• baccalaureate nursing students;
  • California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory;
  • Korea;
  • longitudinal study;
  • nursing education

Aim.  This paper reports an investigation into the critical thinking disposition of students enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing programme at a university in Korea.

Background.  Critical thinking may be summarized as a skilled process that conceptualizes and applies information from observation, experience, reflection, inference and communication in a technical manner. It is more of a rational act used as an instrument rather than as a result. Critical thinking is a core competency in nursing and has been widely discussed in nursing education. However, the results of previous research on the effectiveness of nursing education in improving students’ critical thinking have been inconsistent.

Methods.  A longitudinal design was used with a convenience sample of 60 nursing students; 32 students participated four times in completing a questionnaire each March from 1999 to 2002. The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory was administered to measure disposition to critical thinking.

Results.  There was a statistically significant improvement in critical thinking disposition score by academic year (F = 7·54, P = 0·0001). Among the subscales, open-mindedness, self-confidence, and maturity also showed a statistically significant difference by academic year (P = 0·0194, 0·0041, 0·0044).

Conclusion.  Teaching strategies to enhance critical thinking should be developed, in addition to further research on the effect of the nursing curriculum on students’ critical thinking. Moreover, survey instruments could be adjusted to incorporate characteristics of the Korean culture.