CEC Theses and Dissertations


The Effects of Programming in a Structured Language on The Critical Thinking Skills of College Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


John Kingsburry

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Linda Boettner


This study was designed to determine if college students could significantly improve their critical thinking skills by completing a computer course in structured programming. Five sections of an introductory programming class formed the experimental group, while five sections of a computer literacy course formed the control group. Both groups took the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Form A, for their pre - test. Form B of the same test was their post-test. Possible correlates tested included gender, age group, class standing, and major area of study. Slippery Rock University students who were enrolled in the ten sections of either the introductory programming course (n = 71) or the computer literacy course (n = 122) in the spring semester of 1994 were tested at the beginning and end of the courses. Data were collected by means of a standardized test and a demographic survey.

Hypotheses were tested at the .05 confidence level using a ~ test, an analysis of variance, or an analysis of covariance, whichever was applicable. Students in the programming course did significantly improve their critical thinking scores at the .10 confidence level, but not at the desired .05 confidence level. However, at the .05 confidence level, students in the programming course did increase their critical thinking scores significantly more than the students in the literacy course. The correlates tested - gender, age group, class standing, and major study area - were found to be not significantly related to critical thinking skills. These results spawned several curriculum recommendations. Suggestions for future studies included expanding the study group size, testing other programming languages, and encompassing several more semesters of time.

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