Thinking Critically About Critical Thinking and Problem-Based Learning in Higher Education: A Scoping Review

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Kathrine L. Thorndahl
Diana Stentoft


It is often assumed that problem-based learning is an effective approach for fostering the development and/or improvement of students’ critical thinking. To shed light on the connection between problem-based learning and critical thinking, this scoping review maps out how the notion of critical thinking is conceptualized in relation to problem-based learning in the literature about problem-based learning in the context of higher education. Eight academic databases were searched and a total of 66 peer-reviewed articles were identified as eligible for review. Our findings indicate that there is a plurality of positions regarding the meaning of critical thinking and the concept’s relation to problem-based learning. What is more, more often than not, no explicit explanation for why this connection is thought to exist is presented.

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