AN EXAMINATION OF STUDENT WRITTEN COMMUNICATION AND CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS AT ONE TEXAS PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
Roberts, Jeffery L
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The three studies within this journal-ready dissertation examined student written communication and critical thinking skills at one public university in southeast Texas. Studies 1 and 2 examined differences in student written communication and critical thinking skills as a function of demographic characteristics (i.e., gender, race, first-generation status, socioeconomic status). These characteristics represent factors that can indicate students may be at-risk academically. Both studies employ social capital theory, which posits that group membership can influence student success. Study 3 examined the efficacy of an undergraduate critical thinking course in improving student critical thinking skills by determining what pre-to-post gains students made within the course. Study 1 used secondary data, derived from a locally developed writing rubric, from 1,285 juniors and seniors from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 academic years. Studies 2 and 3 used secondary student critical thinking data gathered from the Texas Assessment of Critical Thinking Skills (TACTS) test that was administered within undergraduate critical thinking courses. For Study 2 (n = 863), post-test data from the 2016 and 2017 academic years were used for analysis. For Study 3 (n = 2,551), pre-to-post test data for the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 academic years were used for analysis. Multiple regression analyses were employed to examine differences in student written communication and critical thinking scores by student race, gender, socioeconomic status, and first generation for Studies 1 and 2. These models were both predictive of student written communication and critical thinking ability; however, the pooled R2 values for both models were indicative of trivial effect sizes for both studies. The regression analysis for Study 1 further revealed that the written communication scores for Black students and for male students were statistically significantly lower than that of the comparison group. For Study 2, the regression analysis revealed that scores for Black students, Hispanic students, and students who were first-generation were statistically significantly lower than that of the comparison group. Finally, for Study 3, dependent samples t-tests revealed that students made statistically significant pre-to-post critical thinking gains for each of the examined years; however, the size of these gains were much lower for the 2016 and 2017 academic years in comparison to the other years examined within that study.