opportunities to Critical Thinking Development Students Encounter in a Christian College Environment: A Case Study" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4884.
The purpose of this single unit case study was to describe the efforts of Small Christian University (SCU) to develop critical thinking skills and dispositions amongst its students. The theory guiding this study was Fowler’s stages of faith theory, which explains the role of experiences and crises in developing faith, a process which parallels closely with the process of developing critical thinking skills. This study examined interviews with students, a focus group with faculty and documents recording assessments of completed student assignments to describe how effective SCU’s efforts were in developing students who could think critically and were disposed to do so regularly. Data on these key experiences were then coded to discover common themes that influenced students’ critical thinking skills development. The results support the idea that students do learn to think critically at SCU, although three conditions need to be met for this to take place. First, students should persist until graduation so that they go through the development Fowler predicted was needed to strengthen their faith and develop their critical thinking skills. Second, students should choose to engage with others who hold different viewpoints so they can learn from a diversity of different perspectives. Third, students should risk challenging the long-held beliefs they brought with them to SCU.