Critical thinking: assessing the relationship with academic achievement and demographic factors

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Critical thinking: assessing the relationship with academic achievement and demographic factors

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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between critical thinking skills and academic performance, and to determine the degree to which demographic characteristics moderate the relationship. The California Critical Thinking Skills Test Middle School Series (CCTST-M series) was administered to assess critical thinking skill levels of students. Academic performance was measured by teacher assigned grades in core subject areas and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. The demographic factors - gender, tenure at Shanghai American School (SAS), and Culture (native language serving as a proxy for culture data) - were self reported and crosschecked with student records. Data was collected from 297 eighth grade students at Shanghai American School, a high performing American international school located in Shanghai, China. One-Way ANOVA and Stepwise models were used to examine the relationship between each of the factors and critical thinking. Results showed that grades and MAP test scores were significant predictor variables for critical thinking skills, indicating a strong relationship between critical thinking skills and academic achievement. Gender and tenure at SAS did not yield significant results, and do not moderate the relationship with critical thinking skills. Initial analysis also found culture to be an insignificant variable, except when math performance was factored out, Confucian students scored lower than non-Confucian students in critical thinking. This variance suggests a discipline specificity of critical thinking within some cultures, while also supporting the idea of culturally specific conceptualizations of critical thinking. Additional analysis also identified a relationship between academic achievement and gender and culture. Females receive higher grades and score higher in the language usage portion of the MAP test. In the mathematics portion of the MAP test, males score higher than females and Confucian students score higher than non-Confucian students. Results indicate that academic achievement is closely tied with critical thinking and that some variation exists across cultures. Additional research is suggested to further study why these variations, along with differences in academic achievement, exist.


University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisors; Karen Seashore, Ph.D., Adviser Karen Storm, Ph.D., 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 136 pages, appendices A-E.

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Vierra, Robyn Wakalua. (2014). Critical thinking: assessing the relationship with academic achievement and demographic factors. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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