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The Relationship between Critical Thinking and Knowledge Acquisition: The Role of Digital Mind Maps-PBL Strategies

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Abstract

Critical thinking is rational and reflective thinking involved in decision making. Knowledge acquisition refers to the level achieved by students in understanding the materials and meaning of the learning context. Critical thinking and knowledge acquisition can be enriched through applications of relevant learning strategies. The aim of this study was to investigate the correlation between critical thinking and knowledge acquisition in the process of implementing Digital Mind Maps-Problem Based Learning (Digital Mind Maps-PBL). The learning process was conducted to students from Universitas Islam Riau, Indonesia, who were enrolled in the even semester of 2018 in biology education department. The instrument used to measure the students’ critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, that was in the form of essay tests, had been confirmed valid by the result of the Pearson Product Moment analysis. The reliability test using Cronbach's Alpha also showed that this instrument was reliable for measuring critical thinking and knowledge acquisition (correlation coefficients are 0.837 and 0.872, respectively). The results of the study indicated that critical thinking and knowledge acquisition were correlated with a value of 0.861 and a determination coefficient of 0.742, where Y = 1.215X – 4.323. It can be concluded that Digital Mind Maps-PBL strategies can be used to refine students’ critical thinking, which may result in the improvement of students’ knowledge acquisition. Therefore, the implementation of Digital Mind Maps-PBL strategies in the classroom is highly recommended.
AbstractCritical thinking is rational and reflective thinking
involved in decision making. Knowledge acquisition refers to
the level achieved by students in understanding the materials
and meaning of the learning context. Critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition can be enriched through applications of
relevant learning strategies. The aim of this study was to
investigate the correlation between critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition in the process of implementing Digital
Mind Maps-Problem Based Learning (Digital Mind Maps-PBL).
The learning process was conducted to students from
Universitas Islam Riau, Indonesia, who were enrolled in the
even semester of 2018 in biology education department . The
instrument used to measure the students’ critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition, that was in the form of essay tests, had
been confirmed valid by the result of the Pearson Product
Moment analysis. The reliability test using Cronbach's Alpha
also showed that this instrument was reliable for measuring
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition (correlation
coefficients are 0.837 and 0.872, respectively). The results of the
study indicated that critical thinking and knowledge acquisition
were correlated with a value of 0.861 and a determination
coefficient of 0.742, where Y = 1.215X 4.323. It can be
concluded that Digital Mind Maps-PBL strategies can be used
to refine students’ critical thinking, which may result in the
improvement of students’ knowledge acquisition. Therefore,
the implementation of Digital Mind Maps-PBL strategies in the
classroom is highly recommended.
Index TermsCritical thinking, digital mind maps-PBL,
knowledge acquisition.
I. INTRODUCTION
Changes and increasingly abundant information flow in
the 21st century require universities to equip their graduates
with sufficient competence. One of the goals of higher
education is to promote students’ critical thinking. The
ability to think critically is a quality sought by most
employers in the work field [1]. As an educational institution,
universities have to place critical thinking as a crucial
foundation for the students to adapt to daily personal, social,
and professional demands [2]. Thus, all components involved
in education need to implant effective and critical thoughts in
students rather than emphasizing facts memorization [3].
Literature has explained various definitions of critical
Manuscript received October 5, 2019; revised December 19, 2019. This
work was supported in part the Educational Fund Management Institution
(LPDP), the Ministry of Finance of Indonesia.
The authors are with Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia and a lecturer
at Universitas Islam Riau, Indonesia, 65145, Indonesia (e-mail:
khairobo@edu.uir.ac.id, siti.zubaidah.fmipa@um.ac.id,
ending.suarsini.fmipa@um.ac.id, henry.praherdhiono.fip@um.ac.id).
thinking. Critical thinking is often defined as the ability to
think in an unorthodox way, see situations from a different
point of view, and contemplate beyond expectations to find
solutions [4]. From Facione’s [5] perspective, critical
thinking is comprised of objective decisive judgment on what
to believe or what to do in a certain context. Critical thinking
is also perceived as a cognitive skill that is associated with
logical analyses and argument evaluations [6], [7] to
determine logical acts [8].
Critical thinking has been identified as one of the
important life skills that can facilitate access to information in
life and overcome difficulties [9], as well as help students,
develop the skills needed to compete economically in a
global society [1]. Critical thinking emphasizes logical
interpretations that contribute to students’ social and
academic lives [10]. Besides, critical thinking also helps
students in dealing with social, scientific, and functional
problems, filtering information correctly, enabling them to
search for truth in various events to achieve a complete
understanding of things [11].
