The difference in critical thinking dispositions between entering and graduating traditional and non-traditional associate degree nursing students

Jane Cavaroc Brenden


In the highly structured climate of nursing education and nursing practice, methods for learning and utilizing critical thinking techniques are vital to the student who wants to succeed and enter into the profession. Exploring critical thinking disposition in the associate degree nursing student was the focus of this study. The purpose of this research was to investigate the difference between entering and exiting traditional and non-traditional associate degree nursing students. The independent variables were student type (traditional and non-traditional) and course level in the program. Level I students are entering students and Level IV students are graduating students. The criterion variable of critical thinking disposition was measured by the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), (Facione, et al., 1994). The seven scales of the CCTDI were also utilized: Truth-Seeking, Open-Mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Critical Thinking Self-Confidence, Inquisitiveness, and Maturity. During the Spring of 1998, 163 subjects consisting of 80 entering Level I students, of whom 32% were traditional students and 68% were non-traditional students, were tested. The remaining subjects were 83 graduating Level IV students of whom 24% were traditional students and 76% were non-traditional students. The CCTDI was administered to the entering students approximately six weeks after beginning the associate degree nursing program, and to the graduating students four weeks prior to completion of their program. Descriptive statistics and two-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were used for analysis of the data for the seven scales. A two-way univariate ANOVA was used for analysis of the total scores of the CCTDI. The results of the multivariate analysis indicated a statistically significant difference in critical thinking disposition for both type (p <.007) and level (p <.03) on the scale of truth-seeking. The non-traditional students scored higher on the truth-seeking scale than did the traditional students. The graduating students also scored higher on the truth-seeking scale than did the entering students. No significant interaction between type and level groups were found. No significant difference was found on the other six scales or on the total score for the instrument. On the variable of truth-seeking, statistical significance was found (p <.02) between both the type and level groups. Recommendations for further research are presented and cover issues in practice and education.