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The International Journal of Educational and Psychological Assessment

January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

Assessing Students Critical Thinking and Approaches to Learning

Carlo Magno

De La Salle University, Manila

The present study explored the construct validity of the Revised Learning Process
Questionnaire R-LPQ 2F with the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA).
The construct validation process test the assumption that deep approaches to learning that
includes relating knowledge to new knowledge, distinguishing evidences and arguments,
organizing and structuring content into a coherent whole results to critical thinking. The RLPQ 2F and the WGCTA was administered to 104 senior high school students in the
Philippines. Only surface approach to learning was significantly correlated with the subtests
on interpretation of the WGCTA (r=-.51, p<.01). A measurement model was tested using
Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and showed that both deep and surface approach
increases the variance explained for critical thinking as a latent construct. The model
attained an adequate fit: RMSEA=.04, SRMR=.04, CFI=.96, and TLI=.93.

Keywords: deep approach, surface approach, critical thinking, R-LPQ, WGCTA

Students differ in their ability to think, memorize, reason, read and process
information. It is important for critical thinkers to execute their own learning to be able to
generate and evaluate conclusions from related evidence. The students who are considered
as high critical thinkers have a better implementation of their learning approach (Halpern,
1996; Magno, 2010). For the past twenty years, the process of thinking is again
experiencing one its periodic resurgences as a legitimate topic of psychology and education
because of the assertion that schools need to develop 21st century skills among their
students. Part of the 21st century skills is critical thinking and learning skills of students. A
part of that resurgence can be attributable to several studies on critical thinking, logic, and
thinking skills. According to Norris (1985) that societal factors calls a need for well
developed thinking skills. Studies in psychology, education, business, and other fields call
for more and better thinking skills instruction in schools and especially in the Philippine
setting. Students do not exhibit an impressive level of skills in critical or creative thinking.
Moreover, the review of Norris shows that the typical critical thinking ability is not
widespread. Most students do not score well on the tests that measures ability to recognize
assumptions, evaluate arguments and appraise inferences (Neuschmidt, Barth, & Hastedt,
2008; Ramirez, 2006).
High results in the Watson and Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal describe critical
thinkers to have a potential success on certain types of occupations and instructional
programs. Previous studies believe that the thinking of students will remain "invisible" to
them unless they are supportively challenged to discover the problems in their thinking.
This is not possible unless they receive careful introduction into the intellectual workings of
the human mind. Critical thinking involves several skills, including the ability to listen and
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The International Journal of Educational and Psychological Assessment
January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

read carefully, evaluate arguments, look for and find hidden assumptions, and to trace the
consequences of a claim. Critical thinking is after seen as a universal goal of higher
education but is seldom confirmed as an outcome. In order to develop critical thinking in
the educational setting, students need to adapt an appropriate learning approach. The
proper approach to learning facilitates critical thinking (Magno, 2010). Previous research
regarding learning approaches, suggests that it is found to be an influential element for
motivation and achievement. Studies exemplifying the relationship between critical thinking
and learning approaches are still few. The relationship between learning approach and
critical thinking makes a good basis for explaining learning but they were investigated with
different correlates. Establishing the possibility of linking these two variables has been
neglected. This present study examines the relationship between critical thinking and
learning approaches for high school students. The relationship will establish construct
validation of the outcome of learning approach as an appropriate mechanism to propel
critical thinking.
Approach to Learning
The learning process consists of the way in which the learning takes place and
involves primarily the capacities by the activities by means of which knowledge is gained,
skill is produced, habits, attitudes, and ideas are required (Schn, 1987). Learning
approach are always the major concerns of school teachers and college professors.
Educators have theorized different models and engaged in research to help understand the
nature of students learning processes. One commonly cited model in teaching and
learning literature is the 3P model of classroom learning outlined by Dunkin and Biddle in
1974. Strategies to learn are considered important elements (Biggs, 1993).
Researchers have done numerous studies of students study approaches since the
late 1970s. Learning approaches are the patterns followed by students in order to achieve
higher quality learning. Basically, two approaches to learning have been identified: the
surface approach and the deep approach. A surface approach describes the intention
to reproduce information in compliance with externally imposed task demands while deep
approach involves the intention to understand (Kember, Biggs, & Leung, 2004).
Deep processing also labeled elaboration or critical thinking involves challenging
the veracity of information encountered and attempting to integrate new information with
prior knowledge and experience (Biggs, Kember, & Leung, 2001). On the other hand,
surface processing also labeled rehearsal or memorization; involves the repetitive rehearsal
and rote memorization of information. Kember et al. (1996) indicated that students who
adopt surface approach to learning are referred to as surface learners and deep approach
students are referred to as deep learner.
Biggs (1999) described that the deep approach is task-centered and taskappropriate. Deep approach to learning is encouraged by (1) teaching and assessing
methods; (2) stimulating and considerate teaching specially teaching which demonstrate the
teachers personal commitment to the subject matter and stresses its meaning and relevance
to students; (3) clearly stating academic expectations; (4) opportunities to exercise
responsible choice in the content of the study; (5) interest in and background knowledge
and (6) previous experiences of educational settings that encourage deep approach. On the
other hand, surface approach is encouraged by (1) assessment methods emphasizing recall
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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

