The Relationship between Critical Thinking and Academic Achievement: A Meta-Analysis Study

  • Ali Orhan Zonguldak Bülent Ecevit University

Author Biography

Ali orhan, zonguldak bülent ecevit university.

Turkey [email protected] 0000-0003-1234-3919

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Esmaeel, N. M. & Zahra, Z. (2015). The relationship between critical thinking ability and listening comprehension ability of Iranian EFL learners. International Journal of Research Studies in Language Learning, 4(3), 47-59.

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Ghanizadeh, A. (2016). The interplay between reflective thinking, critical thinking, self-monitoring, and academic achievement in higher education. Higher Education, 74, 101–114.

Ghorbandordinejad, F. & Nourizade, F. (2015). Examination of the relationship between critical thinking disposition and English learning achievement as mediated by emotional intelligence. International Journal of Social and Humanities Sciences, 22(4), 83-95.

Hesham, H. A. H. (2015). Metacognition, critical thinking, gender as predictors of achievement of 10th graders in science, technology, engineering and mathematic school (STEM). Psycho-Educational Research Reviews, 4(3), 42-48.

Kanbay, Y., Işık, E., Aslan, Ö. Tektaş, P. & Kılıç, N. (2017). Critical thinking skill and academic achievement development in nursing students: Four-year longitudinal study. American Journal of Educational Research and Reviews, 2(12), 1-10.

Karagöl, İ. & Bekmezci, S. (2015). Investigating academic achievements and critical thinking dispositions of teacher candidates. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(4), 86-92.

Karimi, M. N., Hashemi, M. R. & Sarbazfard, M. (2015). Emotional intelligence and critical thinking ability as correlates of EFL learners’ vocabulary knowledge. Journal of Research in Applied Linguistics, 7(1), 75-94.

Khaing, P. P. & Thein, N. N. (2018). A study of the correlation between students’ critical thinking skills and their mathematics achievement at the middle school level. Journal of the Myanmar Academy Academy of Arts and Science, 16(9A), 333-361.

Kıran, M. S. (2019). The relationship between the level of critical thinking skills and the level of reading comprehension success of 4th grade students in elementary school [Unpublished master’s thesis]. İnönü University.

Kutluca, A. Y., Yılmaz, A. & İbiş, E. (2018). Examination of teacher candidates’ critical thinking attitudes in terms of various variables. Kastamonu Education Journal, 26(6), 2045-2055.

León, J., Núñez, J. L., Ruiz-Alfonso, Z. & Bordón, B. (2015). Music academic performance: Effect of intrinsic motivation and critical thinking. Revista de Psicodidáctica, 20(2), 377-391.

Moslemi, Z., Ghomi, M. & Mohammadi, S. D. (2016). The relationship between critical thinking skills with mental health and academic achievement of Qom University of medical sciences students. Journal of Medical Education Development, 9(23), 90-101.

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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Academic Achievement

Introduction, general overviews.

  • National and International Reports
  • Measuring Academic Achievement
  • Intelligence
  • Personality
  • Students’ Familial Background
  • Other Variables Predicting Academic Achievement

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Academic Achievement by Ricarda Steinmayr , Anja Meißner , Anne F. Weidinger , Linda Wirthwein LAST REVIEWED: 30 July 2014 LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0108

Academic achievement represents performance outcomes that indicate the extent to which a person has accomplished specific goals that were the focus of activities in instructional environments, specifically in school, college, and university. School systems mostly define cognitive goals that either apply across multiple subject areas (e.g., critical thinking) or include the acquisition of knowledge and understanding in a specific intellectual domain (e.g., numeracy, literacy, science, history). Therefore, academic achievement should be considered to be a multifaceted construct that comprises different domains of learning. Because the field of academic achievement is very wide-ranging and covers a broad variety of educational outcomes, the definition of academic achievement depends on the indicators used to measure it. Among the many criteria that indicate academic achievement, there are very general indicators such as procedural and declarative knowledge acquired in an educational system, more curricular-based criteria such as grades or performance on an educational achievement test, and cumulative indicators of academic achievement such as educational degrees and certificates. All criteria have in common that they represent intellectual endeavors and thus, more or less, mirror the intellectual capacity of a person. In developed societies, academic achievement plays an important role in every person’s life. Academic achievement as measured by the GPA (grade point average) or by standardized assessments designed for selection purpose such as the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) determines whether a student will have the opportunity to continue his or her education (e.g., to attend a university). Therefore, academic achievement defines whether one can take part in higher education, and based on the educational degrees one attains, influences one’s vocational career after education. Besides the relevance for an individual, academic achievement is of utmost importance for the wealth of a nation and its prosperity. The strong association between a society’s level of academic achievement and positive socioeconomic development is one reason for conducting international studies on academic achievement, such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), administered by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The results of these studies provide information about different indicators of a nation’s academic achievement; such information is used to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a nation’s educational system and to guide educational policy decisions. Given the individual and societal importance of academic achievement, it is not surprising that academic achievement is the research focus of many scientists; for example, in psychology or educational disciplines. This article focuses on the explanation, determination, enhancement, and assessment of academic achievement as investigated by educational psychologists.

