2013. Vol.4, No.9, 611-613
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2013.49087
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 611
Critical Thinking as a Resilience Factor in an Engineering
1Master of Science Teaching, Polytechnic University of Pachuca, Pachuca, México
2Science Education, Autonomous University Hidalgo State, Pachuca, México
Email: lybeco@upp. edu. mx, email@example.com
Received July 25th, 2013 ; revised August 25th, 2013; accepted September 2nd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Benítez, Canales. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
In the current context of technical higher education in Mexico, there have been changes affecting the
school community. The massification phenomenon and the implementation of a competence-based model
are both challenges that college students must face. We present the preliminary results of the following
research “Resilience skills development through protective and risk factors in engineering students”. In
social sciences, resilience is presented as the individual’s ability to identify and solve problems, which
impacts their own transformation and growth (Cyrulnik, 2004; Vanistendael, 2006; Melillo & Suarez,
2004). Developing resilience depends on certain resilience skills which through critical thinking streng-
then students’ analysis and decision making. We used a mixed methodology because resilience emanates
from the individual’s subjectivity. A quantitative study was applied to a sample of 105 students of which
23 were identified as having resilient characteristics. In the qualitative study the results show that 12 of
these students had critical thinking as a protective factor.
Keywords: Resilience; Critical Thinking; Engineering; Technical Higher Education
This study is aimed at assessing the factors that generally af-
fect the development of resilience skills in Mechatronics Engi-
neering students from the Polytechnic University of Pachuca
within the broader context of technical higher education in Me-
xico. Thus it was necessary to reflect on the educational poli-
cies implemented at the beginning of the 21st century, framed
within the National Education Program 2001-2006 (PRONAE,
acronym in Spanish), for which higher education is seen as the
strategic means to increase human and social capital, science
and technology, as well as important elements in contributing
to increasing employment and competitiveness as dictated by
the knowledge-based economy. These policies were also meant
as a means to boost domestic production, social justice and
cohesion, the consolidation of democracy and a national iden-
tity based on cultural diversity and improving income distribu-
tion among the population.
Therefore a new educational subsystem was created: the
Polytechnical Universities, which offer science and technology
programs through a competence-based model. The different
activities undertaken within this model become challenging as
students are expected to become autonomous and active actors
in their learning. In turn, this involves training teachers to as-
sume their role as learning facilitators. Taking on these roles
requires assertive communication directed at impacting student
training. Another element to consider is that the cultural diver-
sity found in university classrooms consists of a wide range of
social, cultural, gender, economic and academic levels. Conse-
quently, adaptation to the higher education context becomes a
Even if you have implemented training programs for teachers
teaching strategies aimed at developing thinking skills as con-
tributions from Leming (1998) the goal of teaching students to
thi n k c ri ti ca l ly is n ot y et secured. In this sense Nickerson (1994)
notes that the development of the skills of higher order thinking
in the university still sees little reason for increased research on
the problem. Some evidence has shown that higher education
students in a large percentage are struggling to make the kind of
thinking that is required in college.
Melillo (2004) in their research indicates that through
protective factors such as critical thinking, mood, self-esteem,
morale, creativity, independence, initiative and insight some
people facing problematic situations and out adverse.
Thus, different everyday life situations may become influ-
encing factors on student permanence and the completion of
studies (Cyrulnik, 2005).
The results show critical thinking as a resilient factor. Com-
petition is considered resilient to the ability of people to iden-
tify, challenge, solve problems and emerge stronger to take on
The characteristics of resilience turn it into a complex issue
that requires analysis. As Guba and Lincoln (1994) point out,
resilience is framed by some dynamic realism within an inter-
pretative epistemology and qualitative methodology, which
could be defined as: “...one capable of incorporating the ques-
tion of meaning and intentionality as inherent to the actions
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
taken, as well as to relationships and social structures, while
these in turn are considered, both in t he ir ad ve nt a nd t ran sf or -
mation, as significant human constructions...” (De Souza,
2009: p. 20). Such patterns gave rise to the use of a mixed
In this regard, Hernandez Sampieri and Mendoza (2008: p. 2)
highlight and identify mixed methodology or integrating re-
search as a combination of quantitative and qualitative method-
ologies for they represent a set of systematic, empirical and cri-
tical research processes which involve the collection and analy-
sis of quantitative and qualitative data, as well as their integra-
tion and joint discussion, to draw inferences, resulting from all
of the information collected (meta inferences), and thus achieve
a greater understanding of the phenomenon under study (Fig-
Research was carried out in three stages: the first being
quantitative and the subsequent qualitative using mainly two
approaches: the Hermeneutic and Symbolic Interactionism.
In the initial stage the sample was composed of 105 Mecha-
tronics Engineering students, from the fifth to the ninth four-
month terms. In the next stage we worked with 23 students; and
the final stage was developed in two phases, the first with 14
subjects and the s e c o n d with five.
The instruments used throughout the process were chosen
according to the selected methodology. The first stage began
with a quantitative approach. A 78 item questionnaire was ap-
plied, with 29 open questions, addressing socio-demographic
and socioeconomic profiles, and for identifying problems; and
49 closed questions for statistical analysis.
