Background. Critical thinking is essential to nursing practice; therefore, knowledge and understanding of nursing students’ critical thinking skills (CTS) and related dispositions are important to nurse educators. This paper presents the results of a non-experimental study conducted in spring 1998, identifies implications for nurse educators, and offers recommendations for future research.
Aim. The aim of the study was to investigate the CTS and critical thinking dispositions (CTD) of students enrolled in a 4-year baccalaureate programme at a university in Western Canada.
Methods. The study used a cross-sectional design. Data collection occurred during regularly scheduled classes. A volunteer sample of 228 students from all 4 years of the baccalaureate programme completed a background/demographic questionnaire, the California Critical Thinking Skills Test, and the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory. The reliability of the test and inventory were established using the Kuder Richardson 20 and Cronbach Alpha respectively. Both descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were carried out.
Findings. Critical thinking mean scores increased from years 1 to 4 with the exception of year 3. However, there was no statistically significant difference among the four student groups. Although differences in critical thinking disposition scores were not statistically significant, students’ scores differed significantly on the systematicity subscale. There was a significant relationship between students’ overall CTS and CTD scores.
Conclusions. Approximately 38% of the students in the current study had adequate levels of CTS and 85·5% of the students had adequate levels of CTD. Results indicate a need for students’ continued development in these areas. Dispositions are crucial to critical thinking; without them critical thinking does not happen or may be substandard.