of the application of trivial procedural knowledge; (2) assessment methods that create
anxiety; (3) cynical or conflicting messages about rewards; (4) excessive amount of materials
and (5) poor or absent feedback (Ramsden, 1988).
The deep approach to learning can result in good learning outcome. Deep
processing, involves the intention of a student to understand and attempt to relate incoming
information to previous knowledge and experiences in order to come up with a personal
meaning (Biggs, Kember, & Leung, 2004). For example those individuals who follow the
mastery goal orientation utilize deep approach, requiring a lot of cognitive effort but leads
to better understanding (Rahman & Mokhtar, 2012). On the other hand, surface approach
is the intention of a student to fulfill the task requirements such as rote memorization of
such information needed to pass an examination (Ramsden et al., 1999). Surface approach
leads to increase in knowledge through memorization of information and by following
certain procedures. It generally leads to low retention and an inability to use information in
new contexts.
Past studies suggest that Asian students rely on rote learning and a surface approach
while Western studies such as those from Australia employ deep Learning strategies to
learning (Biggs & Moore, 1993; Magno, 2009). However, in a later study of Hong Kong
Chinese students study approaches, researchers introduced a new concept of learning
called deep memorization as a way to enhance understanding (Watkins & Hattie, 1985).
From the research of Rhem (1995), more students advanced in their academics, the
tendency for them to use surface processing also increased. He further explained that the
use of surface processing might be due to the traditional teaching styles being used in
schools. He also listed a couple of other factors that might have been responsible for
student to resort to surface processing: (1) an excessive amount of course material in the
curriculum; (2) relatively high class contact hours, (3) an excessive amount of course
materials, (4) a lack of opportunity to pursue subjects in depth, (5) a lack of choice over the
method of study and over the subjects and (6) a threatening and anxiety provoking
assessment system. This evidence shows that there is a transition in the use of learning
approaches from deep to surface and both are used as predictors of students test
Students' approaches can vary according to students' perceptions of their learning
environment. Students learning approaches do not have fixed characteristics. A student,
who takes a deep approach to one subject, or even part of a subject, may take a surface
approach in relation to something else. The researchers chose learning approach as a
variable because it strongly influences the quality of students learning outcomes (Quinita
When a student abstracts meaning from what is already given, there is a deep
approach to learning which can result in good learning outcomes. Surface approach leads
to increase in knowledge through memorization of information and by following certain
procedures. It generally leads to low retention and an inability to use information in new
Hoon, Goh, and Chia (1995) compared surface and deep approach in learning
activity series of metals in a high school Chemistry course and concluded that students who
adopt deep approach are better in inter-relating chemical concepts, possess better
comprehension and higher retention of knowledge compared to students who adopt
surface approach. Emphasis on effort to learn for self-improvement, and collaborative
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learning with peers, may promote deep learning. Confucian philosophy, also, advocates
deep learning: 'seeing is perilous'. Strong motivation to achieve and the attribution of
success to internal and controllable factors such as effort, interest and study skills should
help Chinese students develop adaptive approaches to learning. This is supported by
findings that Chinese students in Hong Kong score higher on the deep and achieving
approaches and lower on the surface approach than Australian students (Biggs, 1990).
There is evidence that deep approach to learning facilitates better learning
outcomes. The kind of challenge that students engage in learning allows them to
demonstrate critical thinking. However, there is also large evidence of studies indicating
surface which could not be adaptive in producing better learning outcomes.
Critical Thinking
Experts explain critical thinking in varying perspectives. One commonality among
the perspectives is the conviction of critical thinkers which they expressed their opinions on
a topic. Some explains that there are "stages" or "aspects" of critical thinking. The idea of
bringing critical thinking into the classroom was unanimous, however, ideas for making this
happen as well as the implementation differed dramatically. The focus of critical thinking
on education started in the work of Dewey who proposed that critical thinking involved the
suspension of judgment and healthy skepticism. Students should be assisted in the
engagement of making the reflective, reasonable, and direction on what to believe or do.
Stancato (2000) used several definitions from previous research to define critical
thinking. Critical thinking has been defined as "a process for determining the value of an
idea". Others see critical thinking as "a process of thinking without a single solution"
(Yahiro, 1994). Paul (1990) defines it as "open-mindedness, although, it is not a "natural"
disposition of the human mind. However, openness to contradiction and opposing points
