Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Thomas N. Turner

Committee Members

Colleen P. Gilrane, Dorothy Hendricks, Norma Mertz


The purpose of this study was to examine the various descriptions and perspectives concerning thinking in the social studies literature as expressed by social studies scholars in NCSS journals and publications across a thirty – year time frame, 1977 to 2006. A corollary purpose was to describe the various perspectives regarding methods of teaching thinking that prevailed in published NCSS resources on social studies education. The journals examined for this dissertation were Social Education, Social Studies and the Young Learner, and Middle Level Learning.

A total of two hundred twenty three (223) articles from the thirty-year period dealt with thinking in some way or another. One hundred thirty two (132) of them were used for the final analysis. Based on the previous literature reviews, the researcher identified words thinking, critical thinking, decision making, and problem solving as search keywords. The researcher examined each article critically and thoroughly, looked for the answers to the research questions she was pursuing and looked for meaningful patterns with regard to the definition of thinking.

The researcher concluded, based on her analysis that: 1- There is a problematic, persistent absence of a clear definition for thinking in the literature. However, social studies scholars preferred the term critical thinking by and large and conceptualized it as a combination of lower level and higher level skills, specifically analysis, evaluation, judgment, questioning and inquiring as well as certain dispositions and attitudes. 2- Scholars equated critical thinking with decision making and problem solving and related that to levels of understanding citizenship. 3- The ways scholars conceptualized thinking are related to their preferences regarding methods of teaching thinking, 4- There was a strong correspondence between the characteristics of thinking emphasized by NCSS and those focused on by scholars.

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