For this analysis, we applied a Likert scale, considering the
following range of responses: 1) always; 2) most of the time
yes; 3) sometimes yes, sometimes no; 4) most of the time no;
and 5) never.
The questions were designed based on the nine protective
factors, and were distributed as follows:
Six Questions for factor: Conscious Self Esteem, Critical Think-
ing, Relating Introspection and Capacity.
Five Questions for factor: Morality, Humor, Creativity, Inde-
pendence and Ini t i ative.
For the correlational analysis the Varimax method was used
(through the SPSS software), this resulted in the resilience
Once having identified the resilient group, we began the
qualitative part of the research, which was opened through two
processes: first the Hermeneutics methodology, followed by the
Symbolic Interactionism methodolog y.
In the Hermeneutic method, student life history was used as
an instrument for identifying how the student developed his or
her own resilient capacity. We designed a guide based on which
the student narrates his or her personal history expounding on
how they deal with adversity and relate to others, thus high-
lighting the protective and risk factors. Then in the third proc-
ess, through the Symbolic Interactionism method, we applied
the technique of observing the participant, in which verbal and
nonverbal communication was studied through a representa-
tional analysis, as language forms or meanings may differ
from one individual to another. This allowed us to identify
positive interaction as essential in the development of resil-
Quantita ti ve A n a l ysi s
The instrument was applied to 105 students who were in the
fifth to sixteenth four-month terms.
The information obtained in the first part of the instrument
was applied to 105 students. Using open questions we obtained
the description of the sample through socio-demographic and
The correlational section was applied to the 49 Likert scale
questions and analyzed through the Varimax method with SPSS,
Three-stage mixed methodology.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 613
its validity was confirmed through a Cronbach Alpha test.
Quantitative analysis resulted in the collection of the resilient
sample comprised of 23 students who were also academically
analyzed to reinforce the results obtained.
Qualitative Analysi s
Two different processes took place: the Hermeneutic Method
and the Symbolic Interactionism Method.
Hermeneutic Method: We worked with 14 students who agreed
to continue collaborating with the research. A guide was used
for working with the life history instrument. A matrix was de-
signed for the analysis in order to identify the challenges ex-
perienced by each student, it was found how students, in ad-
dressing and overcoming childhood adversities, developed
resilience in their lives, Vanistendael (2006).
The second process employed the Symbolic Interactionism
methodology. Through the interaction during a practice, we
observed how a feeling of confidence is established which mo-
tivates and fosters an assertive response to challenges on the
part of the student.
Finally, it was confirmed that a mixed methodology streng-
thens subjective research as it provides greater validity by using
two approaches. As well, we asserted that human beings de-
velop their resilience during childhood, furthering it in different
areas where they interact and coexist with others.
The most relevant results in the quantitative stage were iden-
tifying the behavior of the sample regarding the following risk
factors: course failure, alcoholism, work and parents’ educa-
Moreover the statistical analysis underlined critical thinking
as one of the factors that foster resilient skills according to the
Varimax analysis, which registered one of the highest values
with .521 compared to other factors.
Based on these results the sample was reduced to 23 students
who presented resilient characteristics.
As for the qualitative stage, content analysis of 14 life stories
illustrated that through critical thinking students identified risk
situations in their childhood that strengthened and helped them
solve academic and social problems later in their lives.
Finally, at the third stage, we identified factors through a re-
presentational analysis, such as confidence, positive interac-
tion and motivation focused on proactive thinking, which trig-
gered the synergy to achieve the stated objective during a labo-
From the resilience approach critical thinking allows the in-
dividual to analyze the causes and responsibilities associated
with the adversity experienced, whenever it arises in different
areas (family, school and/or social), while they seek ways to
confront it and opt to change it (Melillo, 2004).
Course failure as a risk factor becomes a protective factor
when the student identifies and analyzes this problem through
critical thinking, such a situation provides the student with
self-confidence in decision-making.
As results demonstrate there is a high rate of course failure,
however, through an awareness of their academic situation
resilient students take responsibility while facing and finding
solutions to their learning problems through critical reflection,
in turn, generating self-confidence, thus a risk factor becomes a
protective one because instead of avoiding the problem, they
face it and solve it.
Alcoholism, an addiction also identified as a risk factor is
confronted by the resilient student through focusing on their
academic priorities, by deciding not to drink and instead nar-
rowing in on their responsibilities as students.
In this sense it is important to highlight that although some
students come from families with college educated parents
there are also some parents who are unable to read or write. It
was found that resilient students’ origin does not define their
destiny, because through their critical thinking, they are em-
powered to change family patterns, preventing them from sink-
ing into their problems, and facing them instead. They have
sought out personal growth alternatives through the acquisition
of new knowledge, skills and attitudes such as responsibility
and commitment to their studies: Mechatronics Engineering.
Finally it is shown that the protective factor of Critical
Thinking is a resilience skill that strengthens college education.
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