Analyzing online discussion data for understanding the student's critical thinking

Juan Yang, Xu Du, Jui Long Hung, Chih hsiung Tu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: Critical thinking is considered important in psychological science because it enables students to make effective decisions and optimizes their performance. Aiming at the challenges and issues of understanding the student's critical thinking, the objective of this study is to analyze online discussion data through an advanced multi-feature fusion modeling (MFFM) approach for automatically and accurately understanding the student's critical thinking levels. Design/methodology/approach: An advanced MFFM approach is proposed in this study. Specifically, with considering the time-series characteristic and the high correlations between adjacent words in discussion contents, the long short-term memory–convolutional neural network (LSTM-CNN) architecture is proposed to extract deep semantic features, and then these semantic features are combined with linguistic and psychological knowledge generated by the LIWC2015 tool as the inputs of full-connected layers to automatically and accurately predict students' critical thinking levels that are hidden in online discussion data. Findings: A series of experiments with 94 students' 7,691 posts were conducted to verify the effectiveness of the proposed approach. The experimental results show that the proposed MFFM approach that combines two types of textual features outperforms baseline methods, and the semantic-based padding can further improve the prediction performance of MFFM. It can achieve 0.8205 overall accuracy and 0.6172 F1 score for the “high” category on the validation dataset. Furthermore, it is found that the semantic features extracted by LSTM-CNN are more powerful for identifying self-introduction or off-topic discussions, while the linguistic, as well as psychological features, can better distinguish the discussion posts with the highest critical thinking level. Originality/value: With the support of the proposed MFFM approach, online teachers can conveniently and effectively understand the interaction quality of online discussions, which can support instructional decision-making to better promote the student's knowledge construction process and improve learning performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-326
Number of pages24
JournalData Technologies and Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • Critical thinking
  • Instructional decision-making
  • Multi-feature fusion
  • Online discussion
  • Predictive modeling
  • Text mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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