of view are the hallmarks of the critical thinking. Paul and Elder (2001) explains that critical
thinking involves "to be able to take one's thinking apart systematically, to analyze each part,
assess it for quality and then improve it." Moreover, critical thinking involves being able to
break down a piece of information or a thought, find any value that it may contain, and
discard the remains. This piece of information then goes through a process of scrutiny,
being subject to analysis, change, improvement, and integration.
A number of researchers have put forth definitions and theories regarding critical
thinking. Facione (1998) was the head of a systematic inquiry into the research on critical
thinking and how to assess it. He views critical thinking to be a purposeful, self-regulatory
judgment which results in interpretation analysis, evaluation and inference as well as
explanation of the evidential conceptual methodological, contextual consciousness upon
which that judgment was based. Supporting Faciones model, Lundquist (1999) explained
that the fundamental to learning is reflection and the ability to draw conclusions from
more of less successful attempts to come to an understanding of the issues at hand would
be a paramount characteristic of critical thinking.
Hemming (2000) breaks down each process, beginning with logic. She says that
logical relationships need to be addressed in order to exhibit critical thinking. According to
Hemming, critical thinking is best fostered among students by treating them with respect,
be being open and honest with them, and being willing to accept scrutiny of beliefs and
practices, and by encouraging them to question their own ideas and those of others. In
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addition, Hemming (2000) views critical thinking as a process that include dialogical
reasoning, evaluating criteria, content, and caring and connecting with criticism. Dialogical
reasoning involves being open-minded and allowing multiple perspectives and ideas to be
factors in forming conclusions. Being open-minded means that the individual needs to be
open to the fact that he or she may be wrong and is, therefore, willing to reevaluate his or
her ideas. Hemming states that critical thinking includes the following criteria for creating
judgments: reasons, shared values, facts, definitions, standards, laws, principles, and
conventions. The combination of content and critical thinking as curriculum is a question
of hot debate and will be addressed later in this review.
Paul (1992) explains that objectivity and rationality aimed at discovering truth are
crucial to critical thinking. This involves reasoning, the application of standards, and the
use of logic. The author states, in dialogical reasoning it is important to understand that
the purpose is not merely to think about the perspective of others, but to examine ones
own ideas, and those of others, in a search for the truth. In other words, others ideas are
not more important than ones own, but can add additional, useful information.
Similar to Hemmings process of critical thinking, Perrys ideas of critical thinking
claims that there are four stages: dualism, multiplicity, contextual relativism, and dialectic.
Perry formulated his model of critical thinking after interviewing many college students
during their freshman year, throughout their college years, and finally, as seniors. Perry
found a series of steps that increased the students sophistication of thought, along with a
transformation of philosophy regarding the role of nature, the role of the student, and the
role of the teacher.
The definition of Watson and Glaser (1980) of critical thinking is used in the
present study. Their typology includes inference, recognition of assumptions, deduction,
interpretation, and evaluation of arguments. This typology of critical thinking is widely used
around the world and all other critical thinking skills and definitions of scholars are
covered within the five dimensions. For example, formal logic as part of critical thinking
explained by Ennis (1987) involves rules of deduction and inference. In the same way,
good judgment in critical thinking as explained by Halpern (1998) involves the evaluation
of arguments. Beyer (1995) also includes that identifying and making academic arguments
is part of critical thinking which is covered in recognition of assumption. The framework by
Watson and Glaser provides the best representation of critical thinking because they have
operationalized each domain as a set of items where a stimulus is read by examinees and
the skills are shown by responding appropriately. Specifically, the their existing test
measures the ability to recognize the existence of problems and an acceptance of the
general need for evidence in support of what is asserted to be true, and knowledge of the
nature of valid inferences, abstractions, and generalizations in which the weight or accuracy
of different kinds of evidence are logically determined (Watson & Glaser, 2008).
Presently, the standard form of the WGCTA is composed of 80 items that measure
different aspects of critical thinking. The appraisal aims to provide an estimate of an
individuals standing in the composite of abilities by means of five subtests. The five
subtests of the Critical Thinking Appraisal are as follows (Watson & Glaser, 1980):
Inference. Discriminating among degrees of truth or falsity of inferences drawn
from given data.
Recognition of Assumptions. Recognizing unstated assumptions or presuppositions
in given statements or assertions.
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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

