Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: Critical thinking involves examining and reflecting on one’s own biases, assumptions, and thinking processes. Within occupational therapy (OT), critical thinking skills are foundational skills to support effective clinical reasoning and decision making; however, there is limited evidence on how these skills can be developed and applied within OT education to support positive student outcomes.

Purpose: The purpose of this research project was to explore the use of explicit instruction on critical thinking paired with concept mapping as teaching methods to support entry-level OT student mastery of content knowledge related to functional neuroanatomy. This study aimed to answer the following research questions: What is the effect of concept mapping and explicit teaching of critical thinking concepts compared to a traditional classroom lecture on students’ knowledge of neurological conditions? What are the perceptions of entry-level OT students on the use of concept mapping for learning about neurological conditions?

Theoretical Framework: This project was developed using the constructivism and cognitivism learning theories along with the Fink’s taxonomy of significant learning, which emphasize the importance of active, learner-centered teaching methods.

Methods: This study used a quasi-experimental design with a retrospective pre-post assessment after each intervention (lecture and concept mapping). The same group of participants was used for each condition, which included a convenience sample of first-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) graduate students enrolled in the course Functional Neuroanatomy at a university in the midwestern United States. Additional outcome measures included a survey of student perceptions on the use of concept mapping and assessment of student concept maps using a scoring rubric.

Results: Student self-assessment using a retrospective pretest-posttest indicated significant gains in knowledge following both the concept mapping activity and traditional lecture. Students reported a strong affective acceptance of concept mapping and found concept mapping easy to use.

Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that concept mapping is an effective instruction method for promoting mastery of content knowledge, making connections between different content areas, and visualizing the big picture. Given these findings, occupational therapy educators should consider incorporating concept mapping and critical thinking instruction into their courses and curriculum as a form of active, student-centered learning.

Faculty Mentor

Cassandra Ginn, OTD, OTR/L

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Allen Keener, OTD, OTR/L

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)