Promoting students’ critical thinking (CT) has been an essential goal of higher education. However, despite the various attempts to make CT a primary focus of higher education, there is little agreement regarding the conditions under which instruction could result in greater CT outcomes. In this review, we systematically examined current empirical evidence and attempted to explain why some instructional interventions result in greater CT gains than others. Thirty three empirical studies were included in the review and features of the interventions of those individual studies were analyzed. Emphasis was given to the study features related to CT instructional approach, teaching strategy, student and teacher related characteristics, and CT measurement. The findings revealed that effectiveness of CT instruction is influenced by conditions in the instructional environment comprising the instructional variables (teaching strategies and CT instructional approaches), and to some extent by student-related variables (year level and prior academic performance). Moreover, the type of CT measures adopted (standardized vs. non-standardized) appear to influence evaluation of the effectiveness of CT interventions. The findings overall indicated that there is a shift towards embedding CT instruction within academic disciplines, but failed to support effectiveness of particular instructional strategies in fostering acquisition and transfer of CT skills. The main limitation in the current empirical evidence is the lack of systematic design of instructional interventions that are in line with empirically valid instructional design principles.