Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Critical Thinking About Values: The Effects of an Instructional Program, Reasons for Attending College, and General Life Goals on the Application of Critical Thinking to Values Expressed in an Essay Prompt

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Milton Hakel


This is an important and exciting time for discourse and action regarding how to train people to think critically in accordance with well-understood values. This dissertation provides a discussion and analysis of these issues, contextualized empirically within an innovative program at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) designed to develop the ability of students to engage in “critical thinking about values.” Chapter 1 addresses the practical need for employees, citizens, and leaders who can think critically and make principled decisions, and how critical thinking and values are relevant to these societal needs. It also provides a theoretical treatment of critical thinking and values. Chapter 2 is a description of BGSU’s program, the Bowling Green eXperience (BGX). This chapter also provides general hypotheses related to the learning outcomes of BGX. Chapter 3 describes the quasi-experimental methodology and measures employed to test the hypotheses within the Department of Psychology. Six introductory psychology classes were targeted, three of which were part of the BGX program and three of which were otherwise equivalent. Participants were asked at the beginning and end of the Fall 2004 semester to complete a short-answer and essay test, the Critical Thinking about Values Assessment (CTVA), which required them to (1) identify the key components (KC) of an essay prompt and (2) to write a three-part response to the essay that articulated the values expressed therein (critical thinking about values; CTV). The CTV section was developed specifically to measure the BGX learning outcomes. Chapter 4 provides more specific hypotheses: that BGX program membership provides incremental validity beyond that of high school grade point average, ACT/SAT scores, reasons for attending college, and general life goals, in the prediction of participant’s responses to the CTVA. Results did not support hypotheses for the KC section of the CTVA but they did support the hypotheses for the CTV section. Chapter 5 provides a discussion of these results and their limitations, as well as recommendations for future instructional programs and research on those programs to adhere more closely to established theories, to refine the outcomes assessment, and to implement the program more systematically.