The quality of students’ critical thinking can have an
impact on their knowledge acquisition [12], [13]. Knowledge
acquisition is the ability of students to grasp facts and
principles in the materials being learned [14], based on the
results of the tests conducted by the students. Knowledge
acquisition is usually expressed in score achievement [15].
Knowledge acquisition is not just memorizing information
but understanding meaning [16] so that it is flexible and not
determined by certain types of problems [17].
The correlation between critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition shows that knowledge must be achieved
appropriately as a result of understanding and justification
through critical thinking [18]. In addition, critical thinking is
also part of cognitive abilities that involve the acquisition of
knowledge in analyzing, interpreting, and inferring
information to make the right decisions [13]. Critical
thinking entails considerations of different evidence. Better
critical thinking will lead to better knowledge acquisition and
conclusion drawing [19]. Prior to conclusion drawing,
alternatives to solutions need to be formulated so that
problems can be solved, hypotheses can be projected, plans
can be developed, and goals can be achieved. These activities
can help increase an understanding of the problems being
faced [12].
A number of studies on critical thinking have been
conducted. Critical thinking was used as a predictor in
determining students' academic success [2], [20]-[22].
Furthermore, Nasrabadi, Mousavi, & Farsan [23] showed
that critical thinking could contribute to students' mastery of
The Relationship between Critical Thinking and
Knowledge Acquisition: The Role of Digital Mind
Maps-PBL Strategies
Nurkhairo Hidayati, Siti Zubaidah, Endang Suarsini, and Henry Praherdhiono
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2020
140
doi: 10.18178/ijiet.2020.10.2.1353
learning materials. A positive relationship between critical
thinking and knowledge acquisition has been reported by
many studies (see, for example, [24], [25]); however,
Mahmoud [26] found that there was no significant
correlation between critical thinking and nursing students’
academic achievement. Moreover, Aghaei, Souri, &
Ghanbari [27] and Zhang & Lambert [28] also suggest that
there was no relationship between critical thinking and
academic achievement.
The main requirement for the improvement of students’
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition is the students’
active involvement in learning. This can be met through
active learning strategies that facilitate cognitive processes
[29]. Problem Based Learning (PBL) is an active learning
strategy that uses contextual and authentic problems [30], [31]
to gain knowledge and concepts and develop solutions to
problems [32], [33]. PBL orients students to the problem and
at the end, leads the students to reflect on the
problem-solving process [34], [35].
PBL has been proven effective in developing students’
critical thinking. For instance, Gholami et al. [36] found
significant changes in students' critical thinking scores after
applying PBL with (P < 0.01) and evaluation and deduction
sub-scales (P < 0.05). Similar studies were also conducted at
various levels of education [37]-[39]. Besides critical
thinking, PBL has also been proven able to increase students'
knowledge acquisition [17], [40], [41].
The positive properties of PBL have, needless to say,
become a determining factor in the students’ increased
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition. However, that
does not necessarily mean that PBL will always have a
significant impact on students’ critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition. Some studies even showed that PBL
did not differ significantly from traditional learning in
improving students' knowledge [42]-[44]. Therefore, in this
study, PBL was combined with Digital Mind Maps (DMM)
to support students' knowledge acquisition during the
learning process.
Digital Mind Maps (DMM) are information
technology-based mind maps that assist students in
presenting their ideas using a variety of features [45]. DMM
feature unique fonts, images, videos, links insertion, colors,
hierarchy, boundaries, and others. Students can compile a
radial digital mind map by placing the main idea in the
middle and other interrelated concepts surrounding it [46].
Mind maps can improve the ability of students to remember
and link concepts because they contain varied colors and
branches [47].
Learning process that is empowered by integrated
PBL-DMM strategies is expected to promote critical thinking
and knowledge acquisition in university classrooms. The
integration of PBL-DMM strategies into learning has been
conducted at university levels to improve creativity [48]. In
addition, a number of studies have proven that both PBL and
mind maps play a crucial role in the development of students’
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition [36], [38], [49].
University students need both critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition because an increase in critical
thinking will lead to an increase in knowledge acquisition.
