Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Helping students improve their critical thinking and writing abilities is a challenge for university instructors. Although they are experts in their specific disciplines, most of them struggle when it comes to developing appropriate and successful critical thinking activities for their students. They have limited knowledge of instructional methods that improve student thinking, and often rely on professional development programs on their campuses to assist them. The Writing Across the Curriculum Program at a mid-western university offered assistance to faculty and provided a place to examine this process.

A qualitative study employing workshop observations and follow-up interviews was used to determine the impact of one-hour workshops on faculty's critical thinking assignments. Six full-time faculty from different disciplines participated in the study. The aim of the study was to determine if faculty would alter their critical thinking and writing assignments after attending three one-hour sessions that provided for peer review of their assignments and student papers.

The findings indicate that three of the six participants immediately altered their assignments based on information they received at the workshops, and that all the instructors reported gaining useful strategies to improve their current critical thinking and writing activities. Short-term workshops do help instructors improve their instructional designs. An unexpected finding was the number of university-based barriers that interfere with faculty attempts to make students more thoughtful. Class size, grading practices, lack of rewards for critical thinking initiatives, lack of departmental support, and student resistance to challenging assignments all impact on student attainment of critical thinking and writing abilities. Recommendations suggest that measurable improvement in student critical thinking and writing abilities will depend on the university faculty and administrators' ability to develop a comprehensive, campus-wide program that emphasizes this learning.

Included in

Psychology Commons