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Critical Thinking Testing and Assessment


Critical ThinkingBasic Understandings Online TestThe purpose of assessment in instruction is improvement. The purpose of assessing instruction for critical thinking is improving the teaching of discipline based thinking (historical, biological, sociological, mathematical thinking…). It is to improve students’ abilities to think their way through content, using disciplined skill in reasoning. The more particular we can be about what we want students to learn about critical thinking, the better can we devise instruction with that particular end in view.

For deeper understanding of the relationship between critical thinking assessment and instruction, read the white paper on consequential validity by Richard Paul and Linda Elder:

The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers assessment instruments which share in the same general goal: to enable educators to gather evidence relevant to determining the extent to which instruction is teaching students to think critically (in the process of learning content).

To this end, the fellows of the Foundation recommend:

  1. that academic institutions and units establish an oversight committee for critical thinking
     
  2. that this oversight committee utilize a combination of assessment instruments (the more the better) to generate incentives for faculty (by providing the faculty with as much evidence as feasible of the actual state of instruction for critical thinking).

The following instruments are available to generate evidence relevant to critical thinking teaching and learning:

  1. Course Evaluation Form: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students perceive faculty as fostering critical thinking in instruction (course by course). Machine scoreable.
  2. Critical Thinking Subtest: Analytic Reasoning: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are able to reason analytically. Machine scoreable (currently being developed).
  3. Critical Thinking: Concepts and Understandings: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students understand the fundamental concepts embedded in critical thinking (and hence tests student readiness to think critically). Machine scoreable
  4. Fair-mindedness Test: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students can reason effectively between conflicting view points (and hence tests student ability to identify strong and weak arguments for conflicting positions in reasoning). Machine scoreable. (currently being developed).
  5.  Critical Thinking Reading and Writing Test: Provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students can read closely and write substantively (and hence tests student ability to read and write critically). Short Answer.
  6. International Critical Thinking Test: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are able to analyze and assess excerpts from textbooks or professional writing. Short Answer.
  7. Commission Study Protocol for Interviewing Faculty Regarding Critical Thinking: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, critical thinking is being taught at a college or university (Can be adapted for High School). Based on the California Commission Study. Short Answer.
  8. Foundation for Critical Thinking Protocol for Interviewing Faculty Regarding Critical Thinking: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, critical thinking is being taught at a college or university (Can be adapted for High School). Short Answer
  9. Foundation for Critical Thinking Protocol for Interviewing Students Regarding Critical Thinking: provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are learning to think critically at a college or university (Can be adapted for High School). Short Answer. 
  10. Criteria for critical thinking assignments.  Can be used by faculty in designing classroom assignments or by administrators in assessing the extent to which faculty are fostering critical thinking.
  11. Rubrics for assessing student reasoning abilities. A useful tool in assessing the extent to which students are reasoning well through course content.  

All of the above assessment instruments can be used as part of pre- and post- assessment strategies to gauge development over various time periods.



Consequential Validity


All of the above assessment instruments, when used appropriately and graded accurately, should lead to a high degree of consequential validity. In other words, the use of the instruments should cause teachers to teach in such a way as to foster critical thinking in their various subjects. In other words, for students to perform well on the various instruments, teachers will need to design instruction so that students can perform well on them. Students cannot become skilled in critical thinking without learning (first) the concepts and principles that underlie critical thinking and (second) applying them in a variety of forms of thinking: historical thinking, sociological thinking, biological thinking, etc. Students cannot become skilled in analyzing and assessing reasoning without practice in it. However, when they have routine practice in paraphrasing, summariz­ing, analyzing, and assessing, they will develop skills of mind requisite to the art of thinking well within any subject or discipline, not to mention thinking well within the various domains of human life.