The relationship between critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition has been explained in many studies. The findings
from these studies indicate a diversity where some argued
that critical thinking has a significant correlation with
students’ knowledge acquisition, while some others pointed
out the opposite. Besides this controversy, this study was
conducted also based on the reason that there has not been a
study reporting the link between critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition using Digital Mind Maps-PBL
learning strategies. The current study specifically aimed to
examine the relationship between critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition through Digital Mind Maps-PBL
strategies and thus provide empirical evidence to prove the
relationship between the two variables
II. METHODS
A. Design of the Study
A correlational design was employed to examine the
relationship between critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition, where critical thinking served as the predictor
while knowledge acquisition functioned as the criterion. This
study was conducted at the Department of Biology Education
of Universitas Islam Riau, Indonesia. The participants of this
study consisted of the students who were enrolled in the
program in the even semester of 2018 academic year in
biology education program. Digital Mind Maps-PBL
learning strategies were implemented in the classroom for
one semester with 16 meetings, and after the learning process
ended, essay tests were administered to evaluate the students’
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition.
The learning process was carried out in six stages. At the
first stage, the students were given a topic and instructed to
compose a digital mind map related to the topic. This was
done to enable the students to link their prior knowledge with
the material being learned at the time. At the second stage, the
students were asked to formulate problems based on actual
issues presented by the lecturer. The students were allowed to
sit in groups to solve the problems at the third stage, and at
the fourth stage, the students started to collect relevant
information to obtain explanations on the problems. At the
fifth stage, the students wrote a report containing solutions to
the problems, and at the sixth stage, the students were asked
to do some reflection and evaluations on the problem-solving
process they had gone through since the beginning.
B. Instrument of the Study
The students’ critical thinking and knowledge acquisition
were measured using essay tests. The instruments had been
validated using Pearson product-moment and Cronbach's
Alpha reliability tests. The results of the validity and
reliability tests showed that all test items were valid and
reliable, with a score of 0.837 for critical thinking and of
0.872 for knowledge acquisition. The critical thinking
instrument was comprised of several indicators, namely basic
clarification, bases for a decision, inference, advanced
clarification, supposition and integration, strategies and tactic,
and the knowledge acquisition instrument referred to
Anderson & Krathwohl’s revised Bloom’s taxonomy levels.
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2020
141
C. Data Collection and Data Analysis
The critical thinking and knowledge acquisition data were
gathered by administering essay tests to the students. The
students’ test answers were scored based on indicators set in
the selected rubric. The data were then analyzed using
Pearson Product Moment Coefficient of Correlation and
regression analyses to determine the significance of the
relationship between the two variables. Before conducting a
regression analysis, the normality and homogeneity of the
data were tested. The results of the prerequisite tests showed
that the critical thinking data were distributed normally and
homogeneously with p-values of 0.097 and 0.055,
respectively. In addition, the knowledge acquisition data
were also assumed normal and homogeneous with p-values
of 0.200 and 0.057, respectively.
III. FINDINGS
The result of the regression analysis suggesting the
significance of the relationship between critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition was summarized in Table I.
TABLE I: THE RESULT OF THE REGRESSION ANALYSIS
R
R Square
Adjusted R
Square
Std. Error of the
Estimate
.861a
.742
.734
5.12617
a. Predictors: (Constant), CRI_DMM-PBL
Table I reported a correlation value of 0.861 and a
R-square value of 0.742. These figures suggested that
74.20% of the students’ knowledge acquisition was affected
by their critical thinking qualities while the rest (25.8%) was
determined by other factors. The regression equation for this
relationship was Y = 1.215X 4.323. The correlation
between critical thinking as the predictor and knowledge
acquisition as the criterion at the 5% alpha (α) level can be
seen in Table II.
TABLE II: THE RESULT OF THE F-TEST ANALYSIS
Model
Sum of
Square
Df
Mean
Square
F
Sig.
1
Regression
2489.595
1
2489.595
94.742
.000a
Residual
867.161
33
26.278
Total
3356.757
34
a. Predictors: (Constant), critical thinking
b., Dependent Variable: knowledge acquisition
Table II showed that F-calculated was 26.278 and the
significance level was 0.000 < α (α = 0.05). It indicated that
critical thinking and knowledge acquisition were
significantly correlated. The regression equation obtained
can be used to predict students’ achievement in knowledge
acquisition.
IV. DISCUSSIONS
The findings from this study showed that critical thinking
had a correlation with the students’ knowledge acquisition.