The exploration of academic achievement has led to numerous empirical studies and fundamental progress such as the development of the first intelligence test by Binet and Simon. Introductory textbooks such as Woolfolk 2007 provide theoretical and empirical insight into the determinants of academic achievement and its assessment. However, as academic achievement is a broad topic, several textbooks have focused mainly on selected aspects of academic achievement, such as enhancing academic achievement or specific predictors of academic achievement. A thorough, short, and informative overview of academic achievement is provided in Spinath 2012 . Spinath 2012 emphasizes the importance of academic achievement with regard to different perspectives (such as for individuals and societies, as well as psychological and educational research). Walberg 1986 is an early synthesis of existing research on the educational effects of the time but it still influences current research such as investigations of predictors of academic achievement in some of the large-scale academic achievement assessment studies (e.g., Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA). Walberg 1986 highlights the relevance of research syntheses (such as reviews and meta-analyses) as an initial point for the improvement of educational processes. A current work, Hattie 2009 , provides an overview of the empirical findings on academic achievement by distinguishing between individual, home, and scholastic determinants of academic achievement according to theoretical assumptions. However, Spinath 2012 points out that it is more appropriate to speak of “predictors” instead of determinants of academic achievement because the mostly cross-sectional nature of the underlying research does not allow causal conclusions to be drawn. Large-scale scholastic achievement assessments such as PISA (see OECD 2010 ) provide an overview of the current state of research on academic achievement, as these studies have investigated established predictors of academic achievement on an international level. Furthermore, these studies, for the first time, have enabled nations to compare their educational systems with other nations and to evaluate them on this basis. However, it should be mentioned critically that this approach may, to some degree, overestimate the practical significance of differences between the countries. Moreover, the studies have increased the amount of attention paid to the role of family background and the educational system in the development of individual performance. The quality of teaching, in particular, has been emphasized as a predictor of student achievement. Altogether, there are valuable cross-sectional studies investigating many predictors of academic achievement. A further focus in educational research has been placed on tertiary educational research. Richardson, et al. 2012 subsumes the individual correlates of university students’ performance.

Hattie, John A. C. 2009. Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement . London: Routledge.

A quantitative synthesis of 815 meta-analyses covering English-speaking research on the achievement of school-aged students. According to Hattie, the influences of quality teaching represent the most powerful determinants of learning. Thereafter, Hattie published Visible Learning for Teachers (London and New York: Routledge, 2012) so that the results could be transferred to the classroom.

OECD. 2010. PISA 2009 key findings . Vols. 1–6.

These six volumes illustrate the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009—the most extensive international scholastic achievement assessment—regarding the competencies of fifteen-year-old students all over the world in reading, mathematics, and science. Furthermore, the presented results cover the effects of student learning behavior, social background, and scholastic resources. Unlimited online access.

Richardson, Michelle, Charles Abraham, and Rod Bond. 2012. Psychological correlates of university students’ academic performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 138:353–387.

DOI: 10.1037/a0026838

A current and comprehensive review concerning the prediction of university students’ performance, illustrating self-efficacy to be the strongest correlate of tertiary grade point average (GPA). Cognitive constructs (high school GPA, American College Test), as well as further motivational factors (grade goal, academic self-efficacy) have medium effect sizes.

Spinath, Birgit. 2012. Academic achievement. In Encyclopedia of human behavior . 2d ed. Edited by Vilanayur S. Ramachandran, 1–8. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

A current introduction to academic achievement, subsuming research on indicators and predictors of achievement as well as reasons for differences in education caused by gender and socioeconomic resources. The chapter provides further references on the topic.

Walberg, Herbert J. 1986. Syntheses of research on teaching. In Handbook of research on teaching . 3d ed. Edited by Merlin C. Wittrock, 214–229. New York: Macmillan.

A quantitative and qualitative aggregation of a variety of reviews and quantitative syntheses as an overview of early research on educational outcomes. Walberg found nine factors to be central to the determination of school learning.

Woolfolk, Anita. 2007. Educational psychology . 10th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Woolfolk represents a comprehensive basic work that is founded on an understandable and practical communication of knowledge. The perspectives of students as scholastic learners as well as teachers are the focus of attention. Suitable for undergraduate and graduate students. Currently presented in the 12th edition.

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Critical Thinking Skills and the Academic Performance of Students

Critical Thinking Skills and the Academic Performance of Students

Critical thinking skills are essential for children to develop and can be used in any area of life. By encouraging children to ask questions, explore different viewpoints, and think critically, parents and educators can help their children become successful, lifelong learners. With a critical eye, students can even go on to outperform their peers at school and university.

This article will dive into critical thinking and how it can benefit students of all ages. We’ll take a look at some of the research compiled on the topic and explain how you can improve your critical thinking skills regardless of your age or background. Use this information for your own benefit and become a smart, higher-performing student today.

What Do We Mean by Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about a given topic. It includes the ability to engage in open-minded inquiry, to assess evidence, to identify and assess assumptions, and to reason to a conclusion.

