Date of Award

Summer 8-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Keith Howard

Second Advisor

Margaret Grogan

Third Advisor

Maria L. Martinez


Critical thinking (CT) has been one of the most important goals of higher education since the 1990s. However, foreign language majors in China have been criticized for the lack of CT and considered inferior to other majors. Despite studies conducted to disprove this belief, less research has explored the CT of undergraduates at private universities. This study investigated the status of undergraduates’ CT dispositions at a private college in China, particularly among foreign language majors representing various demographic or academic groupings and with different learning experiences. An online survey was distributed to 5,000 undergraduates at a private college; 1,642 completed the survey (33% response rate). Descriptive statistics showed the undergraduates at this private college showed ambiguity toward CT. The distribution of percentages for this data set were more heavily concentrated in the Ambivalent and Negative category (over 50%) than the Positive category (less than 50%) for the Systematicity, Self-Confidence, and Truth-Seeking scales. Effect size and t tests identified no significant differences in the CT between foreign language majors and other liberal arts majors, between the Western and Eastern foreign language majors, or between international joint programs and regular programs; however, differences were significant for the overall scale between student leaders and nonstudent leaders, for the Academic and Social Dimensions between male and female students, and for the Academic Dimension between students taking and not taking CT courses. Linear and incremental increases were found from freshmen to juniors; however, one-way ANOVA and effect size identified no significant differences in the total scores for the three class levels, but there was a significant difference for the Systematicity scale. Correlational analyses identified that GPA was not correlated with CT for the overall scale, but for sophomores, there was a positive correlation between GPA and CT; most instruction modes were also significantly correlated with CT. The findings suggest private universities should attach importance to nurturing students’ stronger inclinations toward CT from the perspectives of curriculum design, faculty professional development, classroom teaching, assessment and evaluation, and extracurricular activities.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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