An increase in the quality of the students’ critical thinking
was followed by an increase in the students’ knowledge
acquisition. The students were able to master the concept
being learned because the Digital Mind Maps-PBL learning
strategies implemented in this study required the students to
use their rational and intuitive abilities. The DMM-PBL
strategies were aimed at problem-solving and therefore
demanded the students to apply their thinking abilities in
utilizing various learning resources to find solutions. During
the process of searching for the relevant resources, the
students read a lot of information. As a result, their
knowledge was enriched. Similarly, research has shown that
problem-based learning strategies can improve students’
critical thinking abilities [50], [51]
Aside from being problem-oriented, the Digital Mind
Maps-PBL learning strategies also involved DMM creation
activity. Since the students were required to compose a
digital mind map on their own, they had to read various
references related to the topic and sort important information
to place as keywords in their DMM. This activity can
stimulate the students’ critical thinking because critical
thinking involves the process of analyzing various
information obtained through knowledge construction.
Conceptual knowledge is the result of a constructive process.
Therefore, the quality of critical thinking can show good
knowledge acquisition [18]. A learning process that is based
on critical thinking will require students to think carefully to
use rational abilities and intuition so that they are able to
master the concept being learned [52].
In addition, the results of this study also showed that
critical thinking contributed 74.20% to knowledge
acquisition. Many researchers argue that critical thinking can
be used as a reliable predictor of one’s knowledge acquisition.
Students with higher levels of critical thinking are able to
process, organize, deduce, infer, and explore information in a
more effective way and are usually open to better experiences.
As a result, they can possess better knowledge acquisition
[53]. Bakhtiar Nasrabadi, Mousavi, & Alibakhshi [54] add
that critical thinking can encourage students to express their
perspectives in a distinct manner and adopt a more logical
method of dealing with problems that enable them to acquire
knowledge.
It should be noted that knowledge acquisition is not only
affected by critical thinking, but also other factors (25.80%),
such a metacognition skills, learning motivation, and
learning styles. This finding is confirmed by Bahri and
Corebima [55], who found that motivation and metacognition
skills simultaneously contribute to student learning outcomes.
Likewise, knowledge acquisition also depends on students’
learning styles [41]. Learning styles play an important role in
students’ academic achievement because they encourage
students to be holistic and at ease to interact with other
students [56]. High motivation drives students to be more
attentive to learning so that they are able to understand
learning materials better [57]. Metacognition skills allow
students to become responsible for the tasks given so that in
the end the students are able to master the concepts being
learned [58].
The problem-solving process undergone by the students
also triggers the relationship between critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition. Problem-solving activities encourage
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2020
142
students to think and find the right solution. Critical thinking
can help someone to consider various points of view to make
the right decision based on careful, systematic, and logical
efforts. Critical thinking can also provide an appropriate
direction in thinking and working, and assist in determining
the relationship between one thing and another more
accurately [59]. A critical thinker can be identified in terms
of how they approach and solve certain problems. Individuals
who have the ability to think critically have several
characteristics such as being clear in expressing questions or
problems, discipline at work, focused on the problems faced,
and preserved in finding relevant information [10].
The correlation between critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition can also be explained from critical thinking
aspects. For instance, based on the aspects of basic
clarification and bases for a decision, students are required to
read a variety of literature in order to identify criteria to
determine possible and correct answers to problems. Students
can acquire more knowledge by reading more texts. This
finding is in line with Weinstock & Cronin's [19] explanation
that suggests that critical thinking is an effective way to
improve students' understanding of concepts. Students can
use critical thinking to understand and apply concepts to
achieve good learning outcomes. Critical thinking is also
associated with cognitive skills because it involves the
activity of solving problems, formulating the factors that
influence it, and calculating various possibilities to make the
right decision [60], [61].
The results of this study provide an insight for educators to
determine which learning strategies are appropriate for their
classrooms. During the learning process, educators can focus
on improving students’ critical thinking by, for example,
asking open-ended or ill-structured questions. Educators can
improve students’ knowledge acquisition by facilitating their
critical thinking. Because of that, the results of this study
contribute to the improvement of learning quality.
The relationship between critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition analyzed through Digital Mind Maps-PBL
implemented in this study showed that critical thinking and
knowledge acquisition could be promoted in the classroom
simultaneously. Critical thinking is related to the ability to
analyze information to determine the right decision and
knowledge acquisition is associated with the level of success
in understanding meaning or information. All efforts made to
improve critical thinking will also be effective in improving
knowledge acquisition. Despite the significance, the findings
of this study can only be generalized to other populations
from tertiary levels of education and therefore, future
research needs to be conducted at the primary and secondary
levels of education.