Without these skills, students would be incapable of developing their own ideas or pursuing their own interests. For this reason, critical thinking is one of the most important lessons a teacher can share with their class.

Some of the specific ways that educators teach critical thinking skills include lessons on:

  • Analyzing data
  • Drawing logical conclusions
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Identifying bias
  • Considering different points of view
  • Weighing the pros and cons of a situation
  • Developing and testing hypotheses
  • Identifying logical fallacies
  • Making informed decisions

As you can see, these skills apply to the full range of academic discourses. Whether it be a science experiment, a history assignment, a literature review, or a philosophical debate, students are guided to develop critical thinking skills in all areas of their education.

How Does Critical Thinking Affect Academic Performance?

Critical thinking is essential for academic success because it allows students to analyze and evaluate information, ideas, and arguments. These skills act as essential tools for students to accurately evaluate information and arguments critically, and to make informed decisions based on evidence.

Second, critical thinking skills help students to think logically and to reason through complex problems. When educators teach critical thinking, they push their students to ask the right questions, carefully investigate data, and come to an informed conclusion. This transforms them into better problem-solvers and more independent thinkers.

Finally, critical thinking skills give students the power and knowledge needed to question their own preconceived assumptions and biases. It forces students to think outside of their own points of view, placing them in a position to learn from what they’ve previously been afraid of or avoided. This prepares them for university, where they’ll have to consider bigger ideas than they’ve previously encountered.

What Does the Research Say?

Considering that critical thinking skills play such a huge role in how students develop their own academic interests and understandings, researchers have justifiably spent many years studying the long-term effects of critical thinking on academic performance. Much of this research supports what we already assumed—stronger critical thinking skills improve students’ academic outlooks in the long run.

A longitudinal study conducted by joint researchers from the University of Texas, Austin, Huazhong University of Science ; Technology, and Zhejiang University found that children with high critical thinking skills went on to perform better in academic environments. Their findings suggest that critical thinking can, in fact, act as a better predictor than even cognitive ability.

A similar longitudinal study conducted by researchers from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú found that critical thinking had a positive impact on four-year MBA students’ overall academic performance. Students with higher critical thinking skills were more likely to have passed and completed the course than students with lower critical thinking skills.

These findings corroborate what educators have known for centuries—students who can think independently and formulate their own analyses go on to perform better in rigorous academic environments.

Where Critical Thinking Skills Matter Most for Academic Success

Although there’s no denying that critical thinking skills play a major role in students’ academic performances, they can literally make or break a high schooler’s dreams of attending university. This may sound hyperbolic but keep in mind the process that high schoolers go through to apply for university.

Beyond submitting letters of recommendation and school transcripts, high schoolers must also take one of two standardized tests—the SAT or the ACT. Both of these tests are designed to measure a student’s ability to think critically and at a level on par with a university’s rigor.

Although the tests may appear to be structured around rote content, the final scores denote how prepared a teenager is for higher-level thinking. If they lack the critical thinking skills needed to develop thought-out arguments or analyze texts critically, they’ll fail to achieve the scores they need to get into a university.

They might not be perfect measures of critical capacity but most universities in the U.S. still require these scores. Therefore, critical thinking skills can literally influence whether an American student can earn a higher education. This is exactly why high school teachers put so much effort into teaching students to think critically and analyze information.

How Can Students Improve Their Critical Thinking Skills?

With an understanding that more rigorous critical thinking skills can prepare you for better academic performance, you are likely wondering how you can build stronger, more critical critical thinking skills. Fortunately, there are many different techniques that you can use to improve these skills.

One of the easiest and fastest ways to improve your critical thinking skills is to ask questions . Whenever you are faced with a problem or a new situation, simply ask yourself questions such as

  • “What is happening?”
  • “What are the possible causes?”
  • “What are the possible solutions?”
  • “What are the risks and benefits of each possible solution?”
  • “What are the possible consequences of each possible solution?”
  • “What is the best solution?”

By forcing yourself to think outside of your comfort zone, you’ll quickly learn the skills needed to find answers to your own questions.

Another way to improve critical thinking skills is to practice problem-solving . When faced with a problem, try to break it down into smaller parts, and then brainstorm possible solutions to each part of the problem. Once a solution has been found for each part of the problem, try to put the solutions together to find a final solution.

Critical thinking skills can also be improved by reading and discussing articles, books, and other materials that require critical thinking. If you’re not sure what read, we recommend starting with:

  • Scientific research or books based on research
  • Anything based on historical findings
  • Literary and philosophical analyses

In addition to reading, your critical thinking skills can also be improved by participating in discussions and debates about what you’ve read. Joining or creating a book club is an excellent way to share your new knowledge and glean from what others have found through their own readings.

During book club, try to engage in critical thinking exercises by analyzing the author’s assumptions and reasoning, as well as each other’s arguments, assumptions, and evidence. At the end of the day, questioning and analyzing everything will help you develop stronger critical thinking skills.

For more rigorous discussions, you can also attend lectures and seminars that focus on critical thinking or join a class. Participating in classroom discussions encourages debate and furthers understanding by providing new perspectives that you may have missed. After class, think reflectively and consider how your own beliefs and assumptions may have been challenged.

