2012. Vol.3, No.3, 369-374
Published Online June 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.33058
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 369
Integrating WebQuest into Chemistry Classroom Teaching to
Promote Students’ Critical Thinking
Qing Zhou1*, Leilei Ma1, Na Huang1, Qian Liang1, Huiji Yue2, Tao Peng1
1School of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China
2College of Physics and Information Technology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China
Received October 26th, 2011; revised November 20th, 2011; accepted December 15th, 2011
The WebQuest is a student-centered, inquiry-oriented and project-based approach for teaching and learn-
ing that students use Web resources to learn school topics. This article reports on the design, implementa-
tion and evaluation of a WebQuest teaching approach for chemistry classroom teaching in improving the
critical thinking of high school students. A pre- and post-test design was used where 4-month long-term
WebQuest teaching approach with five chemical topics was offered to 50 high school students aged
ranged from 16 to 17 years in Xidian Middle School attached to Xidian University in Shaanxi province of
China. The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) and the California Critical
Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) were employed as data collection tools. Both CCTDI and CCTST scores of
the participants showed significant differences (p < 0.05) between before and after WebQuest learning.
The subscale scores of CCTDI showed significant differences in all aspects of dispositions toward critical
thinking except open-mindedness and maturity. For CCTST subscales, the scores showed significant dif-
ferences in analysis and evaluation but in inference. These findings add to the evidence that integrating
WebQuest into science classroom teaching might be an effective way to develop high school students’
Keywords: Web-Based Learning; Critical Thinking; Computer-Based Learning; WebQuest; Chemistry
What Is a WebQuest?
Classrooms have been provided with increasingly easier ac-
cess to the Internet and teachers are challenged to create mean-
ingful Web-based learning activities. With the rich array of
resources such as up-to-date digital libraries, primary source
documents, museum exhibits, and multimedia presentations
about events, topics, and processes available on the Internet,
educators have been optimistic about the value of exposing
students to Web-based resources (McArthur & Lewis, 1998).
For example, exposure to current, authentic information uni-
quely available through Web sites can provide students with
environments that support inquiry-based and constructivist
learning (Oliver, 2000), improve student test performance, and
develop broader forms of social, cultural, and intellectual ca-
pacity (Guile, 1998).
The WebQuest is a computer-based teaching and learning
approach in which learners are actively involved in an activity
or situation and use the Internet as a resource. This approach
has students seek out information about a topic using Web-
based resources. Thus, teachers send learners on a quest for
information using the Word Wide Web. Likewise, Lamb and
Teclehaimanot (2004) claimed that WebQuest is a student-cen-
tered and project-based approach for teaching and learning,
which was rationally supported by a variety of theories, such as
constructivist philosophy, critical and creative thinking, situated
learning environments, cooperative learning, and engaged learn-
The WebQuest has become prominent in many educational
areas and has received considerable attention from teachers and
educators since Dodge (1998) developed it. Dodge defined two
types of WebQuests: short-term and long-term. Short-term Web-
Quest takes between one and three days to complete and gene-
rally introduce new ideas to students. Long-term WebQuest
take longer than three days to complete and generally build on
students’ existing knowledge. According to Dodge, the instruc-
tional goal of a short-term WebQuest is the acquisition and
integration of knowledge. At the end of a short-term WebQuest,
lasting one to three class periods, a learner should have gained a
significant amount of new information and made sense of it.
The instructional goal of a long-term WebQuest, however, is to
extend and refine the knowledge. After completing a long-term
WebQuest, a learner should have examined a body of knowle-
dge, transformed it in some way, and showed an understanding
of the material or knowledge gained by creating any kind of
work (for instance, defining a stance and defending it, design-
ning new WebQuests, and constructing new problems or tasks)
that others can respond to, online or offline.
Using WebQuests for inquiry-based learning represents an
advance technology which requires students to practice strate-
gies of searching, analyzing, and providing information. Ac-
cording to Dodge (2001) and March (2000), well-designed Web-
Quests—either short-term or long-term—consist of the follow-
ing six critical attributes, including introduction, task, resources,
processes, evaluation, and conclusion. In the introduction, the
Q. ZHOU ET AL.
topic is usually launched with some interesting background
information and a challenging authentic problem. Then a gen-
eral description of the assigned task is presented in the task
section. A set of Web sites that students can explore to com-
plete the task are provided in the resource section or embedded
in the process section, which provides detailed step-by-step
procedures that students should follow to complete the task.