V. CONCLUSION
It can be concluded that there is a significant correlation
between critical thinking and knowledge acquisition through
the implementation of Digital Mind Maps-PBL learning
strategies. An increase in the students’ critical thinking was
followed by an increase in the students’ knowledge
acquisition. Therefore, educators can simultaneously
improve these two variables (critical thinking and knowledge
acquisition) during the learning process. Unfortunately, this
study only examined the correlation between critical thinking
and knowledge acquisition at the tertiary level of education.
Therefore, further research can be carried out at different
levels of education, for example, in secondary or even
elementary schools to get a clearer picture of the relationship
between critical thinking and knowledge acquisition among
participants of different ages.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
We certify that there is no actual or potential conflict of
interest in relation to this article.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
Hidayati designed and formulated research goals and
objectives as a whole, determined the right method, and
presented the results of the study. Zubaidah is responsible for
conducting research and supervision, as well as providing
input to the manuscript being written. Suarsini contributed to
enriching references and reviewing manuscripts.
Praherdhiono participated in critically revising the
manuscript for the content discussed
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Authors would like to thank the Educational Fund Management
Institution (LPDP), the Ministry of Finance of Indonesia with number
FR2712018124893 the Ministry of Research, Technology, and
Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia.
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Copyright © 2020 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original
work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
Nurkhairo Hidayati was born in Bangkinang,
Indonesia. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Universitas
Negeri Malang, Indonesia. She received a bachelor's
degree from Universitas Riau and a master degree in
Biology Education Department from Universitas
Negeri Malang, Indonesia. She currently works as a
lecturer at Universitas Islam Riau, Indonesia with a
focus on teaching and learning. Mrs. Hidayati
research interests focus on how to improve learning
experiences. Mainly engaged in Problem Based Learning, critical thinking,
creativity and habits of minds.
Siti Zubaidah is a professor in genetics at
Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia. She was born
in Malang, East Java province, Indonesia. Zubaidah
completed her Ph.D. at Universitas Brawijaya and her
master degree studies at Universitas Negeri Malang.
Her research interests in the area of genetics, social
science, teaching, and learning. She has collaborated
actively with researchers in several other disciplines
of education, molecular and agriculture. In terms of research, she has more
than 20 Scopus publications.
Endang Suarsini was born in April 1953 in
Lumjang, Indonesia. She is a doctor from
Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia. She got the
master of basic medical sciences, Universitas
Indonesia in 1988. Mainly engaged in
microbiology, teaching, and learning research. She
has participated in many national and international
conferences. The results of her research have also
been published in reputable journal.
Henry Praherdhino was born in January 1977. He is
a lecturer in the educational technology department
of Universitas Negeri Malang, Indonesia. He
received a bachelor's degree from Universitas
Airlangga, Indonesia in August 2001. He holds a
magister of education from Universitas Negeri
Malang. Dr. Praherdhiono interests in the area of
educational technology, instructional technology and
learning environment. He has several articles in
reputable journals according to his area of expertise.
International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2020
145
... Problem-Based Learning is a learning model that aims to stimulate students to actively learn in contextual problems to attract their curiosity [20]. This learning model is a learning system with a powerful pedagogy in order to foster students thinking and learning skills [5] including critical thinking [17,20,24]. The application of PBL can enhance students' critical thinking skills and foster their initiative in working and building interpersonal relationships through discussion, debate or sharing [19]. ...
... The application of PBL can enhance students' critical thinking skills and foster their initiative in working and building interpersonal relationships through discussion, debate or sharing [19]. In addition, the reiterative and reflective characteristics of PBL are able to build students' critical abilities in problem solving [17]. In the previous studies, the influence of PBL models in high school students' mathematical critical thinking ability has been widely carried out. ...
... PBL as cooperative learning allows students to learn actively and critically to build new knowledge [29]. PBL is able to stimulate students to think critically because students are trained to use rational and intuitive thinking skills and utilize various learning resources to solve a problem [17]. In addition, by having critical thinking skills, students become more confident and independent learners [34]. ...
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... The other opinions commonly stated are that mind maps are more memorable; they facilitate learning process and provide an opportunity to reinforcereview subjects. The studies found upon literature reviews are observed to have similar results (Erdem, 2017;Hallen & Sangeetha, 2015;Kansizoglu, 2014;Keles, 2012;Krasnic, 2011;Liu, Tong & Yang, 2018;Madu & Metu-Ifeoma, 2012;Ziyadi & Surya, 2017;Hidayati et al., 2020). ...
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