Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


Nursing (Graduate)

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Zinsmeister, PhD, RN, CNE


Background: Many prelicensure nursing students lack the critical thinking abilities to safely care for patients in today’s healthcare environments. Concept mapping is an active learning strategy that emphasizes a visual relationship between concepts that have the potential to promote meaningful learning and development of critical thinking. Therefore, the purpose of this evidence-synthesizing project was to review and synthesize current evidence to determine the best practices in nursing education to promote critical thinking abilities in prelicensure nursing students.

Methods: A literature search was conducted using CINAHL, Education Source, and ERIC databases which resulted in seven articles selected for review. The evidence included full-text research evidence published in peer reviewed journals between 2013 to 2020 in the English language. The evidence was critiqued using the John’s Hopkins Evidence-based Nursing model and guidelines.

Results: The seven pieces of evidence revealed consistent results that support the use of concept mapping in nursing education to facilitate critical thinking in prelicensure nursing students. Three themes emerged from the evidence including making meaningful connections between theory and practice, combining pedagogies within nursing education, and a holistic viewpoint.

Implications: Nurse educators may use concept mapping to facilitate critical thinking, however combining concept mapping with other pedagogies and providing concept mapping education to students may provide additional benefits. Future research is warranted regarding the specific environment in which concept mapping should be used, other populations of interest, and the development of one holistic critical thinking measure.