The evaluation component describes the evaluation criteria,
usually in the format of a rubric, which will be used to assess
the students’ work. Conclusion brings closure to the quest,
reminds the learners about what they’ve learned, and encour-
ages them to extend the experience into other domains.
What Is Critical Thinking?
There are many different approaches to subcategorizing
thinking processes. For example, in Bloom’s Taxonomy the
cognitive domain is categorized into knowledge, comprehen-
sion, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Bloom et
al., 1956). Shiever (1991) and Baker and Baker (1994) provide
a longer list which includes compare and contrast, problem
identification and inferring. There are various definitions of
critical thinking, but basically it relates to one’s conscious ef-
fort in deciding what to do or to believe by focusing one’s
thought on it (Ennis & Norris, 1989; Wade & Tavris, 1993;
Jonassen, 2000; Zerba, 2001). Richard Paul (1995) defines cri-
tical thinking as “disciplined, self-directed thinking which ex-
emplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular
mode or domain of thinking” (p. 526). Weinstein (2000) pro-
poses a framework of critical thinking that includes: 1) skillful
thinking; 2) responsible thinking; 3) non-routine thinking; 4)
applying criteria; 5) self-correction; 6) sensitivity. According to
Ennis (1987) , the critical thinking has three major parts: a)
a critical thinking disposition; b) use of Bloom’s (1956) higher-
order thinking skills; and c) strategic problem solving abilities,
and a critical thinker should demonstrate some abilities and
dispositions. In his definition, Ennis distinguishes between skills
and dispositions. Critical thinking skills include: analyzing ar-
guments, judging credibility of sources, identifying the focus of
the issue, and answering and asking clarifying and/or challeng-
ing questions. The dispositions, according to Ennis define the
critical spirit. The critical spirit is what motivates critical think-
ers to apply critical thinking abilities to the thinking of others
and to their own thinking. Such dispositions include: Be pre-
pared to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or
question, willing to take the whole situation into account, pre-
pared to seek and offer reasons, amenable to being well in-
formed, willing to look for alternatives, and withholding judg-
ments when evidence and reasons are insufficient (Ennis, 1987,
1991; Kennedy, Fisher, & Ennis, 1991).
WebQuest and Critical Thinking?
Students’ critical thinking is a desirable outcome of learning,
and the cultivation of critical thinking has been one of the pri-
mary goals of education. Since acquiring critical thinking is
generally a longterm task, some scholars have suggested that
we should start from students and employ teaching strategy to
guide and induce student’s critical thinking (Miller & Malcolm,
1990; Yeh, 2001b; Yeh & Tasy, 2001). Many researchers found
that the utilization of computer and interactive multimedia as-
sisted teaching systems can cultivate student’s critical thinking
(Fishman, 1994; Sparks & Kuenz, 1993; Yeh, 2000; Yeh &
Chen, 2002; Yeh et al., 2002a, 2002b). It has been suggested
that one of the educational beneﬁts associated with Web-based
resources presentations is that in such tools knowledge is
net-structured rather than traditionally linear structured infor-
mation, so providing learners with greater ﬂexibility of usage
which can affect the individual’s critical thinking (Andrea et al.
2005). Learning through Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI)
systems contributes to facilitating knowledge acquisition and
improving attitude as well as behavioral tendencies.
The WebQuest characterized by Dodge (2001) is described
as a deep learning that involves constructing new knowledge
throughout a critical thinking process. Studies show that Web-
Quest learning is supported by four underlying constructs:
critical thinking, knowledge application, social skills, and scaf-
folded learning (e.g., Brucklacher & Gimbert, 1999; Dodge, 1995,
2001; Pohan et al., 1998); Some have embraced the WebQuest
strategy in class teaching and believe that it is effective because
it inspires critical thinking and contextualizes learning in a way
that was not previously possible (Vidoni & Maddux, 2002);
Vidoni et al. (2002) compared the characteristics of WebQuests
with Weinstein’s critical thinking theory and concluded that
“WebQuests meet all six of Weinstein’s key elements in critical
thinking and therefore are powerful tools for inspiring critical
thinking skills in students” (p. 101). According to Crocco, Mar-
garet Smith (2005), WebQuests can bring together important
elements of some much touted approaches to teaching and
learning, including critical thinking, cooperative learning, au-
thentic assessment, and technology integration. Kundu, Rina
and Bain, Christina (2006) described that teachers can design
WebQuests to eliminate some traditional obstacles to art-based
learning, expanding the types of inquiry that can be undertaken
in classes and enabling students to master materials through
problem solving and critical thinking.
