Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Angela Elkordy

Second Advisor

Karen Tardrew

Third Advisor

Ayn Keneman


The ability to think critically is a fundamental life skill and is an essential part of being a productive and contributing member of society. “Research shows that elements of critical thinking need to be taught explicitly” (Haber, 2020). The practice of developing critical thinking skills while students are initially "developing as thinkers" in primary grades is essential. According to Wagner (2008), his research finds that children should begin developing critical thinking skills as soon as they “are capable of abstract thinking” (p.17). Wagner (2008) argues that students need to develop these essential skills to effectively participate in our democracy and ever-changing global environment (p.15).

The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' perceptions, knowledge, and abilities in the development of critical thinking skills in grades K-2. Insights gained from this study will be used to make recommendations to teachers and administrators to develop critical thinking skills in primary grades through teaching strategies and technology integration.

The study used an exploratory sequential design that included qualitative data collection, analysis, and results that led to an overall interpretation of the data. This design starts with qualitative data, collected through an online survey and semi-structured interviews, where themes were developed before building to a second quantitative phase (Creswell, Plano Clark, et al., 2003, p.77). Eighteen participants responded to the survey, ranging from K-2nd grade classroom teachers, resource teachers, self-contained teachers, ELL teachers, interventionists, and an enrichment teacher. With a response rate of 64%, this allowed the researcher to extrapolate the data. The focus question of this study was, "What teaching strategies do primary teachers use in their teaching of critical thinking?" To answer this question, the researcher utilized 19 Likert scale type questions and five open-ended questions related to teachers' understanding of critical thinking and how it is taught through instruction in K-2 grades. The survey was emailed to all invited participants and completed voluntarily by Morgan Park Elementary teachers (pseudonym). After analyzing the survey data, survey respondents participated in interviews to expand their views and understandings of what and how they teach “thinking” to students. Eight of the eighteen survey respondents participated in the interviews.

Prevalent themes from the data analysis were teachers' beliefs about the importance of critical thinking skills and their self-confidence to teach these needed skills. Additionally, participants perceived that students lacked the necessary background knowledge and ability to use/develop critical thinking skills. Furthermore, participants identified the lack of time, resources, and professional development as perceived barriers to teaching necessary thinking skills. Even though teachers recognize the importance of teaching critical thinking skills in the classroom, teaching both content and these foundational skills consistently to young learners has been challenging.

Keywords: critical thinking, primary grades, mixed-methods research, technology, teacher perceptions, self-efficacy, meta-cognition