Critical Thinking in College Freshmen: The Impact of Secondary and Higher Education

Marie Evens, An Verburgh, Jan Elen


Critical thinking helps students to confront a multitude of challenges they will face in their carreers and personal lives. It is therefore an important task of higher education to promote students’ critical thinking. However, students do not enter higher education with a blank page. Background characteristics of students are important in developing instruction. The present study investigates the influence of an important background characteristic, namely students’ secondary education, and their current higher education programme on critical thinking in the first year of higher education. The critical thinking of college freshmen was measured by the SCIPIO, a test consisting of both constructed response items and forced choice items. The results indicate that (1) the growth in critical thinking during the first year of higher education is on average small, (2) students with a background in general secondary education have higher entrance performances and show more growth during the first year than students with other educational backgrounds, (3) critical thinking plays a role in the educational choice that students make when they enter higher education, and (4) students in a professional bachelor programme grow more in CT during the first year of higher education than students in an academic bachelor programme.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online)

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