Evaluating critical thinking skills of baccalaureate nursing students

J Nurs Educ. 1997 Dec;36(10):485-8.


This study evaluates the critical thinking skills of students enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing program, using the WGCTA, for the classes of 1993 through 1996. Scores were obtained at entry and at end of junior and senior years. The mean entry WGCTA score was 56 for all four classes; however, the 1995 and 1996 classes had significantly higher scores than the class of 1994. Critical thinking scores were higher at entry for older students and students who had completed another education degree; however, critical thinking scores were lower for students who had previous nursing experience. After adapting for age, previous degree, and nursing experience, no significant differences in the WGCTA scores from entry to end of junior and senior years emerged for the classes of 1993, 1994, 1995. Critical thinking skills have become the hallmark of education. The National Education Goal Panel has advocated for an increase in the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and solve problems (Banta, 1993). In turn, the nursing profession has incorporated these goals of higher education into its educational programs. The National League for Nursing (NLN) includes the measurement of critical thinking as a required outcome in the evaluation and accreditation of baccalaureate and higher degree programs in nursing. This critical thinking outcome must reflect the student's skill in analysis, reasoning, research, or decision making as these skills relate to the nursing discipline (National League for Nursing, 1992). To meet the NLN's critical thinking outcome criterion, nursing programs must have a method of evaluating this skill. Many programs use the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA), which is a standardized instrument. The College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) adopted this instrument to evaluate the critical thinking skills of students in the baccalaureate nursing program.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arkansas
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Education Research / methods*
  • Psychometrics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Thinking*