This study investigates the impact of three different instructional models, direct instructional model (DIM), experiential learning model (ELM), and their combinations (DIM-ELM) on enhancing critical thinking, metacognition, and conceptual understanding in an introductory physics course. The study included 84 first-year pre-engineering students aged 18-24 years who were enrolled in the introductory physics course at two public science and technology universities in Ethiopia. A quasi-experimental design was used with three intact classes randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: ELM, DIM, and DIM-ELM. The instruments used to measure the outcomes were the critical thinking test in electricity and magnetism, electricity and magnetism conceptual assessment, and metacognitive awareness and regulation scale in electricity and magnetism. The study used one-way analysis of covariance to examine the impact of instructional models on students’ conceptual understanding and critical thinking on the topic of electricity and magnetism, while a one-way analysis of variance was used to analyze the effects of instructional models on metacognition. Results showed that ELM was more effective than DIM and DIM-ELM in enhancing post-test conceptual understanding scores. ELM was also more effective than DIM-ELM method in improving post-test critical thinking scores, with the DIM-ELM showing better results than DIM. However, there were no significant differences in the effects of instructional approaches on metacognition. These findings suggest that ELM may be more effective than DIM and DIM-ELM in improving students’ conceptual understanding and critical thinking in physics.
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