Deduction. Determining whether certain conclusions necessarily follow from

information in given statements or premises.
Interpretation. Weighing evidence and deciding if generalizations or conclusions
based on the given data are warranted.
Evaluation of Arguments. Distinguishing between arguments that are strong
The WGTCA has been widely used as indication of individuals critical thinking
competence. While not directly comparable to other tests, such as the California critical
thinking skills test, both follow the same theoretical underpinnings and format.
The development and maintaining the five factors of the WGCTA was explained in the
paper of Magno (2010):
These five factors of the Watson Glaser still hold to be valid despite many revisions
of the WGCTA (Watson & Glaser, 2008). A Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was
conducted (N=306) with the 40 items of the WGCTA and tested a one factor model, three
factor model (RED model), and the traditional five factor model (Watson & Glaser, 2008).
These models were compared and the five factor model still had the best fit. The five
factor model had the lowest chi-square (2=159.39, df=125) and RMSEA value (.03),
highest Goodness of Fit Index (GFI=.95) and Adjusted Goodness of Fit Index (AGFI=.93).
The items under the five factor model also had higher parameter estimates than in the
other models. The traditional five factor model of the WGCTA also correlated well
(significant and moderate to high relationships) with the revised factors. In addition, the five
factors remained stable across time and they are correlated with several indicators of ability
(see Watson & Glaser, 2008). In a metanalytic study conducted by Bernard et al. (2008),
13 different studies were used and the factors of the WGCTA were combined in pairs.
They found that the average correlation coefficients for each paired combination of the
WGCTA factors achieved convergence with a positive relationship (the overall the average
correlations ranged from a low of 0.17 to high of 0.40). They also interpreted that the five
major subtests are significantly heterogeneous.
The Present Study
The connection between approaches to learning and critical thinking is explained in
the 3P model by John Biggs. The model represents an integrated cycle or system, in which
components interact: Personal and situational presage factors exist prior to a given learning
situation; these factors influence the learning process, or the approach adopted by the
student to the learning task; which in turn influences the product, or outcomes of learning
(Biggs, 1993). Deep and surface approaches are considered as the approaches adapted by
the students to learn. The strategies used in deep and surface learning indicate ways in
which students relate to the learning material while the outcome can critical thinking. The
relationship between approaches to learning and critical thinking is not new. Dunn and
Musolino (2011) established the relationship between deep and surface approach to
learning with reflective thinking. Reflective thinking in the study is the process of making
critical judgment on events which is similar to critical thinking. However, a non-cognitive
measure for critical thinking was used in her study.

