Examining Critical Thinking Challenges, Components, and Strategies in Higher Education: A Systematic Literature Review
Scholars consider critical thinking as one of the most essential skills in the 21st Century; yet, many higher education graduates lack adequate skill development. While the literature shows a variety of approaches to promote critical thinking, few studies synthesize prior research to provide integrative reports on challenges, components, and strategies to strengthen critical thinking. For this reason, a systematic literature review was used to explore previous studies to identify challenges, components, and strategies for cultivating critical thinking in higher education. This literature review revealed several challenges to include the identification of a unified definition for critical thinking, agreement between critical thinking and disciplines, lack of faculty training, and the misalignment between critical thinking teaching approaches, assessment tools, and the higher education definition of critical thinking. Other challenges included disagreement regarding assessment formats, relation of assessment to discipline, and the role of the Internet as well as games to promote critical thinking. The literature review also revealed a lack of consistency on critical thinking components in clearly-defined terms because several sets of components were identified. To refine the concept of critical thinking components, a concise list of five core concepts based on recent literature was suggested. The literature also indicated different strategies to promote critical thinking to include use of models, engaging students in case studies and debates, role playing, Socratic methods, problem-based learning, concept mapping, scaffolding, and close reading. Educators, instructional designers, and institutions may use the findings and recommendations to further cultivate critical thinking skills among higher education students.