This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Relational Reasoning and Self-Directed Learning: An Analysis of Their Effects on How Adults Process Information Online




Harris, Daniel

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


The purpose of this study is to understand the relationship between self-directed learning readiness (SDLR), relational reasoning (RR), and Civic Online Reasoning (COR) for mid-career U.S. Air Force officers, U.S. Space Force officers, and Department of the Air Force civilians. A hypothesized model was built based on existing literature and previous research. This study was constructed around the two-factor theory of critical thinking. Despite improved critical thinking being a stated goal of Air Force Professional Military Education (PME), limited research exists on this population. MANOVA was used to determine the influence of the participants’ highest level of education and promotion category on SDLR and RR. Hierarchical linear regression was used to determine the relative strength of SDLR and RR in predicting COR ability. The online survey was hosted through Qualtrics and included three COR tasks, the Test of Relational Reasoning (Alexander et al., 2016), and the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (Fisher et al., 2001). The sample was drawn from three classes of an in-residence PME course and students enrolled in the asynchronous version of the same course. Qualtrics registered 251 responses out of a population of 5,013 students (5.0%). After data screening, the final sample for COR task analysis included 95 participants (95/251, 37.8%) who successfully completed all three tasks with sufficient effort. The final sample for analysis of the hypothesized model was 69 (69/251, 27.5.%). The study results indicated that most participants struggled to analyze information online. Analysis of the participant responses revealed that some were swayed by superficial indicators of credibility, partisan beliefs, and a general mistrust in their ability to find credible information online. Analysis of the hypothesized model did not find that SDLR was a statistically significant predictor of COR ability. RR was a small but statistically significant predictor of COR ability.