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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

Deep and surface approaches to study was derived from the original empirical
research by Marton and Slj (1976) and Entwistle and Ramsden (1983) and elaborated by
Biggs and among others. Although learners may be classified as deep and surface they
are not attributes of an individual, one person may use both approaches at different times,
although he or she may have preferences for one or the other. The use of deep approach
manifest high critical thinking skills that focuses on what is signified, relates knowledge to
new knowledge, relates and distinguishes evidence and arguments, organizes and structure
content into coherent whole and emphasis is internal, from within the students while the
use of surface approach shows low critical thinking that only focuses on signs (or on the
learning as a signifier of something else), focuses on unrelated parts of the task, information
for assessment is simple memorized, facts and concepts are associated unreflectively,
principles are not distinguished from examples, task is treated as an external imposition
and emphasis is external from the demands of assessment (Biggs, 1993). The present study
validates the functional use of approaches to learning in promoting critical thinking among
secondary education students.
There were 104 senior high school seniors students in a private school in the
Philippines. The participants came from three sections. The students were all in their
senior years enrolled in a private school and were undergoing the same curriculum.
To measure learning approach, the researcher used the Revised Learning Process
Questionnaire (R-LPQ) developed by Kember, Biggs, and Leung (2001). The
questionnaire consists of 22 items. It is provided with two approach scores (1) deep
approach and (2) surface approach. It uses a five point Likert scale ranging from always
or almost always true of me to never or only rarely true of me. The alpha coefficient
obtained is .71 for the combine scale and .62 for deep approach and .54 for surface
To measure the critical thinking, the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal
Test (WGCTA) was used which consist of series of tests exercises which require
application of some of the important abilities involved in critical thinking. The exercises
include problems, statements, arguments, and interpretations of data. It is a test of power
with no rigid time limit. The five subtests are as follows: Inference (samples ability to
discriminate among degrees of truth or falsity of interferences drawn from given data),
Recognition of Assumptions (samples ability to recognize unstated assumptions or
presuppositions which are taken for granted in given statements or assertions), Deduction
(samples ability to reason deductively from given statements or premises; to recognize the
relation of implication between propositions; to determine whether what may seem to be
an implication of necessary implication or necessary interference from given premises),
Interpretations (samples ability to weigh evidence and to distinguish between [a]
generalizations from given data that are not warranted beyond a reasonable doubt; [b]
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generalization which, although not absolutely certain or necessary, do seen to be warranted

beyond a reasonable doubt), Evaluation of Arguments (samples ability to distinguish
between arguments which are strong and relevant and those which are weak or irrelevant to
particular question at issue).
Data Gathering Procedure
The researcher met with the school principal of the private schools. The
participants were requested to answer the R-LPQ and the WGCTA. The measures were
completed done in one day. The researcher assured the students that the test is not part of
their grades.
The participants were allowed to ask questions regarding the tests and procedures.
The first test that was administered was the revised learning processes questionnaire. The
students were asked to respond to the items using a 5-point Likert scale. The respondents
were asked to complete the questionnaire during the administration of the test and
returned it to the researchers after completion.
After finishing the R-LPQ-2F the participants were given the Watson-Glaser in their
classes. The examiner assigned to have at least 10 minutes available to take care of the
actual working time and the times spent in giving directions, passing out materials, and
other preliminary activity before testing. After distributing all the necessary materials the
participants filled in the name and the other information required in the test. They are
further instructed to read carefully the directions for each set of the test and study the
example questions. For each question, the participant decides what they think is the best
answer. Their choice of answer is recorded by choosing the best answer in the appropriate
space before the number. After the administration of the tests, the participants were
debriefed about the purpose of the study and they were thanked for their effort.
Data Analysis
To determine the level of critical thinking and learning approach the mean and
standard deviation was obtained. To determine the relationship among the critical thinking
and learning approach factors, the Pearson r moment correlation coefficient was used.
Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) was used to test whether construct validity exist
between deep and surface approach and critical thinking as latent factors. It is proposed
that the three variables would attain factor convergence. Significant parameter estimates
should be produced to establish the relationship among the latent constructs. Parcels were
created as components under each latent constructs. The fit of the hypothesized model was
assessed by examining several fit indices including three absolute and one incremental fit
index. The minimum fit function chi-square, the Root Mean Square Error of
Approximation (RMSEA), and the Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR) are
absolute fit indices. The chi-square statistic (2) assessed the difference between the sample
covariance matrix and the implied covariance matrix from the hypothesized model. A
statistically non-significant 2 indicates adequate model fit. Because the 2 test is very
sensitive to large sample sizes (Hu & Bentler, 1995), additional absolute fit indices were
examined. As Hu and Bentler (1998) note, RMSEA is moderately sensitive to simple
model misspecification and very sensitive to complex model misspecification. They suggest
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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

