Date of Graduation
College of Education and Human Services
Learning Sciences and Human Development
Ernest R. Goeres
American educational reformers have noted an urgent need to develop and integrate pedagogical practices that promotes real world experiences that engage students in service and develops critical thinking skills of students. The reemergence of service-learning builds on an alternative vision of higher education that commenced with Dewey's theories of experiential learning. To meet the need of developing critical thinking skills among today's students, some researchers have proposed that integration of service-learning programs may produce a number of student learning outcomes, including critical thinking. Responding to calls for colleges to engage students in real world problems through service-learning, in 1985 Campus Compact a group of 3 colleges and universities was formed. Today there are 1,100 colleges and universities that are members of Campus Compact, educating over 6 million students. Notwithstanding these realities, there is scarce research examining the effects of service-learning on critical thinking in small sized public Campus Compact affiliated universities. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of service-learning on development of critical thinking among a sample of undergraduate students participating in service-learning courses at the Campus Compact-affiliated, public four-year, non-historically black university in Maryland with fewer than 5,000 students. This study utilized the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) which provides clear delineation of subscales within critical thinking (analysis, evaluation, inference, and deductive and inductive reasoning). This study addressed two research questions: (RQ1) Does participation in general education courses that include service-learning result in gains in critical thinking by students in the courses? To answer (RQ1) statistical analysis were run with SPSS, (version 22). Aggregate data from pre-and post-test administrations were analyzed. The mean of the net difference in the scores, subscale scores, and total scores between the pre and post CCTST administrations were analyzed and examined by the Pre-Post test repeated measures main effect. Potential interaction of this factor with other variables (factors) was also examined by this ANOVA statistical analysis using SPSS (version 22). Results are considered statistically significant at the .05 alpha level. (RQ2) Are there significant differences in critical thinking outcomes for male students as compared to female students in general education courses that include service-learning? (RQ2) was answered by analyzing the aggregate data from the pre-post test administrations. The CCTST mean scores for male compared to female students in each of the CCTST subscales were analyzed. Results are considered statistically significant at the .05 alpha level. Conclusions (RQ1) The findings from the ANOVA regarding the CCTST skills/scales results revealed that there was a trend toward significance with post-CCTST results being higher than pre-CCTST results. The findings from the ANOVA (overall changes) did not demonstrate a trend toward significance. However, the results were consistent with the skills/scales ANOVA and in the same direction. These findings are consistent with what some researchers have found in that service learning can indeed promote critical thinking. (RQ2) The finding from the ANOVA regarding the skills/scales demonstrated statistically significant differences; however, these differences were primarily associated with the skills of Analysis and Deduction. The ANOVA (regarding the overall changes) revealed statistically significant differences between males and females in this study. While the gender effect was significant, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was also performed and revealed that whatever gender differences existed, they were not produced by the service-learning experience. The Significant Omnibus ANOVA regarding the skills/scales revealed the following ranked high to low: 1. Analysis, 2. Induction, 3. Inference, 4. Evaluation, and 5. Deduction. Recommendations for Practice Consider including assessment of the effect that service-learning has on Critical Thinking as a component of institutional assessment initiatives to inform ongoing development of best practices. Consider developing longitudinal assessment of the gains in critical thinking outcomes that students make over the time of their entire collegiate experience. Consider integrating curriculum and strategies that promote student development of a clear understanding of what constitutes critical thinking. This study also recommends that colleges and universities consider providing professional development to practitioners that promotes emphasis on critical thinking outcomes across service-learning experiences that are integrated across the curriculum. Recommendations for further Research Further research is recommended that examines the longitudinal cumulative effects that service learning has on critical thinking and other outcomes. Conduct further research which examines the effects of various types of service-learning experiences. Consider research examining diverse demographic institutions and populations that may further contribute to the body of knowledge of any cultural, demographic, or geographic effects of service-learning on critical thinking. Provide further research of the effects of service-learning on student critical thinking outcomes within individual disciplines. The increases in and sophistication of the CCTST skills found in this research suggests that further research be conducted that examines trends in student performance in each of the skill areas of: Analysis, Induction, Inference, Deduction, and Evaluation.
Smith, Larry J., "Service-learning and critical thinking outcomes in general education courses" (2014). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 553.