Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Communicative Disorders

Degree Program

Communicative Disorders, MS

Committee Chair

Smith, Alan

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Pitts, Teresa

Committee Member

Pitts, Teresa

Committee Member

Mattingly, Rhonda

Author's Keywords

critical thinking; lateral thinking; speech-language pathology; clinical experience; students; decision making


Decision-making is a fundamental skill that health care professionals use daily which involves the interaction of many cognitive systems. Critical and lateral thinking are two approaches to decision-making often cited in literature. Critical thinking emphasizes reasoning and systematic analyzation, while lateral thinking encompasses imagination and creativity. Speech-language pathology (SLP) is a prime example of a profession that amalgamates creative processes with organized methodologies. Edward de Bono described six styles of lateral thinking – each style is equated to a colored “hat”. This study sought to determine if an association exists between a given SLP student’s level of clinical experience and their lateral thinking style. This study used a survey to classify students’ preferred lateral thinking style based on de Bono’s six hat colors. Students’ level of clinical experience was measured by their number of observation hours and clinical clock hours (simulated and/or face to face). The results evidenced statistically significant associations between students’ average observation hours and clock hours and both emotional (red hat) and logical/negative (black hat) lateral thinking styles, as well as between students’ average clinical clock hours and the process/control (blue hat) lateral thinking style. The purpose of this study was to begin the conversation of the potential value of lateral thinking for SLP education and practice. These results reveal patterns that may be worthy of additional research.