drennan j. (2010) Critical thinking as an outcome of a Master’s degree in Nursing programme. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(2), 422–431.
Title. Critical thinking as an outcome of a Master’s degree in Nursing programme
Aim. This paper is a report of a study measuring critical thinking ability in graduates on completion of a Master’s degree in Nursing.
Background. Nurse education programmes identify the development of critical thinking capabilities as a central outcome for graduates at Master’s level. However, despite the centrality of critical thinking to educational curricula, achievement of this outcome has not been evaluated.
Method. A cross-sectional cohort study was conducted in Ireland between 2006 and 2007. Critical thinking was measured using the Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal tool. The sample consisted of two cohorts: a control cohort (110 students commencing Master’s in Nursing programmes) and an outcome cohort (222 students who had a Master’s degree in Nursing). The Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal scores of the graduate cohort were also compared to previously published norm reference scores in the area of nursing and other higher education professional groups.
Results. Graduates had statistically significantly higher critical thinking scores than commencing graduates. Graduates from Master’s in Nursing programmes also had similar critical thinking scores to nurses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the United States of America. However, scores were lower than those of occupational and academic groups in education and medicine.
Conclusion. Graduates from a Master’s degree in Nursing make statistically significant gains in critical thinking scores when compared to students commencing the programme. However, the gains were relatively modest and call into question the effectiveness of pedagogical methods used to facilitate the development of critical thinking at Master’s level.