The Development of Critical and Creative Thinking Skills for 21st Century Learning

Missett, Tracy, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Callahan, Carolyn, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Brighton, Catherine, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williams, Joanna, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hertberg-Davis, Holly, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation is comprised of three independently conducted studies, linked by investigation into the development of thinking skills deemed necessary for the 21st Century. While educators and policy makers advocate teaching students creative and critical thinking skills to address an increasingly global and complex world, they simultaneously mandate accountability through evidence-based educational practices. The results of these studies add to the literature base relating to the claims of specific programs and curricula purporting to teach 21st Century skills and to the relationship between two of those skills - creative and critical thinking. Study 1 (1); was a qualitative investigation of learning outcomes for secondary students who participated in an advanced, online, case-based course in environmental science. Growth in critical thinking outcomes was evident for most students exposed to the research-based curriculum. In Study 2 (2), the researchers investigated learning outcomes in the areas of creative problem- solving, creative and critical thinking, and teamwork for middle school students who participated in a creativity enhancement program, Destination ImagiNation. Results indicated that participation supports growth in 21st Century skills for middle school participants. In Study 3, the relationships between critical thinking and divergent thinking in middle school students were assessed, and the researcher investigated whether there were differences in these relationships for students who participated in creativity training as compared to students who did not participate. Collectively, this research program illustrates positive development of 21st Century skills following exposure to specific curricula and programs designed to build these competencies.

Footnotes From the Abstract:

(1) Missett, T. C., Reed, C. B., Scot, T., Callahan, C. M., & Slade, M. (2010). Describing learning in an advanced online case-based course in environmental science. Journal of Advanced Academics;, 22, 10-41.

(2) Missett, T. C., Callahan, C. M., & Hertberg-Davis, H. (2012a). Evaluating the impacts of Destination ImagiNation on the creative problem solving skills of middle school students. Manuscript submitted for publication

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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