Report on a Presentation at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society for Educational Technology 2014
"An Approach to Develop Students' Critical Thinking"

On September 21, 2014, I attended the 30th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society for Educational Technology at Gifu University to give a presentation entitled, "An approach to develop students' critical thinking." The presentation was about the result of our experiment conducted in the Advancement of Testing Technology Section.


In order to survive in contemporary society, we need to discover and solve problems through logical thinking. This is why we teach college students how to think logically; however, they are able to think on their own to a certain extent without being taught, utilizing their existing knowledge. The purpose of this research is to verify that stimulating students' thinking is all that teachers must do to help them discover and solve problems without providing them with any new knowledge (Chart 1). Our survey has shown that out of those students who had knowledge (60% of all students), 70% of them were able to utilize the knowledge after receiving a hint, and about 10% of them could utilize their knowledge without any hint. On the other hand, we could statistically confirm that only by stimulating students to think could they come to discover and solve problems. The details follow.


chart1: steps toward understanding


The target of the survey was 60 college students (1st to 4th year). Questions were displayed on the screen, and the students answered using their smartphones. Their comprehension level was then scored, with 3 points designated as a full score, and changes were analyzed. Questions are as follows.


"The sea level rises as a result of global warming because the ice of North Pole melts out."

Is this cause and result appropriately related?

Q1: Please state your opinion.

Q2: Please write questions or problems if you have any.


Students (30 students only) were asked to respond in unison three times, "Hmm,,,. Wait a moment. Is it true? Why is it true?"

Q3: Please write questions or problems if you have any.


Show the next hint (to the other 30 students only)

Ice is floating on the water in a glass. The glass is exactly full of water. When the ice in the glass melts, what will happen to the water in the glass?


1. The water overflows from the glass.

2. The water level does not change.

3. The water level gets lower.

4. It depends on the temperature of ice.

5. I don't quite know.


Q4: Please write questions or problems if you have any.


The experiment showed statistically that if we want to help students recognize their questions or problems, it is effective to let them respond in unison or offer them a hint. However, it seems that 60% of students did not realize such questions or problems to the end (Chart 2, Table 1).

chart2: changes in comprehension level

:p<.05、  **:p<.01  ***:p.01

table1: Archimedes’ principle (Ice melting has nothing to do with water surface)


We learn Archimedes' principle in science class during middle school (7th to 9th grade in Japan). However, only 60% of college students knew that the water does not overflow even after the ice melts in a glass. Moreover, only 45% of them could apply the principle to the question of the North Pole ice. This means that 17% of the students could not utilize the principle even though they possessed the knowledge. This is really wasteful. Why are they not able to utilize the principles that they already know? In order to utilize knowledge, they have to move through three stages: understanding→ applying→ utilizing, or "understood"→ "could solve"→ "could utilize."



In this experiment, teachers did not provide any direct knowledge to students. Even if we do not teach them anything, students can significantly raise their own level of comprehension for discovering and solving problems by thinking on their own. So what is important for them is to think on their own. Therefore, the job of teachers is not only to teach but also to motivate students to think.


As our future task, we will investigate which approaches are the best for helping students think so that they can address questions and problems.


Finally, there were other professors who shared their expertise and advice in this cooperative research. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to them again.


Reference: Noboru Wakayama, "The effects of critical thinking class education at a university," Journal of the Liberal and General Education Society of Japan, 31(1), pp 145-153, 2009.


(Noboru Wakayama, CRET Researcher)

Noboru Wakayama

CRET Researcher / Associate Professor of Faculty of Law, Teikyo University

Hobbies: Hot springs, swimming, travelling, and taking walks

I think critically, asking, "Is that really true? Why can it be true?"
My research theme is critical thinking.


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