Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Nannette Commander, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jodi Kaufmann, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Daphne Greenberg, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Ann Cale Kruger, Ph.D.

Abstract

Critical thinking is crucial in public health due to the increasingly complex challenges faced by this field, including disease prevention, illness management, economic forces, and changes in the health system. Although there is a lack of consensus about how practitioners and educators view critical thinking, such skills are essential to the functions of applying theories and scientific research to public health interventions (Rabinowitz, 2012). The purpose of this research was to examine the relationship between critical thinking skills used by public health practitioners and critical thinking skills taught to graduate students in schools/programs of public health. Through interviews with public health practitioners and instructors twelve distinct critical thinking skills were identified. Findings of this study indicate that many critical thinking skills used by practitioners are aligned with those taught in courses, such as analysis, identification and assessment of a problem, information seeking, questioning, and reflection. This study also identified conceptualizing, evaluating, interpreting, predicting, reasoning, and synthesizing as critical thinking skills that may not be receiving the explicit attention deserved in both the workplace and the classroom. A high percentage of practitioners identified explaining as a critical thinking skill often used in the field, while few instructors reported teaching this skill. The results of this study have important implications for informing public health curricula and workforce development programs about critical thinking. Further, this research serves as a model for other professions to explore the relationship between critical thinking skills used by practitioners and those taught in higher education.

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