This chapter provided a review of the scholarly literature relevant to this investigation into the study buddy activity. It began with a discussion of social constructivism as the theoretical foundation for the research. It demonstrated that Vygotsky’s theory of the zone of proximal development, which describes how students learn in social contexts, was foundational to cooperative learning theories, upon which this thesis research is based. The characteristics of cooperative learning were described in light of Slavin’s (2011) model of how cooperative learning activities affect student learning.
The next section was a discussion of critical thinking, including a description of the characteristics of critical thinking and a discussion of literature related to how critical thinking can be fostered in online higher education. A key concept in promoting critical thinking is the idea that students may take either a deep or a surface approach to their learning, depending upon various factors such as their personal learning preferences, their prior knowledge, and the characteristics of the design of the learning activities. The chapter concluded with a discussion of several scholarly reports that describe investigations into strategies for promoting critical thinking and deep approaches to learning in online higher education.