Now days a lot of researches theoretically showed WebQuest
could inspire students to think critically about the world, how-
ever there is very little empirical findings on the effects of
WebQuests on development of students’ critical thinking. The
purpose of our study was to assess whether WebQuests in
chemistry classroom teaching can improve the students’ critical
A pre- and post-test experiment design was used to assess the
effects of WebQuest learning in chemistry topics on high
school students critical thinking dispositions and skills. Five
chemistry topics for WebQuests were chosen in experiment,
which were: “Ozone and hydrogen peroxide”, “Reasons for the
formation of acid rain, and its prevention”, “Inorganic non-
metallic materials” and “Periodic table of elements”, “The pre-
paration and applications of sulfuric acid”. Learners’ levels of
critical thinking were measured via the California Critical Think-
ing Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI) and the California Critical
Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) (Facione, 1990, 1992).
The experiment was conducted in Xidian Middle School at-
tached to Xidian University in Shaanxi province of China, whi-
ch have the best teaching and learning networks environment:
local area network, Internet environment, teaching management
system and also share the resources of the Xidian University of
Web resources. The number of spaces available in the computer
room led to small differences in the number of students placed
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Q. ZHOU ET AL.
in each group to provide students with a personalized, interac-
tive learning environment for cooperation.
The authors developed the WebQuests for four chemistry
teaching topics for the teacher and designed the details of the
WebQuest activity. The teacher taught the chosen chemistry
topics with the designed WebQuests and implementing the
WebQuest activity in classroom. The students involved in
WebQuests learning and were required to complete the CCTDI
test in the first 15 minutes, and subsequently the CCTST for the
next 45 minutes before and after the four month WebQuest
learning. The pre- and post-test were administered and scored
by the teacher.
Each designed WebQuest consisted of a Web courseware
containing six attributes as Dodge (2001) and March (2000),
which was introduction, project-based tasks, inquiry activity
procedures to complete the task, a teacher collection of Web-
based resources for exploration, evaluation criteria to assess the
students’ work and conclusion.
Take the topic “Ozone and hydrogen peroxide” for an exam-
ple to illusion the WebQuest teaching. First, teacher launched
the topic “Ozone and hydrogen peroxide” within a scenario that
was attractive and fun to the students and the students received
the technical instructions on navigating the WebQuest. Second,
a complex task was assigned to the students. Teacher opened
the courseware to guide students to browse the sites which re-
lated to the topic. Third, the participants worked in groups of
five (one group had ten members) to complete the assigned
tasks. The groups were allowed to browse the resources and use
Web sites teacher-selected based on the learners’ need to re-
trieve information, print materials with which to complete the
tasks, and collaborate with each other at their convenience.
Fourth, students explore their own under the guidance of teach-
ers to achieve the task, evaluate themselves. Fifth, participants
made oral presentations to compare and contrast what they have
accomplished. All students exchanged their views and discuss-
ed. The last was class discussion and teachers’ evaluation on
students’ work, and then make a conclusion.
The teacher was in the classroom at all times, occasionally
interacting with students and answering questions related to the
topics and also helped students with technical problems and
answered computer related questions. During four month time,
the teacher continued to lecture to the class the chemistry topics
under the networks environment. The other four topics were
lectured in the same mode of WebQuest project.
The subjects sampled in this study were 50 Grade 1 high
school students from Xi’dian Middle School aged from 16 to
17 years in Xidian Middle School attached to Xidian University
in Shaanxi province of China. They worked together through
the WebQuest project, listened to the lectures, took notes, occa-
sionally asked questions and discussed each other.
The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory
The CCTDI, developed by Facione and Facione (1996), is a
75 item Likert scale tool with a Cronbach’s alpha for the total
scale of 0.92. It has seven sub-scales: truth-seeking (12 items;
alpha 0.71), open-mindedness (12 items; alpha 0.73), analytic-
ity (11 items; alpha 0.72), systematicity (10 items; alpha 0.74),
critical thinking and self-confidence (10 items; alpha 0.78),
inquisitiveness (10 items; alpha 0.80) and maturity (10 items;
alpha 0.75). Total points from the seven sub-scales determine an
individual’s critical thinking disposition. A person receiving
less than a total of 280 points on the scale is taken to be of low
disposition for critical thinking while the critical thinking ten-
dency of a person receiving more than 350 points is high (Fa-
cione et al., 1994).
