Hello from Hampton Roads, Virginia. I’m Doug Wren, Educational Measurement & Assessment Specialist with Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) and Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations & Leadership at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.
While Socrates is known as the father of critical thinking (CT), the ability to think critically and solve problems has been in our DNA since our species began evolving approximately 200,000 years ago. Around the turn of this century, educational circles once again started talking about the importance of teaching CT skills, something good teachers have been doing all along. The Wall Street Journal reported businesses are increasingly seeking applicants who can think critically; however, many report that this skill is at a premium—arguably the result of teaching to the multiple-choice tests of the No Child Left Behind era.
Instruction at the lowest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy is quite easy compared to teaching higher-order thinking skills. Likewise, assessing memorization and comprehension is more straightforward than measuring CT, in part due to the complexity of the construct. A teacher who asks the right questions and knows her students should be able to evaluate their CT skills, but formal assessment of CT with larger groups is another matter.
Numerous tests and rubrics are available for educators, employers, and evaluators to measure general CT competencies. There are also assessments that purportedly measure CT skills associated with specific content areas and jobs. A search on Google using the words, “critical thinking test” (in quotation marks) returned over 140,000 results; about 50,000 results came back for “critical thinking rubric.” This doesn’t mean there are that many CT tests and rubrics, but no one should have to develop a CT instrument from scratch.
Hot Tip: If you plan to measure CT skills, peruse the literature and read about CT theory. Then find assessments that align with your purpose(s) for measuring CT. An instrument with demonstrated reliability and evidence of validity designed for a population that mirrors yours is best. If you create a new instrument or make major revisions to an existing one, be sure to pilot and field test on a sample from the intended population to confirm reliability and validity. Modify as needed.
Here are three different types of critical-thinking assessments:
- Insight Assessment reports that the California Critical Thinking Skills Test “is a dynamic family of tests – different versions for different age levels or professional fields.”
- The Council for Aid to Education offers two tests, the College and Work Readiness Assessment (CWRA+) and the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+). The CWRA+ is intended for middle and high school students; the CLA+ is for postsecondary students.
The author of the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment describes the test “as a means of assessing levels of critical thinking for ages 15 through adulthood.”
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