Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration PhD

First Advisor

Lyndon G. Furst

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Lester Horvath


Problem. School administrators must use high levels of reasoning to deal with the complexities of today's educational system. Reflective thinking has proven to be an effective administrative tool in problem solving, staff supervision, and school improvement, yet preparation programs for school administrators have limited knowledge about what contributes to reflective judgment in their students, thus making it difficult to develop curriculum and pedagogy to enhance reflection.

Method. The Reflective Judgment Model provides the theoretical framework for this mixed methods research design that explores contributory variables that contribute to the reflective judgment of educational leadership students. The Reasoning about Current Issues Test measured reflective judgment, and the Experience and Background Inventory and Demographic Information Form measured experiential, educational, and personal characteristics of 128 educational leadership students. Two linear regression models determined the variables that contributed to the students' reflective judgment. Data were analyzed for reflective judgment level, and contributory variables were determined using two linear regressions. A semi-structured focus group of five high-scoring reflective thinkers provided information on what they believed contributed to their reflective judgment.

Results. Reflective judgment levels ranged from pre-reflective to reflective with a mean level score of quasi-reflective. Six variables contributed to reflective judgment, accounting for 14% to 20% of the variability in reflective judgment. Internship and curriculum development class had a positive effect, while school achievement and number of educational leadership courses had a negative effect. Age positively effected reflective judgment, while aspiration level had a negative effect. Focus group studentsindicated that knowledge of multiple perspectives, influence of others, prior experiences, personal attributes, and social dynamics contributed to their reflective judgment.

Conclusions. In the preparation of school administrators, educational leadership programs can enhance students' reasoning by providing a combination of experiences throughout their course of studies that offer opportunities to develop multiple perspectives, deal with "real life" issues, and be exposed to reflective role models through activities such as curriculum development and mentor-supported internships. The wide range of reflective judgment levels and lack of reflective thinking in the majority of the students indicates that it is important for educational leadership faculty to know about the development, assessment, and instruction of reflective judgment in order to more effectively move students to the reflective thinking level.

Subject Area

School administrators--Education, Judgment--Research


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