The Chinese version of the scale, which was translated and
tested for psychometric properties by Luo and Yang in 2001,
was used in this study. Offered by their report (2001), its
Cronbach α is 0.86, which is slightly lower than English ver-
sion with Cronbach α being 0.91. The validity index (CVI)
ranged from 0.35 to 0.40. Chinese and English CCTDI showed
similarity for content validity and reliability for inquisitiveness
(Luo & Yang, 2001). In terms of multisampling analysis, there
were equal forms across all subscales of the two versions.
The California Critical Thinking Skills Test
The CCTST was developed by Facione (1994), and is aimed
at college students, but is probably usable for advanced and
gifted high school students. It is a 34-item standardized multi-
ple-choice test, which measures the core of critical thinking
skills, reports an overall score of an individual’s critical think-
ing abilities and five subscales including analysis, evaluation,
inference, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning.
The Chinese-version CCTST (2002) yields an overall score
(0 - 34) on critical thinking skills, Pearson r = 0.63, p < 0.01,
r/2 = (0.75 - 0.80), p < 0.01, and three subscales: Analysis (A)
(0 - 9); Evaluation (E) (0 - 14); and Inference (Inf) (0 - 11),
which shows a good reliability, and good construct validity.
The primary outcome measure was the students’ critical
thinking disposition and critical thinking skills. The data were
analyzed using the SPSS16.0 for Windows versions. Paired
t-test analysis was employed to compare CCTDI and CCTST
scores before and after WebQuest project.
According to Luo and Yang (2001), an overall score of 280
is the average point of critical thinking disposition, overall
scores ranging from 280 to 350 indicate high-average and over-
all scores ranging from 210 to 280 indicate low-average. As
shown in Table 1, the subjects demonstrated the critical think-
ing dispositions, with an overall mean score of 289.84 (SD =
18.64) in the pretest and 305.02 (SD = 17.93) in the post-test,
indicating that both pre- and post-test overall critical thinking
disposition of the students attending are at high-average level.
A statistically significant difference was found between pre-
and post-test critical thinking disposition scores t = 3.950 (p <
0.001) (see Table 1) indicating that a long-term Webquests
learning for chemistry topics can promote high school students’
Table 2 shows the CCTDI subscale mean scores in the pre-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 371
Q. ZHOU ET AL.
and post-tests. According to Facione and Facione (1992), a sub-
scale score less than 40 indicates weakness in a given critical
thinking disposition. For the pre-test, there were three subscales
scores of Truth-Seeking, Systematicity and Maturity were be-
low 40, and four subscale scores of open-mindedness, analytic-
ity, systematicity and inquisitiveness were above 40. However,
for the post-test CCTDI, all subscale means were above 40.
Indicating that the WebQuest project have a positive effect on
the overall critical thinking disposition. As shown in Table 2,
the scores of sub-scales between before and after WebQuest
learning were statistically differences seen in the “truth-seeking,
t = 2.071 (p < 0.05), analyticity, t = 2.166 (p < 0.05), sys-
tematicity, t = 2.061 (p < 0.05), self-confidence, t = 2.119 (p <
0.05), inquisitiveness, t = 2.091 (p < 0.05)”. No significant
difference was found between the pre- and post-test for the
subscale of open-mindedness, t = 1.827 (p > 0.05) and maturity,
t = 0.387 (p > 0.05).
Figure 1 show the profiles for CCTDI subscale mean scores
in the pre- and post-test. No matter in pre- or post-test, the sub-
jects scored the weakest in the truth-seeking dispositions (see
Figure 1). From high to low in terms of pre-test scores, the
sequences were A > S > O > M > C (Analyticity, Systematicity,
Open-Mindedness, Maturity and Self-Conﬁdence). With the same
ranking scheme, the sequences for the post-test scores were A >
S > O > C > M (Analyticity, Systematicity, Open- Mindedness,
Self-Conﬁdence and Maturity). Compared to the pre- test, the
score of self-conﬁdence in the post-test was prompted by the
WebQuest learning significantly. It indicated that the stu-
dent-centered WebQuest approach can effectively promote high
school students’ self-confidence.
For both pre- and post-test, inquisitiveness scores is the
highest while truth seeking the lowest. This ﬁnding is in
agreement with those of other researchers such as Sanchez et al.
(1994), Facione et al. (1995), Colucciello (1997), Walsh and
Hardy (1999), Ip et al. (2000), and Yeh and Chen (2003). Even
though the subjects in this study have the lowest score in
Comparison of pre- and post-test on CCTDI scores.
n X ± sd t p
Pre-test 50 289.84 ± 18.64
Post-test 50 305.02 ± 17.93
Comparison of pre- and post-test on CCTDI subscale scores (N = 50).
