The 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, etc.) 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 we can devise instruction with that particular end in view.
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:
that academic institutions and units establish an oversight committee for critical thinking, and
that this oversight committee utilizes a combination of assessment instruments (the more the better) to generate incentives for faculty, by providing them 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:
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.
Online Critical Thinking Basic Concepts Test: 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.
Critical Thinking Reading and Writing Test: Provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students can read closely and write substantively (and hence tests students' abilities to read and write critically). Short-answer.
International Critical Thinking Essay Test: Provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are able to analyze and assess excerpts from textbooks or professional writing. Short-answer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 this light, 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 practicing 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.