Is it Too Late to Develop Critical Thinking Skills?

If you’re an adult hoping to go back to university or complete your GED, you may be worried that you’ve aged out of critical thinking. While there is some research to suggest that, as we age, our brains lose critical capacity when brain cells die, the brain is an amazingly complex structure. Thanks to neuroplasticity , it’s capable of developing new neural pathways regardless of your age.

Even if you are well into middle age, you can still continue to develop new critical thinking skills. Don’t let your age keep you from pursuing the education you always wanted!

Simply put your head into a book and don’t be afraid to get out and strike up a conversation with a stranger or two. The more you question and analyze the world around you, the more you’ll continue to learn and grow.

Final Thoughts

Critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can develop. It allows you to carefully assess information, question your own biases, and formulate your own ideas. It can help you in your personal life, work life, and—most importantly—improve your academic performance.

Regardless of your age, you can continue to grow, learn, and become a more critical thinker. By simply reading actively, striking up debates, and questioning the world around you, you can give your brain the power it needs to break free of its own perspectives.

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The Relationship Between Critical Thinking Skills and Learning Styles and Academic Achievement of Nursing Students

Fatemeh shirazi.

1 PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran

Shiva Heidari

2 MSN, Instructor, Department of Nursing, Urmia Branch, Islamic Azad University, Urmia, Iran.


Academic achievement is one of the most important indicators in evaluating education. Various factors are known to affect the academic achievement of students.

This study was performed to assess the relationship between critical thinking skills and learning styles and the academic achievement of nursing students.

In this cross-sectional study, 139 sophomores to senior-year nursing students were selected using a simple random sampling method. The data were gathered using a three-part questionnaire that included a demographic questionnaire, the Kolb's Learning Style Standard Questionnaire, and the California Critical Thinking Skills Questionnaire. The previous semester's grade point average of the students was considered as a measure of academic achievement. The data were analyzed using descriptive and analytical statistics in SPSS 20.

The mean score for critical thinking skills was 6.75 ± 2.16, and the highest and lowest scores among the critical thinking subscales related to the evaluation and analysis subscales, respectively. No relationship between critical thinking and academic achievement was identified. “Diverging” was the most common learning style. The highest mean level of academic achievement was earned by those students who adopted the “accommodating” style of learning. A significant relationship was found between learning style and academic achievement ( p < .001).


According to the findings, the critical thinking skills score of students was unacceptably low. Therefore, it is essential to pay more attention to improving critical thinking in academic lesson planning. As a significant relationship was found between learning style and academic achievement, it is suggested that instructors consider the dominant style of each class in lesson planning and use proper teaching methods that take into consideration the dominant style.


Academic achievement is crucial to the future success of students, and lack of attention to this basic issue and subsequent academic failure may cause a decrease in academic accomplishment and an increase in the costs of education ( Jayanthi, Balakrishnan, Ching, Latiff, & Nasirudeen, 2014 ). Academic achievement, the level to which students attain predetermined educational goals, depends on family and individual, socioeconomic, education, training, and psychological factors ( Farooq, Chaudhry, Shafiq, & Berhanu, 2011 ). Assessing these factors and determining the contribution of each to academic achievement are critical to developing strategies for identifying the factors that contribute to academic success and failure and help educational planners focus on promoting the positive factors and reducing the impact of negative factors ( Gordon, Williams, Hudson, & Stewart, 2010 ). Critical thinking is one of the contributing factors in academic achievement as well as an essential component in clinical decision making, nursing practice, and education ( Fero et al., 2010 ).

There are many reasons for nurses to learn critical thinking skills. The first reason is that thinking is the key component in problem solving, and nurses without these proficiencies become part of the problem. In addition, nurses should be capable of making major decisions independently and quickly in critical situations. Critical thinking skills enable them to identify essential data and distinguish between problems that require urgent intervention and those that are not life-threatening. Thus, nurses should be able to reflect on their actions and consider the possible consequences of each action to make precise and proper decisions ( Eslami & Maarefi, 2010 ).

Various investigations have suggested that it is necessary to design educational strategies that are based on student learning style to improve students' critical thinking. In addition to critical thinking, the learning styles of students are an important factor that plays a fundamental role in the process of problem solving and learning. Learning style describes the method used to process information, which differs from person to person. Identifying the methods that students use to process information and their learning styles allows educators to assist them to advance toward the higher goals of training and achieve broader critical thinking and problem-solving skills ( Lau & Yuen, 2010 ). Perhaps, the best definition of learning styles was provided by Kolb, who defined learning styles as an individual's method of emphasizing certain learning abilities over other abilities. Kolb's experiential learning theory is the result of the combination of three templates from the experiential learning process, including Lewin's practical and laboratory model, Dewey's learning model, and Piaget's pattern of learning and cognitive development. Kolb believed learning to be the result of resolving the conflicts among these three models ( Kolb & Kolb, 2005 ). Many studies have investigated the relationships between learning styles and other variables. The academic achievement of learners is one of the key variables to be studied with regard to its relationship with learning style ( Zainol Abidin, Rezaee, Abdullah, & Singh, 2011 ). Most of these studies have shown thinking to be the combination of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. This combination empowers thoughtful persons to become wiser and more competent in different sciences and technologies and, consequently, gives them momentum along the path to success ( Can, 2009 ). The study of Aripin, Mahmood, Rohaizad, Yeop, and Anuar (2008) showed that paying attention to students' learning styles and matching these with a learning framework significantly improved students' academic performance, whereas a mismatch between learning styles and curriculum reduced performance levels. Other studies that surveyed the relationship between critical thinking and its subdomains and different learning styles obtained different results ( Ghazivakili et al., 2014 ; Noohi, Salahi, & Sabzevari, 2014 ).

