Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Second Advisor

Dr. Betty Hill

Third Advisor

Dr. Eugene Thompson


The purpose of this study was to determine if a relationship existed between the manner in which nursing students preferred to learn and their ability to think critically. First year nursing students (N = 197) from four colleges in a rural Midwestern geographic region were the subjects for the study. Students represented practical nursing, associate degree nursing, and baccalaureate degree nursing programs and were all in their first nursing course. Entire cohort groups from each college were included in the study.

The Kolb (1985) Learning Style Inventory and the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA, Watson & Glaser, 1980) were administered to all students. The variables for the study included the preferred learning style, WGCTA composite score, age, gender, type of nursing program, years of formal education, and number of years since last formal educational experience. Analysis of data was done using descriptive statistics and the analysis of variance (ANOVA). An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests.

This study showed that a significant relationship appears to exist between critical thinking skills and preferred learning styles. This finding had not been previously documented in the literature. Students categorized as divergers on the Kolb Learning Style Inventory had lower mean composite scores on the WGCTA than did those categorized as assimilators, accommodators, or convergers. Convergers had the highest mean scores. Age also was related to critical thinking scores with students over the age of 40 years having higher mean composite scores on the WGCTA than those under 40 years of age.

Additional studies in this area need to be done. If the findings can be validated in future studies, development of strategies to foster convergence in the nursing curriculum might be beneficial to increase critical thinking skills.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access