The effects of Critical Thinking Instruction on Training Complex Decision Making

Anne Helsdingen, Karel Van den Bosch, Tamara Van Gog, Jeroen Van Merriënboer

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    Objective: Two field studies assessed the effects of critical thinking instruction on training and transfer of a complex decision-making skill. Background: Critical thinking instruction is based on studies of how experienced decision makers approach complex problems. Methods: Participants conducted scenario-based exercises in both simplified (Study 1) and high fidelity (Study 2) training environments. In both studies, half of the participants received instruction in critical thinking. The other half conducted the same exercises, but without critical thinking instruction. After the training, test scenarios were administered to both groups. Results: The first study showed that critical thinking instruction enhanced decision outcomes, both during training and the test. In the second study, critical thinking instruction benefited both decision outcomes and processes, specifically on the transfer to untrained problems. Conclusion: The results suggest that critical thinking instruction improves decision strategy and enhances understanding of the general principles of the domain. Application: The results of this study warrant the implementation of critical thinking instruction in training programs for professional decision makers that have to operate in complex and highly interactive, dynamic environments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)537-545
    Number of pages9
    JournalHuman Factors
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010


    • command and control training
    • transfer of training
    • tactical decision-making
    • decision strategies


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