Date of Award

Fall 11-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Graham Weir

Second Advisor

Dr. Bryan Charles Reaka

Third Advisor

Debra Wiseheart

Abstract

This mixed methods study compared the critical thinking skills of students at two post-secondary education institutions that utilize two different curriculum models. A contemporary institution that offers a core curriculum and degree specialization (majors) was contrasted with a Great Books school that utilizes a canon of primary sources and relies on Socratic dialogue in the classroom. All students who complete the four-year Great Books program are awarded a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts as opposed to a specialized degree. The two sample populations (N=25) had similar demographic profiles, high school experiences, and college entrance exam scores, as well as similar college grade point averages and college social experiences as determined by a questionnaire, project data sheet, and a series of interviews used to elicit qualitative data for this project. The critical thinking skills of the participants were assessed using the Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test. Observable differences were found between the two sample populations’ overall scores on the Ennis-Weir test, as well as their scores on three of the test’s five subscales measuring evaluation of argument, deduction, and inference. The findings of this project suggest that the curriculum and teaching methods at the school employing the Great Books model (n=14) may have a positive impact on the development of that sample population’s critical thinking skills; however, many factors hinder the researcher from declaring absolute causation, such as the small sample population size, so attributing the reported differences solely to the Burgundy College curriculum and teaching methods is not possible.

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