Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Carolyn (Casey) Ozaki


Higher education institutions are to teach advanced thinking skills that help students process information, make judgments, and justify associated beliefs. Such skills are necessary for reflective judgment according to the reflective judgment model (RJM). The purpose of this study was to explore whether engaging undergraduate students in classroom discussion surrounding ill-structured problems impacted these advanced thinking skills. It implemented a quasi-experimental, posttest-only control-group design using the validated semi-structured Reflective Judgment Interview (RJI) protocol to score reflective judgment skills of sixteen undergraduate students. The RJM and its RJI protocol, developed by King and Kitchener (1994) categorizes thinking into three main areas: prereflective (Stages 1-3), quasireflective (Stages 4 & 5), and reflective thinking (Stages 6 & 7). On average, undergraduate students score within Stages 3 or 4. Although results were not significant using an independent-samples t-test between subjects, students that participated in a lecture and discussion scored higher overall than their peers did who only heard a lecture. The Openness to Diversity and Challenge Scale (ODCS) was also used to identify existing openness to diversity and challenge. A least squares regression analysis of the RJI stage and the ODCS score found that there is a significant correlation between the two. Overall, results indicated that fostering discussion of ill-structured problems in a college classroom might help students advance into higher levels of reflective thinking, thus helping to fulfill a key purpose of higher education. Further research should explore these connections using a larger sample for a longer time period.