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Assessing The Impact Of Critical Thinking Instruction Upon The Preparation Of Freshman Students To Pursue Advanced Degrees In Engineering

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.246.1 - 11.246.19



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Paper Authors


Annette Mallory Donawa

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Annette Mallory Donawa is currently working on her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Administration at Morgan State University. Within the NASA-sponsored Center of Advanced Microwave Research and Applications (CAMRA), she assists the Director, Dr. Carl White, with strategic planning, in addition to staff and project management.

Her engineering education research is focused on assessing the impact of teaching critical thinking to African American engineering students. The goal is to prepare and motivate minority students to pursue advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Ms. Mallory Donawa has more than 20 years of experience in industry, government and academic organizations. Upon degree completion, her goal is to create a Critical Thinking Institute.

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Clifton Martin Morgan State University


Carl White Morgan State University

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Dr. Carl White, Professor, has been teaching at Morgan State University for 18 years in the Electrical Engineering Department. He is the Director of CAMRA, and has directed the PACE program for the past 17 years.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF CRITICAL THINKING INSTRUCTION UPON THE PREPARATION OF FRESHMAN STUDENTS TO PURSUE ADVANCED DEGREES IN ENGINEERING Abstract For more than three decades, programs to accelerate the entry of African Americans and other underrepresented minorities into doctoral programs have been designed and launched. However, evaluation research from these efforts documents varying degrees of success. This variability in outcomes is directly related to the breadth and depth of the variables that contour and shape minority students’ performance throughout the academic pipeline. Over recent years, interventions to increase minority achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have been addressed by seeking to intermediate a fairly constant set of variables – poor academic background and preparation for STEM subject matter, inefficient instructional approaches, and an absence of functional study habits and skills.

Purpose The Center for Advanced Microwave and Research Applications (CAMRA), a NASA- sponsored University Research Center (URC) is mandated to produce a significant number of students who obtain advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. In order to satisfy the requirements, CAMRA tests novel and innovative interventions that may potentially advance the designated outcomes. During the summer 2005, CAMRA, through its summer bridge program, the Pre- Accelerated Curriculum in Engineering Program (PACE), hypothesized that a course on critical thinking could elevate information processing and, as a result, increase academic outcomes in STEM courses.

Methods and Findings To test this theoretical perspective, PACE students participated in a five-week critical thinking course. This course met twice per week for 1.5 hours per class session for 15 weeks. Students were given the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking instrument as a pre- and post- assessment to determine if the formal critical thinking course improved or enhanced students’ critical thinking skills. Bloom’s Taxonomy was used as a framework to help students differentiate between lower and higher order thinking skills. Rather than using the traditional Grade Point Average (GPA) and Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores as indicators to determine student success, exposing students to critical thinking instruction was used as an indictor to predict students’ abilities to matriculate successfully through an engineering undergraduate program. First t-tests for matched samples were applied to determine whether significant changes occurred in measured critical thinking skills as a result of participating in the PACE program in general and the PACE critical thinking course in general. While test scores did increase by .03 and .44 in two areas, a .389 decrease occurred in another area. However, the change in test scores were not significant (P< .22, .559, and .4199 respectively). However, the calculation of Pearson correlation coefficients revealed a significant correlation between critical thinking test scores and grades in the critical thinking class. This finding suggests that both the critical thinking class and the critical thinking standardized test measured similar cognitions.

Donawa, A. M., & Martin, C., & White, C. (2006, June), Assessing The Impact Of Critical Thinking Instruction Upon The Preparation Of Freshman Students To Pursue Advanced Degrees In Engineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--818

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