The review of studies highlighted conflicting results in the relationship between critical thinking, learning styles, and academic achievement. Some studies have emphasized a positive relationship ( Ashoori, 2014 ; Ghazivakili et al., 2014 ), whereas others have found a negative relationship ( Aghaei, Souri, & Ghanbari, 2012 ) or an absence of a significant relationship. These conflicting results may be caused by differences among individual student characteristics and their educational culture ( Abdollahi Adli Ansar, FathiAzar, & Abdollahi, 2015 ). On the basis of these differences in results and the diversity of students and educational systems in different academic contexts, this study was designed to determine the relationship between critical thinking skills and learning styles and the academic achievement of nursing students studying at Urmia Islamic Azad University.

In this cross-sectional study, 139 nursing students between their sophomore and senior years were selected randomly out of 360 nursing students studying at Islamic Azad University in Urmia, Iran. The students were divided into three groups according to their years of education, and each group was random sampled using a table of random numbers. The researcher delivered the questionnaires and consent forms to the selected students. After explaining how to answer the questions, the completed questionnaires were collected 2 days later. Data collection lasted from October to December 2015.

This study was approved by the research council and the ethics committee of the Urmia branch of Islamic Azad University, Urmia, Iran (Code: 27827). A three-part questionnaire was used for data collection. The first part of the questionnaire assessed demographic information such as age, marital status, and educational level. Besides that, the grade point average (GPA) of each student for the previous semester was recorded as a measure of academic achievement. The second part of the questionnaire was California Standardized Critical Thinking Skills Test, Form B, published by Facione and Facione in 1994 . This test contains 34 multiple (4–5)-choice questions with one correct answer each. These questions address the five domains of the cognitive skills of critical thinking (deductive, inductive, assessment, analysis, and inference). One score is assigned for each correct answer, and the total test score is obtained by summing the number of correct answers. The minimum and maximum possible scores are 0 and 34, respectively. The midpoint score of the scale is 15.98, indicating that lower scores represent relatively weak critical thinking and higher scores represent relatively strong critical thinking. The reliability of this questionnaire was reported as .86 by Hariri ( Hariri & Bagherinejad, 2012 ). In this study, the reliability of the test was checked using test–retest, with an earned score of .79.

The third part of the questionnaire was Kolb's Learning Styles Inventory, which includes 12 sentences. Each sentence includes four parts that respectively measure reflective observation, concrete experience, active experimentation, and abstract conceptualization. The four scores obtained from the sum of these four parts in the 12 questions of the questionnaire indicate the four styles of learning. Two scores are obtained from two-by-two subtraction of these styles, that is, the subtraction of abstract conceptualization from concrete experience and active experimentation from reflective observation. These two scores are placed on the axis, which constitutes the four quarters of a square, identified by the four learning styles as diverging, converging, assimilating, and accommodating ( Kolb & Kolb, 2005 ). Emamipour reported the alpha coefficients of abstract conceptualization, concrete experience, active experimentation, and reflective observation as .49, .51, .47, and .53, respectively ( Emamipour & Shams Esfandabad, 2007 ).

After collecting the completed questionnaires, the data were analyzed using SPSS software Version 20 with descriptive and analytical statistical tests such as Student t test, one-way analysis of variance, chi-square, and correlation test.

The data analysis showed that all of the participants were female, with a mean age of 21.88 ± 2.09 years and an age range of 19–29 years. Most (85.6%) were single (Table ​ (Table1). 1 ). The mean GPA of the students was 15.78 ± 1.35, ranging from 12 to 18.79.

Demographic Characteristics of Participants ( N = 139)

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The mean score of critical thinking was 6.75 ± 2.16, and the highest and lowest mean critical thinking skill subdomain scores were for evaluation skill (6.75 ± 2.16) and analysis skill (1.58 ± 1.85), respectively. No significant relationship between critical thinking and academic achievement was found. Moreover, the critical thinking subdomains were not significantly related to academic achievement. In addition, no significant relationship was found between the total score and the subscales of critical thinking and marital status, age, or educational level. However, a significant relationship was found between the total score of critical thinking and educational level. Therefore, the senior students in this study earned a higher mean score for critical thinking than their lower-grade peers ( p = .04; Table ​ Table2 2 ).

