On 23 July 2019, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, titled Transfer of Learning of Higher-Order Thinking Skills. In essence, my research explored the motivating factors that encourage undergraduate students to choose to continue using information literacy skills and critical thinking skills after they initially work with these skills in a college setting.

Many colleagues from the worlds of library & information science and higher education have asked me to share implications from the study. This page highlights my list of implications, and also provides selected data.

I have created a handout titled “Motivating Factors for Continued Use of Information Literacy & Critical Thinking Skills,” which summarizes my dissertation findings. Please feel free to share it with your own colleagues. If you use it in a professional setting, please do contact me and let me know–thank you! Several people have also asked whether I would be willing to share a copy of the entire dissertation. The answer is yes–again, please contact me if you would like that.

Without further ado, here are my findings, implications, and data in detail:


At colleges and universities across the United States, first-year undergraduate students take courses that involve the learning and practice of higher-order thinking skills. Higher-order thinking skills support students’ ability to draw abstract principles from concrete learning experiences over time. They include critical thinking (CT) and information literacy (IL), among others. This mixed methods study examined motivational factors that support students’ academic transfer of these skills (i.e., students’ ability to apply CT and IL on their own after they have learned to use them). This study used a survey of 24 students who were enrolled sections of CU Denver’s First-Year Seminar (FYS) in Fall 2018 during their first semester as undergraduates. Students were asked to submit a paper written during their second semester as undergraduates and then complete a survey regarding their motivations for continuing to apply CT and IL skills to their academic work. The study focused on identifying the most prevalent motivating factors among all students. However, it also examined specific correlations between rubric performance and motivating factors.

Data & Findings

See data & findings on Motivating Factors Related to Information Literacy.

See data & findings on Motivating Factors Related to Critical Thinking.

See findings on Correlations Between Motivating Factors & Performance on the Writing Sample.


Based on data gathered throughout this study, I have identified seven potential – and practical – implications for higher education. I list the implications briefly below, then provide a brief section discussing each implication with reference to the research supporting it. The implications are as follows:

  • Since similar factors best motivate students to use CT and IL, you can create powerful lessons combining both.
  • Students of all performance levels share motivating factors.
  • Have conversations about CT and IL skills in future careers. Include examples, but highlight flexibility.
  • Invite students to fact check and search for “the truth behind” media stories and big ideas.
  • Peer mentors may need coaching on how to model and critique students’ use of CT and IL.
  • Teach students how to learn from role models and examples of excellent CT and IL.
  • Coach students on how to provide feedback on each other’s skills in both formal and informal situations.

Future Work

After completing this study, I have numerous ideas for exploring related questions. Several ideas are:

  • Learning more about the connections between motivation and personal interests.
  • Using these findings to help students better understand the transferable nature of IL skills.
  • Rolling this out on the larger scale and identifying subtle differences in motivating factors among demographic groups.

I look forward to many years of exploration & pragmatic discoveries related to this line of research. If you’re interested in related work as well, let’s talk.

Thank you very much for your interest–Karen