Education for Democracy: Mixed Methods Case Studies of Teachers' Critical Thinking Dispositions and Their Teaching Styles

Maram Behairy, Florida International University


Democracy does not automatically maintain itself by prescribed constitutions and procedural codes (Dewey, 1939), but rather its citizens must have certain dispositions to protect and strengthen it (Biesta, 2006). According to John Stuart Mill (1859/1991), people can tyrannize one another within the structures of a democracy, a concept he phrased “tyranny of the majority” (p. 7). To safeguard against such tyranny and to maintain a democratic way of life conducive to progress, I contend that our schools must be tasked with developing critical thinking dispositions in our future adults. The literature on education for democracy was reviewed and aligned with the critical thinking dispositions defined in the present study. Critical thinking dispositions are taught through interactions that promote them, not only limited to methods of direct instruction, such that they are infused throughout all academic subjects at all grade levels (Facione, 1990). Therefore, the present study explored the relationship between teachers’ critical thinking dispositions and their teaching styles. The main research question was: How do critical thinking dispositions differentiate between teaching styles? To best answer this question 10 mixed methods case studies were conducted of the teachers at one private pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school. The data were collected through a quantitative questionnaire, the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI), and through qualitative observations and interviews. Subsequently, each strand, qualitative and quantitative, was analyzed individually and sequentially. Finally, through cross-case analyses, 10 distinctions in teaching styles were found for teachers who scored high on the critical thinking dispositions: truth-seeking to teacher explorer, truth-seeking to student teaching, open-mindedness to student teaching, inquisitiveness to fallibility, analyticity to emotional adaptability, analyticity to fallibility, analyticity to observational listening, systematicity to nurturing, confidence in reasoning to curriculum expansion, and confidence in reasoning to self-actualization. Understanding these relationships is the start of possibly being able to use teachers’ CCTDI profiles to predict teaching styles and to guide teacher education. Implications for future research include more focused studies around the consistent relationships emerging from the present study and research about students’ development of critical thinking dispositions in relation to teaching styles.

Subject Area

Education|Elementary education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Behairy, Maram, "Education for Democracy: Mixed Methods Case Studies of Teachers' Critical Thinking Dispositions and Their Teaching Styles" (2017). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10929276.