Sub-scale Pre-test X ± sd Post-test X ± sd t p
Truth-seeking 37.39 ± 6.49 40.19 ± 6.39 −2.071*0.045
Open-mindedness 41.52 ± 5.58 43.58 ± 4.61 −1.827 0.075
Analyticity 45.04 ± 6.64 47.12 ± 5.71 −2.166*0.036
Systematicity 42.06 ± 5.59 44.58 ± 5.81 −2.061*0.045
Self-confidence 38.75 ± 5.89 40.98 ± 5.59 −2.119*0.040
Inquisitiveness 45.68 ± 5.96 48.14 ± 5.51 −2.091*0.043
Maturity 39.88 ± 6.08 40.44 ± 5.82 −0.387 0.701
Mean scores of CCTDI’s seven subscales for two times. Note: T = Tru-
th-Seeking; O = Open-Mindedness; A = Analyticity; S = Systematicity;
C = Self-Confidence; I = Inquisitiveness; M = Maturity.
truth-seeking, they made signiﬁcant improvements from pre- to
post-test. This ﬁnding indicates that the 4-month WebQuest
program might help the students to seek the truth and be willing
to solve problems using critical thinking instead of relying on
authoritatively correct answers.
As shown in Table 3, the critical thinking skills have an
overall mean score of 10.57 ± 3.10 in the pre-test and 12.53 ±
2.97 in the post-test. Compared with the data of the CCTST
manual provided by Luo and Yang (2002) (M = 15.98, SD =
4.457, n = 718), the critical thinking skills of the students at-
tending both the pre-test and post-test are at low level. However,
the post-test scores of critical thinking skills compared with
pre-survey ones had certainly enhanced, and t-test also showed
that there are statistically significant differences between the
overall scores for the two tests t = 2.859 (p < 0.01) (see Table
3). We also found that the relationship of three skills’ scores on
the CCTST (see Figure 2), no matter in pre- or post-test the
sequences were E > A > Inf (Analysis, Evaluation, Inference).
Compared to the pre-test, the subjects in the post-test had
higher scores of all three skills (Figure 2). There are statisti-
cally significant differences in the subscales of analysis, t =
2.083 (p < 0.05) and evaluation, t = 2.202 (p < 0.05). However
no significant differences were found between the pre- and
post-test for inference, t = 1.550 (p > 0.05) (see Table 4). The
results showed that students’ analysis and evaluation ability can
be promoted by WebQuest learning.
Comparing the results before and after the WebQuest learn-
ing, there exist signiﬁcant differences in both critical thinking
disposition and critical thinking skills. After the WebQuest
learning, for the critical thinking disposition, there were sig-
nificant differences in truth-seeking, analyticity, systematicity,
self-confidence, and inquisitiveness. Even though they made
signiﬁcant improvements in subscales of open-minded and
maturity from pre- to posttest, no significant differences were
found. And as well as the critical thinking skills, the results of
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Q. ZHOU ET AL.
Comparison of pre- and post-test on CCTST scores.
n X ± sd t p
Pre-test 50 10.57 ± 3.10
Post-test 50 12.53 ± 2.97
Note: p < 0.01.
Comparison of pre- and post-test on CCTST subscale scores (N = 50).
Sub-scale Pre-test X ± sd Post-test X ± sd t p
Analysis 3.59 ± 1.51 4.23 ± 1.21 −2.083*0.043
Evaluation 4.45 ± 1.69 5.23 ± 1.62 −2.202*0.033
Inference 2.53 ± 1.32 3.07 ± 1.44 −1.550 0.129
Note: p < 0.05.
Mean scores of CCTST’s three subscales for two times. Note: A = Ana-
lysis; E = Evaluation; Inf = Inference.
subscales showed significant differences in analysis and eva-
luation with the exception of inference. Overall, the results
corroborate findings from other studies (Yeh & Chen, 2003)
that found critical thinking is enhanced when WebQuest are
used in chemistry class teaching.
Students’ critical thinking is a desirable outcome of learning,
and the cultivation of critical thinking has always been one of
the primary goals of education. Contrast to the passive receiv-
ing knowledge from teacher-centered class, WebQuest which is
computer-based teaching and learning approach with internet
resources provides student with active, student-centered learn-
ing. The qualitative data of this paper suggest that integrating
Webquests into science classroom teaching might an effective
approach to promote students’ critical thinking.
We gratefully acknowledge for the support and collaboration
of the Class 4 Grade 1 high school participating students and
the chemistry teachers in the Xidian Middle School attached to
Xidian University, China.
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