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Investigating Adolescent Discourse in Critical Thinking: Monologic Responses to Stories Containing a Moral Dilemma

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posted on 2021-05-12, 00:42 authored by Adele K Wallis, Marleen F Westerveld, Allison M Waters, Pamela SnowPamela Snow
Purpose The adolescent developmental task of establishing autonomy from parents is supported through various aspects of executive functioning, including critical thinking. Our aim was to investigate younger and older adolescent language performance in form, content, and use in response to a moral dilemma task. Method Forty-four typically developing adolescents completed a language sampling task, responding to stories that contained a moral dilemma for one of the characters. Two age groups participated: younger adolescents ( n = 24, 12;2–13;11 [years;months]) and older adolescents ( n = 20, 16;1–17;11). Participants produced a monologue in response to an open-ended question prompt. Responses were transcribed and analyzed for discourse production on measures of form (verbal productivity and syntactic complexity) and content (semantic diversity and word percentages in three semantic domains: affective, social, and cognitive). Language use was evaluated using a coding system based on Bloom's revised taxonomy of thinking. Results There were no significant group differences in performance on measures of syntactic complexity and semantic diversity. Significant differences were found in adolescents' language using Bloom's revised taxonomy. The younger adolescents demonstrated a significantly higher proportion of utterances at Level 1 (remembering and understanding) compared to older adolescents, while the older age group produced a higher proportion at Level 3 (evaluating and creating). Conclusions The moral dilemma task was effective in demonstrating the growth of adolescent language skills in use of language for critical thinking. The results highlight the clinical utility of the moral dilemma task in engaging adolescents in discourse involving critical thinking, whereas the associated coding scheme, based on Bloom's revised taxonomy of thinking, may differentiate levels of critical thinking and provide direction for intervention.


Publication Date



Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools






13p. (p. 630-643)


American Speech Language Hearing Association



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