Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Barbara Shircliffe, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

James King, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Tony Tan, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.


Cornell Critical Thinking Test, higher education, intellectual development, knowledge formation, Kuhn epistemological instrument


Epistemological development and its relationship to critical thinking has been postulated in educational psychology since the 1970’s. By empirically examining epistemological development in relationship to thinking critically, a richer understanding of overall student development and instructional needs could be achieved. By taking into account a student’s epistemological development, issues unique to these stages could inform how to most effectively work with students to promote critical thinking development.

The purpose of this study was to explore the potential relationship between collegiate epistemological development and critical thinking skills by examining differences in critical thinking skills at different levels of epistemological development. The hypothesis of the study was that students reporting an epistemological level of either Absolutist or Evaluativist would have higher critical thinking scores than students reporting a Multiplist level. The instruments employed were the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (CCTT) and the Kuhn epistemological instrument. The study population of 157 students was taken from a medium-sized private institution in the southeastern United States.

The data indicated that the majority of the study population, 87%, identified as the Multiplist level of epistemological development, according to Kuhn’s definitions. Overall critical thinking scores for the sample was lower than expected but still within reported ranges. Analysis of variance tests were performed on the data and failed to indicate a statistically significant relationship in overall epistemological developmental level and four of the five individual epistemological judgement domains. This finding was not anticipated, challenges current theoretical understanding of this relationship, and indicates a need for further investigation of the nature of the relationship between critical thinking and epistemological development in the higher educational setting.