The Relationship Between Critical Thinking Styles and Demographic Variables and Academic Achievement

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Most participants (55.4%) used a “diverging” learning style, whereas 0.7% used a “converging” style. There was a significant relationship between learning styles and academic achievement, with academic achievement (represented by GPA) highest in the accommodating learning style subgroup followed by the diverging, converging, and assimilating learning-style subgroups.

Whereas no significant relationship was found between learning style and either age or educational level, a significant relationship was found between learning style and marital status (Table ​ (Table3 3 ).

Relationship Between Learning Style and Demographic Variables and Academic Achievement

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Using one-way analysis of variance, the relationship between learning style and critical thinking skills and also the comparison of the mean score for each skill in four styles are reported in Table ​ Table4. 4 . The findings showed no statistically significant relationship between learning style and critical thinking or its subscales (Table ​ (Table4 4 ).

Relationship Between Critical Thinking Skills and Learning Style

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Finally, a significant relationship was found between academic achievement and educational level, which meant that senior students had the highest level of academic achievement ( p = .01). However, academic achievement had no significant relationship with other variables such as age and marital status (Table ​ (Table5 5 ).

Relationship Between Demographic Variables and Academic Achievement

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This study found no significant relationship between any of the demographic variables such as age and marital status and academic achievement. However, years of education were associated positively with academic achievement. This finding is consistent with that of Edraki, Rambod, and Abdoli (2011) . Fewer courses in higher academic grades, familiarization with the university atmosphere, and the stronger emphasis on clinical courses during the years of education may help students to effectively increase their GPA and improve their academic achievements.

The mean score for critical thinking in this study was 6.75 ± 2.16. Similar to the results of this study, Taghavi Larijani, Mardani Hmouleh, Rezaei, Ghadiriyan, and Rashidi (2014) reported a mean score for critical thinking of 9.33 ± 3.33. In addition, a study conducted in the United States found that most students earned relatively low scores for critical thinking ( Shinnick & Woo, 2013 ). On the contrary, a 2010 study in Norway found that participants earned good scores for critical thinking ( Wangensteen, Johansson, Björkström, & Nordström, 2010 ). Researchers believe that the multiple, intertwining factors involved in decreasing critical thinking scores include educational failure, focusing on rote memorization, presenting concepts in manners that do not require deep questioning/consideration, emphasis on multiple-choice examinations, lack of appropriate mental or psychological security for questioning and answering between the students and instructors, and poor development of critical thinking abilities ( Hosseini, 2009 ). The low critical thinking score of the students in this research as well as in other studies conducted in Iran compared with the scores of students in other countries suggests that current education methods in Iran do not effectively strengthen the critical thinking of students and thus should be revised ( Azodi, Jahanpoor, & Sharif, 2010 ).

In addition, in this study, the maximum and minimum subdomain scores for critical thinking were for assessment and analysis, respectively. Similarly, Ghazivakili et al. found that the minimum score for critical thinking was in the dimension of analysis ( Ghazivakili et al., 2014 ). On the basis of the findings of this study, no significant relationship was observed between the critical thinking and the academic achievement of the students, which is consistent with the results of Azodi et al. (2010) . Furthermore, the findings of Ghazivakili et al. suggested a relationship between critical thinking skills and the previous semester's GPA as a criterion for determining academic achievement. In the study of Ghazivakili et al., the mean GPA score of the students was increased by increasing the understanding skill of critical thinking ( Ghazivakili et al., 2014 ).

This study did not show any relationship between critical thinking and either age or marital status. However, Azodi et al.'s study showed a positive relationship between age and critical thinking ( Azodi et al., 2010 ). Age is an important demographic variable that is often correlated with critical thinking. This relationship is based on the assumption that critical thinking improves with age ( Babamohammadi, Esmaeilpour, Negarande, & Dehghan Nayeri, 2011 ).

The relationship between the total score for critical thinking and educational level was significant. Thus, the total score for critical thinking increased with the number of years of enrollment. However, no relationship was observed between the subdomains of critical thinking and educational level, which is consistent with the findings of Noohi et al. (2014) .

The results showed that diverging, assimilating, accommodating, and converging were, respectively, the most-to-least used learning styles of the participants in this study. This ranking of students' learning styles differs from those of other studies that were conducted domestically and outside Iran. Most participants adopted the assimilating learning style in the research of Tulbure (2012) , whereas Orhun (2012) found that most participants preferred the converging learning style. This variation may reflect differences in educational settings and/or educational methods.

It seems that the diverging learning style is more appropriate for the field of nursing due to the nature of the field and the career prospects of nursing and midwifery students ( Ahanchian, Mohamadzadeghasr, Garavand, & Hosseini, 2012 ). This learning style encourages students to be holistic and sociable; to use their ingenuity and thoughts in social situations and communication, especially with patients; and to be creative learners. These students develop and implement creative, workable, and effective solutions when dealing with complex patient issues and instill strong problem-solving capabilities. Thus, it is better to select those students who have diverging and accommodating learning styles for the field of nursing ( Mohammadi, Sayehmiri, Tavan, & Mohammadi, 2013 ).