that values of .06 or less indicate a close fit. On the other hand, SRMR is very sensitive to
simple model misspecification and moderately sensitive to complex model misspecification
(Hu & Bentler, 1998). Hu and Bentler (1999) suggest that adequate fit is represented by
values of .08 or less. In addition, two incremental fit indices-the comparative fit index (CFI)
and the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI)-were examined. The CFI and the TLI are moderately
sensitive to simple model misspecification and very sensitive to complex model
misspecification (Hu & Bentler, 1998). Hu and Bentler (1999) recommend a cutoff of .95
or greater for both the CFI and the TLI.
The means and standard deviations of the critical thinking and learning approach
with their subscales were first obtained.
The mean scores for deep and surface approach are within the middle range with
large variability. The mean scores showed that the participants scored above 50% correct in
the items of the critical thinking test except for the subtest on interpretation.
When the factors of approach to learning were correlated, a significant and positive
relationship existed between deep and surface approach (r=.51, p<.01). The same pattern
also occurred in the intercorrelations among the subtest of the critical thinking. However,
only the correlations between surface approach and interpretation was significant with a
negative magnitude. All other correlations between approach to learning and critical
thinking were not significant.
Table 1

Mean and Standard Deviation of Critical Thinking and Learning Approach

(1) Deep Approach
--(2) Surface Approach
--(3) Inference
--(4) Evaluation of Argument
(5) Recognition of Assumption -.06
(6) Interpretation
-.01 -.33** .11**
(7) Deduction
-.06 .20**
Cronbachs alpha

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--.15** 0.13**



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Parcel 2







Evaluation of







Parcel 2











Figure 1

Predicting Critical Thinking through Deep and Surface Approach to Learning

A Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was conducted to test the construct validity
of the approach to learning on critical thinking. The CFA results first showed that parcels
on both deep and surface approach were significant. The five subtests of critical thinking
were also significant. The contribution of deep and surface approach on critical thinking
was also significant. Both deep and surface approach increases the variability for explaining
critical thinking. Using a standardized estimate, the contribution (effect size) of surface
approach (.40) is larger than deep approach (.26) on critical thinking. The model attained
an adequate fit: RMSEA=.04, SRMR=.04, CFI=.96, and TLI=.93.
The results of the present study showed that there is a convergence between deep
and surface approach based on the zero-order correlation. It was also found that both deep
and surface approach to learning increase the variability in explaining critical thinking.
Given the concepts and difference between surface and deep approach to learning,
there is an expected understanding that divergence in this two constructs will be obtained.
Contrary to such expectation, the findings in the present study showed convergence of the
two constructs (r=.51, p<.01) with 31.36% explained variance. This convergence indicates
that there is a parallelism between the intention to reproduce (surface) and the intention to
understand (deep). It provides a perspective that both constructs are not opposites and they
can be both used to enhance each other. It starts that both approaches to learning are
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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

