Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Cyndi H. Gaudet

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Heather M. Annulis

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Quincy Brown

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


The U.S. Army’s operating environment continues to become increasingly complex and unpredictable, where U.S. technological advantage continues to erode. The complexities stem from the Army’s doctrinal assumption that the future operating environment is unknown and constantly changing (Department of the Army [DA], 2014a). Diminishing technological advantage results in more reliance on soldiers’ cognitive capability, and less on high technology weapons systems (McMaster, 2015).

A review of military literature shows extensive research on the importance of Army leaders to be talented critical thinkers (Fischer, Spiker, & Riedel, 2008, 2009; Gerras, 2008; Thomas & Gentzler, 2013). Human capital literature reveals many college graduates do not possess the critical thinking skills required of the workforce (Laird, Seifert, Pascarella, Mayhew, & Blaich, 2014; Liu, Frankel & Roohr, 2014). Senior Army leaders identify critical thinking and problem solving as the most important outcomes of officer education, but also identify graduates of Army education institutions often lack these competencies (Hatfield, Steele, Riley, Keller-Glaze, & Fallesen, 2011).

Human capital theory (Becker, 1993) and human resource development theory (Swanson, 2001) form the theoretical framework of this study to measure the perceived level of critical thinking talent of junior Army officers with different levels of education, and determine if differences exist between groups. The two groups in the sample consist of junior Army officers with (n = 50) and without (n = 50) a 4-year college degree. Both groups were administered the CCTDI and CCTST critical thinking instruments, and one-way MANOVAs calculated the effect of a 4-year degree on perceived level of critical thinking talent. No significant effect was indicated between groups on either CCTDI scores or CCTST scores.

This non-experimental, cross-sectional, explanatory study finds 4-year degrees may not produce the critical thinking outcomes the Army expects. The Army can mitigate this through developing a critical thinking framework across the professional military education continuum, as well as evaluating leader critical thinking talent during Army training events. Future considerations include larger samples across multiple Army installations and multiple branches.