Understanding critical thinking: A comparative analysis between university students’ and teachers’ conception

  • María José Bezanilla Unviersity of Deusto, Spain http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6023-3859
  • Hector Galindo-Domínguez University of the Basque Country, Spain
  • Lucía Campo University of Deusto, Spain
  • Donna Fernández-Nogueira University of Deusto, Spain
  • Manuel Poblete Ruiz University of Deusto, Spain
Keywords: critical thinking, higher education, thinking skills, students, students’ point of view, transversal competence


Critical thinking is a key competence in higher education. However, little is known about the conception that students have of this competence. This study aims to analyze what university students understand by critical thinking and if these conceptions agree with those of university teachers analyzed in a previous study. A total of 263 participants took part in the study. The findings reveal that students tend to consider critical thinking as a competence related to reasoning/arguing and questioning/asking oneself. Also, that students’ conception about critical thinking differs from that of teachers. Whereas students tend to consider critical thinking as related to reasoning/arguing, questioning/asking oneself and, to a lesser extent, to acting/compromising. Teachers, on the other hand, tend to consider critical thinking as related to analyzing/organizing and evaluating. No significant differences were found regarding students’ gender and academic year. These results highlight the importance of considering students’ views when designing the curricula and the learning activities to develop students’ critical thinking.

Received: 30 June 2022
Accepted: 6 March 2023


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Author Biographies

María José Bezanilla, Unviersity of Deusto, Spain

PhD in Education from the Institute of Education of the University of London and is Senior Lecturer at the University of Deusto in the Department of Education. She is currently the coordinator of the PhD in Education at the Faculty of Education and Sport of the same university. As member of eDucaR research team, she participates in research projects and has numerous publications on critical thinking, the use of ICT in the university context and the development of competences in higher education. Shares her teaching and research activities with management tasks in the Teaching Innovation Unit of the University of Deusto, with particular emphasis on the publications area and the development of transversal competences.

Hector Galindo-Domínguez, University of the Basque Country, Spain

PhD in Education, a Master’s degree in Innovation and Research in Education and a Master’s degree in Prevention and treatment of bullying. He does research mainly on issues related to critical thinking, educational technology, and effectiveness of teaching methodologies. He is currently an adjunct teacher at the University of the Basque Country, but for years he has worked as a teacher of Primary Education.

Lucía Campo, University of Deusto, Spain

Graduate in Psychology and Psychopedagogy, Master in Innovation and development of competencies and PhD in Education (University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain). Currently teaching in University in Primary School Grade, as well as Final Degree Project and Practice tutoring. Member of eDucaR research team (University of Deusto). During her PhD she focused on studying the skills of teachers and how they can be assessed. Moreover, she has focused on the teaching-learning process and in transversal competencies. As such, she has become proficient at compiling and analysing quantitative as well as qualitative data and at building explicative models related to teaching competencies. Her themes of research are critical thinking, teacher’s development and evaluation, and implementation of the teaching-learning model based on competencies in the EHEA.

Donna Fernández-Nogueira, University of Deusto, Spain

BA in Philosophy and Arts (English Philology) and a PhD in Philosophy and Arts (English Philology) from the University of Deusto. She is currently a Professor–Researcher at the University of Deusto, campus Bilbao. During the past few years she has carried out research on competences, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and the historiography of linguistics, among other matters. She was part of the research team, INNOVA, recognized by the Basque Government (category A), which is now part of Deusto eDucaR (category A).

Manuel Poblete Ruiz, University of Deusto, Spain

PhD in Social Psychology. He does research mainly on issues related to competencies and Learning Systems based in Competencies: its conception, methodologies of learning and evaluation. During the last years he researches with other teachers on critical thinking and about effectiveness of teaching methodologies. He has worked as a teacher of Organizational Psychology carrier in University of Deusto. Now he is retired and continues with different tasks in the education field.


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How to Cite
Bezanilla, María José, Hector Galindo-Domínguez, Lucía Campo, Donna Fernández-Nogueira, and Manuel Poblete Ruiz. 2023. “Understanding Critical Thinking: A Comparative Analysis Between University students’ and teachers’ Conception”. Tuning Journal for Higher Education 10 (2), 223-44. https://doi.org/10.18543/tjhe.2515.