There remains relatively little research on the use of concept mapping activities in developing students’ critical thinking skills at the high school level in Taiwan, where students are struggling to cultivate critical thinking skills and instructors lack the teaching experiences of critical thinking. In addition, little information has been provided about the relationship between concept mapping activities and critical thinking skills in previous research. This study therefore aimed to examine the effects of concept mapping activities on critical thinking skill development in a high school in Taiwan and explore the relationship between concept mapping activities and critical thinking skills.
43 participants were recruited from the course, research seminar, in the department of English at a high school in Taiwan. Class A was randomly designated as the high-directed concept mapping group and Class B as the low-directed concept mapping group. The collected data included critical thinking survey scores, concept map scores, and interviews. Concept map scores were compared with critical thinking survey scores to examine the correlation between Novak and Gowin’s concept map rubric and critical thinking skills using Pearson correlation analysis. The critical thinking survey scores of the high-directed group and the low-directed
group were analyzed using a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to examine the difference in critical thinking skill development between the two groups. The interviews were analyzed using an inductive analysis approach to explore how students interpret the relationship between their concept mapping activities and their critical thinking scores.
The results indicated the example and proposition could be the elements in Novak and Gowin’s concept map assessment rubric related to critical thinking skills. The multivariate results suggested that different concept mapping activities would produce different learning outcomes. The low-directed concept mapping group significantly scored higher than the high-directed concept mapping group in the critical thinking skills: inference, interpretation, analysis, evaluation, explanation. This study further found that the low-directed mapping activity was particularly useful for the inference skill. Neither the low-directed nor the high-directed mapping activity could effectively enhance the evaluation skill. Suggestions and implications are proposed to develop critical thinking skills through concept mapping activities.