In determining the relationship between learning style and academic achievement, the results showed a significant relationship between these two variables. Thus, the highest average of academic achievement was earned, in rank order, by students who used accommodating, diverging, converging, and assimilating learning styles. A relationship between learning styles and academic achievement has also been suggested by Ahadi, Abedsaidi, Arshadi, and Ghorbani (2010) and Ghazivakili et al. (2014) , but not by Farmanbar, Hosseinzadeh, Asadpoor, and Yeganeh (2013) . The accommodating learning style is created from the combination of active experimentation and concrete experience. Users of this style learn and enjoy through practical work, work on projects, and engage in new tasks and controversial experiences. Preferred methods for accommodators include role playing and computer simulations. Accommodators have a tendency to engage in experimental work and to use various methods to achieve a goal ( Pazargadi &Tahmasebi, 2010 ).

From the perspective of Kolb, learning style is a combination of cognitive, affective, and psychological properties. People advance their knowledge based on their learning style that has a significant role in their academic achievement. People have their own style of learning. Therefore, if the learning strategies of an individual match his or her learning style, performance is expected to improve ( Panahi, Kazemi, & Rezaie, 2012 ).

Comprehending the learning styles of students is crucial for teachers, because each learning style requires the provision of appropriate educational materials ( Gurpinar, Alimoglu, Mamakli, & Aktekin, 2010 ). The alignment of instructors' teaching styles to students' learning styles results in improved student understanding ( Mlambo, 2011 ).

In surveying the relationship between critical thinking and learning styles, the critical thinking score was not statistically different among the four learning-style groups. Nevertheless, the results showed that the mean scores for critical thinking skill were found, from highest to lowest, in the diverging, assimilating, accommodating, and converging learning-style groups. In terms of the subscales, the highest average score was “assessment” in the diverging style group. The results of Noohi et al. also showed a higher score for critical thinking among converging people than among assimilating, accommodating, and diverging people ( Noohi et al., 2014 ). Unlike the finding of this study, Ghazivakili et al. found that the total score of critical thinking differed among the four learning-style groups and that two of the subscales of critical thinking (evaluation and inductive reasoning) were positively related to learning styles ( Ghazivakili et al., 2014 ).

Whereas no significant relationship was observed between learning style and either age or educational level in this study, significant relationships were found in the study of Ghazivakili et al. (2014) . Furthermore, whereas both this study and Ahadi et al.'s (2010) study found a positive relationship between marital status and learning styles, Ghazivakili et al. reported no relationship with these two variables.


The findings show that the mean scores of critical thinking skills and its subdomains were low among the nursing students who were surveyed for this study. Some strategies that may be used to improve critical thinking in this population include frequent use of individual and group active learning strategies, empowering instructors to prepare tests that target high levels of cognitive domain and present probing questions, encouraging students and instructors to participate in problem analysis and discussions, providing different ideas and opinions, and promoting self-directed learning ( Shirazi, Sharif, Molazem, & Alborzi, 2016 ). It is hoped that the findings of this research attract the attention of instructors and managers regarding the importance of critical thinking evaluation in students. In addition, obtaining information about the dominant learning styles of students may encourage and enable nursing instructors to create appropriate learning environments and prepare the areas for academic achievement of the students. Learning outcomes improve when training matches the learning styles of the students.


The authors wish to thank the Research Department of Islamic Azad University, Urmia Branch, and all of the students who participated in this study. In addition, the authors wish to thank the Research Consultation Center at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences for their invaluable assistance in editing this article.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this article as: Shirazi, F., & Heidari, S. (2019). The relationship between critical thinking skills and learning styles and academic achievement of nursing students. The Journal of Nursing Research , 27 (4), e38.

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  1. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

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  2. (PDF) academic critical thinking

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  5. What Education in Critical Thinking Implies Infographic

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  6. What is Critical Thinking?

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  1. Critical thinking predicts academic performance beyond general cognitive ability: Evidence from adults and children

    The present research investigated whether critical thinking predicts academic performance above and beyond general cognitive ability. Both critical thinking (CT) skills and dispositions were investigated in order to obtain a complete picture of CT and its relations to academic performance and general cognitive ability including fluid intelligence, working memory and processing speed.

  2. Improving academic performance: Strengthening the relation between

    Although we had students share their reflective thinking (Clara et al., 2019), the question is whether prompted discussion and collaborative reflection can lead to better critical reflection and enhanced academic performance (Trede and Jackson, 2019). This leads to a final recommendation for future studies, that is, to investigate to what ...

  3. (PDF) The Effect of Critical Thinking on Academic Performance among

    The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of Critical thinking on Academic performance among school students. The sample involved 200 School students age ranging from 12 to 15 ...

  4. (PDF) Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Academic Performance in

    The critical thinking variable is measured using the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) test and the academic performance variable is measured by the average grades obtained by the ...

  5. The Relationship between Critical Thinking and Academic Achievement: A

    Effects of copper model in blended service learning for the enhancement of undergraduate academic achievements and critical thinking. TEM Journal, 9(2), 814‐819. Pienaar, J. (2019). Academic performance and cognitive critical thinking skills of certificate in theory of accounting students at Nelson Mandela University [Unpublished master's ...

