A qualitative inquiry into the critical thinking process of hospitality management students
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The research questions addressed by this qualitative inquiry were: (1) How do hospitality management students demonstrate the process of critical thinking when making decisions about management case studies? (2) What aspects of the classroom environment/culture help or hinder the process of critical thinking by hospitality management students? Data were collected in Fall of 1995 from one class of 13 university students. These students were enrolled in a management course that focused on discussion of case studies.;Data were analyzed by constant comparative method. Basic ideas from selected phrases of data revealed 14 themes (case study, subject-matter knowledge, work experience, personal experience, empathy, open-mindedness, embedded assumptions, beliefs, values, personal ethics, norms of leadership, challenging justifications, acknowledging differences). These themes were organized by three components of critical thinking (information/knowledge, critical spirit, reason assessment).;Findings revealed that students used case study information, subject-matter knowledge, work experience, and personal experience as evidence to justify their decisions. They knew where to get additional information to justify decisions, but rarely quoted evidence from these sources. They considered context of the situation and emphasized providing an immediate solution. A critical spirit was seen in students' empathy and open-mindedness. Decision making was influenced by their embedded assumptions, beliefs, values, and personal ethics as well as their accepted norms of leadership. Students rarely questioned differences in their own or other's assumptions. Data showed limited evidence that students assessed reasons given for decisions. However, they challenged others' ideas and acknowledged differences.;Helpful aspects of the classroom environment/culture were classroom seating, cooperation among students, and role the instructor played. Lack of preparation by students was considered a hindrance in facilitating the critical thinking process. Make-up of the group, expression of differences, and organization of the class were seen both as helps and hindrances.;It was concluded that the process of critical thinking easily could be made explicit to students as an enhancement to the problem-solving focus of the course. Practicing the critical thinking process in the safe environment of the classroom can enhance the intuitive process that managers use when making decisions in the "real world."