Canadian and Iranian Graduate Students' Conceptions of Critical Thinking: A Comparative Study


  • Farzaneh Ojaghi Shirmard Thompson Rivers University



Critical thinking, Canadian students, Iranian students, culture, higher education, comparative study, narrative inquiry


This study compares Canadian and Iranian international students’ conceptions of critical thinking during their graduate studies in Canada. Critical thinking is an essential skill in Canadian higher education. It enables students to make reasoned judgments from their observations and experimentation. This narrative inquiry using open-ended interviews describes the narratives of eight students from different master’s programs at a university in western Canada to examine their experiences and notions of critical thinking. The preliminary findings reveal that while all Canadian participants had knowledgeable perspectives about critical thinking, Iranian participants required more knowledge to build their critical thinking conceptualizations. Moreover, content knowledge, instructors’ competence, and teaching methods significantly influenced students’ critical thinking development. Results offer a comprehensive understanding of how Canadian higher institutions and curriculum developers need to provide appropriate opportunities and curricula for cultivating and developing critical thinking among local students while paying attention to Iranian students’ needs and academic preparedness.


Download data is not yet available.


Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston, Mass: Pearson Education.

Creswell, J. W., Guetterman, T. C. (2019). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (6th ed.). Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02805.x.

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Lexington, MA: Heath Publishing.

Ennis, R. H. (1985). A logical basis for measuring critical thinking skills. Educational Leadership, 43(2), 44-48.

Elliott, J. (2005). Using narrative in social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. London, UK: SAGE.

Ewert, D. E. (2011). ESL curriculum revision: Shifting paradigms for success. Journal of Basic Writing, 30(1), 5-33.

Eghbali, A., Salehi, A., Ghaedi, Y., & Mahmoudnia, A. (2021). A reflection on the basic features of emancipatory classroom components in higher education. Quarterly Journal of Research and Planning in Higher Education, 27(1), 27-50.

Facione, P. (1990). Critical Thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. Complete American Philosophical Association Delphi Research Report. Millbrae, CA: California Academic Press.

Fraser, H. (2004). Doing narrative research: Analysing personal stories line by line. Qualitative social work,3(2), 179-201.

Fillion, N. (2020). Developing core competencies with the ethics bowl: Perspectives from British Columbia. Detours: Social Science Education Research Journal, 1(1), 1-10.

Howe, E. R. (2003). Canadian and Japanese secondary teachers' values: A cross-cultural comparative study. Japanese Society, 6, 43-115.

Hashemi, A. S., Naderi, E., Shariatmadari, A., Seif Naraghi, M., & Mehrabi, M. (2010). Science production in Iranian educational system the use of critical thinking. International Journal of Instruction 3(1), 61- 76.

Howe, E. R., Xu, S. (2013). Transcultural teacher development within the dialectic of the global and local: Bridging gaps between East and West. Teaching and Teacher Education, 36, 33-43.

Hymel, S., Low, A., Starosta, L., Gill, R., & Schonert-Reichl, K. (2017). Promoting mental well-being through social-emotional learning in schools: Examples from British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 36(4), 97-107. doi:10.7870/cjcmh-2017-029

Islamiyah, M., & Sholakhuddin Al Fajri, M. (2020). Investigating Indonesian master’s students’ perception of critical thinking in academic writing in a British University. The Qualitative Report, 25(12), 4402-4422.

Jovchelovitch, S., Bauer, M. W. (2000). Narrative interviewing. London: LSE Research Online. Available online at

Lewis, A., & Smith, D. (1993). Defining higher order thinking. Theory Into Practice, 32(3), 131-137.

Miri, B., David, B. C., & Uri, Z. (2007). Purposely teaching for the promotion of higher-order thinking skills: A case of critical thinking. Research in Science Education 37(4), 353-369.

Mat Daud, N., Mat Daud, N. S., & Md Zamin, A. A. (2011). English teachers‟ language skills: Possible problems in the implementation of the Malaysian language policy. In N. Mat Daud, I. Sarudin, A. Jariah Muhamad, E. H. E. Ibrahim & K. Othman (Eds.), Language Studies in the Muslim World (pp. 57-82). Gombak: IIUM Press. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.3066.5601

Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (Vol. 41). Thousand Oaks, US: Sage publications.

O'Sullivan, M. W., & Guo, L. (2011). Critical thinking and Chinese international students: An east-west dialogue. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 5(2).

Paul, R. (1992). Critical thinking: What, why, and how. New Directions for Community Colleges, 77, 5-24.

Sternberg, R. J. (1986). Critical thinking: Its nature, measurement, and improvement. National Institute of Education.

Zare, P., & Othman, M. (2013). Classroom debate as a systematic teaching/learning approach. World Applied Sciences Journal, 28(11), 1506-1513.

Zhong, W. & Cheng, M. (2021). Developing critical thinking: experiences of Chinese international students in a post-1992 University in England. Chinese Education &Society, 54(3), 95–106.




How to Cite

Ojaghi Shirmard, F. (2023). Canadian and Iranian Graduate Students’ Conceptions of Critical Thinking: A Comparative Study. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 14(5A), 46–51.



2024 Emerging Scholar Summary - 16(6) 2024