intentions and the learner can use them both when engaged in an academic tasks. When a
learner rehearses information to be memorized (surface), they may use elaboration and
integration of other ideas to attain understanding (deep). When it comes to instruction,
when memorization is encouraged in class, learners engage in specific strategies showing a
responsible choice of learning. Moreover, when learners read information to seek for
meaning they also engage in going over and over the materials when understanding is not
attained. These scenarios explain how both deep and surface approach can complement
each other.
The zero-order correlations showed that only interpretation among all other critical
thinking factors was correlated with surface approach to learning. More specifically, higher
engagement in surface approach decreases the ability to weigh evidences and deciding
whether obtained generalizations and conclusions are warranted. This relationship is the
only result in the study that supports previous findings on surface approach to learning. For
example, Quinita (1998) explains that learning approaches influences students learning
outcomes where surface approach may not facilitate an increased learning outcome. This
idea was supported in the present study but only for the skill on weighing evidences. This
skill on interpretation where majority of the participants did not get very high proportion of
correct answers (M=0.29) can be considered as difficult and requires a deeper strategy and
thought to be accomplished. He use of rote memorization, reproduction, and rehearsal was
not effective in allowing the learner to make such interpretation skills and thus warranted a
negative and significant relationship.
The present study based on the CFA showed that both deep and surface
approaches are useful in promoting critical thinking as a whole factor. Previous studies
explain that the learning outcomes of deep and surface approach are different (Hoon Goh,
& Chia, ????). More specifically, deep approach results to higher comprehension and
higher retention of knowledge as compared to learners who use surface approach. The
findings of the present study do not support this idea where surface approach can be used
to facilitate critical thinking in the same way as deep approach to learning. The study of
Magno (2009), where Filipino college learners are ale the participants, both deep and
surface approach facilitates metacognition and both were supported with increased school
ability. The findings of Watkins and Hattie (1985) were also consistent where Asian
students who use surface approach enhanced their understanding. These findings were
consistent in the present study, however, the outcome is critical thinking.
The present study reiterates the functional and useful aspect of surface approach
from the findings of Magno (2009) and Watkins and Hattie (1985). The use of rote
memorization, rehearsal, and reproduction does not result to decreased learning but in
may also facilitate learning such as the case of promoting critical thinking. Previous studies
explain that surface approach is produced because of excessive materials to be learned,
high contact hours in learning, lack of choice, and anxiety provoking assessment which is
very descriptive of the Asian education. These characteristics in teaching and students
experience allow them to use surface approach in a functional way that results in critical
thinking. The notion of the western perspective is that these scenarios may hamper better
learning outcomes. However, this perspective neglected to see how useful rote
memorization and rehearsal could be for Asian students. Previous studies by Magno (2009)
explains usefulness of surface approach in facilitating metacognition and the present study
banks on the same idea that surface approach contributes in developing critical thinking.
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January 2013, Vol. 12(2)

Surface approach to learning does not only facilitate awareness of learning (metacognition)
but contributes in the development of critical thinking as well.
Schools in the Philippines that aim at developing the critical thinking of secondary
education students can integrate successful execution of various skills to enhance their deep
approach to learning. Regardless whether the approach is deep or surface, they equally
contribute in developing critical thinking. This is better supported when teachers adapt
their strategies to students learning approaches in order to foster an equitable learning
environment that would enhance their critical thinking and use more deep approach as
their learning strategies. Teaching can be directed to enhance of students critical thinking
by using appropriate approaches to learning.
Assessment for learning approaches and critical thinking are necessary in order for
teachers to truly determine if these skills are present and how of them needs to be further
developed. Having assessed the level of critical thinking of students allows teacher to
determine the extent of instruction of deep approach needed when facilitating.
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About the Author
Dr. Carlo Magno is presently a faculty of the Counseling and Educational Psychology
Department at De La Salle University, in Manila, Philippines. Most of his researches focus
on assessment of student learning in the area of educational psychology.

2013 Time Taylor Academic Journals ISSN 2094-0734