  6. Constructivism learning theory: A paradigm for students' critical

    Critical thinking skills were shown to impact problem-solving skills in the study (Aein et al ... p < 0.000 was accepted), as well as, the relationship between critical thinking and students' academic performance (β = .074; C.R = 2.965, p < 0.000 was accepted). Finally, the relationship between students' problem solving and students ...

  7. Critical Thinking: Critical For Academic Success

    It develops students' ability to think critically in an academic context right from the start of their language learning. Critical thinking is at the heart of Unlock, fostering the skills and strategies students need to tackle academic tasks when gathering and evaluating information, organizing and presenting their ideas, and then reflecting ...

  8. Academic Achievement

    Academic achievement represents performance outcomes that indicate the extent to which a person has accomplished specific goals that were the focus of activities in instructional environments, specifically in school, college, and university. ... (e.g., critical thinking) or include the acquisition of knowledge and understanding in a specific ...

  9. Academic Maturity, Critical Thinking, and Academic Performance in

    Citation. Addison, William E.; Althoff, Ryan; Pezold, Ryan (2009). Academic Maturity, Critical Thinking, and Academic Performance in College Students. 3 pp. American ...

  10. The Role of Critical Thinking in Predicting and Improving Academic

    Critical thinking (CT) can account reasonably well for academic performance. Additionally, the test used to measure CT shows strong unidimensional structural validity, with an overall CT factor supported by the core dimensions of CT (deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, practical reasoning, decision making and problem solving).

  11. Bridging critical thinking and transformative learning: The role of

    In recent decades, approaches to critical thinking have generally taken a practical turn, pivoting away from more abstract accounts - such as emphasizing the logical relations that hold between statements (Ennis, 1964) - and moving toward an emphasis on belief and action.According to the definition that Robert Ennis (2018) has been advocating for the last few decades, critical thinking is ...

  12. The Role of Critical Thinking in Predicting and Improving Academic

    Critical thinking (CT) involves a set of skills that are entirely relevant to today's adaptive needs. In this study, we explore the extent to which CT serves to both account for and improve ...

  13. The role of critical thinking skills and learning styles of university

    Conclusion: The results of this study showed that the learning styles, critical thinking and academic performance are significantly associated with one another. Considering the growing importance of critical thinking in enhancing the professional competence of individuals, it's recommended to use teaching methods consistent with the learning ...

  14. The Effects of Student Reflection on Academic Performance and

    This was followed by 74.8% of students responding favorably to a commitment to future academic motivation and 67.3% of students providing feedback and insight that related favorable to improved academic performance. A summary and analysis of specific detail for each of the indicators are presented below. 1.

  15. PDF Time Management and Academic Achievement: Examining the Roles of

    The academic performance or achievement of students is one of the important objectives and indicators to measure ... perspectives, challenging ideas, and critical thinking[54][55]. Through engaging in discussions, collaborative projects, and intellectual debates, students expand their cognitive capacities, enhance problem-solving ...

  16. Critical Thinking Skills and the Academic Performance of Students

    Critical thinking is essential for academic success because it allows students to analyze and evaluate information, ideas, and arguments. These skills act as essential tools for students to accurately evaluate information and arguments critically, and to make informed decisions based on evidence. Second, critical thinking skills help students ...


    A strong critical thinking pedagogy that encourages students' critical knowledge, skills, and dispositions may improve students' academic success while encouraging those abilities needed for transfer and for competency in the workplace. Elder (2007) contends, however, that traditional education is not nurturing the intellectual capabilities ...

  18. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  19. The Relationship Between Critical Thinking Skills and Learning Styles

    No relationship between critical thinking and academic achievement was identified. "Diverging" was the most common learning style. ... Factors contributing to academic performance of students in a tertiary institution in Singapore. American Journal of Educational Research, 2 (9), 752-758. 10.12691/education-2-9-8 ...

  20. Tapping the Potential of Academic Leadership, Experiential Learning

    Experiential learning and creating critical thinking among students is the main focus of the National Education Policy (National Education Policy 2020 Ministry of Human Resource ... competitive and creative team cultures. The relationship between academic performance and both competitive culture and innovative team culture has been reflected in ...

  21. Studying the impact of critical thinking on the academic performance of

    Section snippets Literature review. Critical thinking is a philosophical and multidisciplinary development concept (Saiz & Nieto, 2002), with philosophy, education, and psychology being the sciences that have inquired into and contributed to the development of the concept. Ennis (1993) defined critical thinking as "the reasoned and reflexive thinking that focuses on deciding what to believe ...

  22. Measuring Critical Thinking, Intelligence, and Academic Performance in

    The paper explores the factorial relationship between measures of critical thinking skills, non-verbal intelligence, and academic performance (A-levels and undergraduate degree marks). One hundred and twenty-nine undergraduate psychology students (94 first years and 35 third years) participated by completing two subscales of the California ...

  23. Metacognitive writing strategies, critical thinking skills, and

    Three models tested: (1) the role of metacognition in academic writing; (2) the role of metacognition in critical thinking; and (3) correlations between metacognition, critical thinking skills ...