Data collection and early analyses were carried out as part of her dissertation in Educational Policy Studies.As a result of her background in critical theory, there was a need for reflexivity focused on limiting predisposition toward participant interpretations of critical thinking that aligned with critical theory.
Data collection and early analyses were carried out as part of her dissertation in Educational Policy Studies.As a result of her background in critical theory, there was a need for reflexivity focused on limiting predisposition toward participant interpretations of critical thinking that aligned with critical theory.This study moves away from attempting to create universal definitions of critical thinking in order to explore the tensions that surround different, converging, and competing beliefs about what critical thinking means.
The senior author was trained in cognitive psychology, and contributed to the questioning of results and discussion required to ensure this reflexivity.
The first author’s dissertation supervisor also provided support in this way by questioning assumptions made during the initial stages of this work.
Moreover, the variability observed might suggest that multiplicity has value that the quest for universal definitions has failed to capture.
In this study, we sought to map the multiple conceptions of critical thinking in circulation in health professional education to understand the relationships and tensions between them.
This ‘borrowing’ of techniques offers the ability to capitalize on the open and broad approach offered by interpretive qualitative methodology .
The first author has a background in sociocultural and critical theory.With the historical focus on developing broad definitions of critical thinking and delineating its component skills and dispositions, little has been done either to document the diverse conceptions of this term in circulation amongst active HPE practitioners or, perhaps more importantly, to illuminate the beliefs about what constitutes ‘good thinking’ that lie behind them and the relationships between them.Perhaps clarity in our understanding of critical thinking lies in the flexibility with which it is conceptualized.This study uses an emergent, inductive design in an effort to be responsive to the co-construction of new and unexpected meaning between participants and researchers.While techniques derived from constructivist grounded theory  were employed, methods like extensive theoretical sampling (that are common to that methodology) were not maintained because this study was intended to be broadly exploratory.Calls for enabling ‘critical thinking’ are ubiquitous in health professional education.However, there is little agreement in the literature or in practice as to what this term means and efforts to generate a universal definition have found limited traction.While each conception had distinct features, the particular conceptions of critical thinking espoused by individual participants were not stable within or between interviews.Multiple conceptions of critical thinking likely offer educators the ability to express diverse beliefs about what ‘good thinking’ means in variable contexts.We used an inductive, qualitative approach to explore conceptions of critical thinking with educators from four health professions: medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and social work.Four participants from each profession participated in two individual in-depth semi-structured interviews, the latter of which induced reflection on a visual depiction of results generated from the first set of interviews.