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Making Sense of Critical Thinking: What Is It? How Do We Teach It? How Do We Assess It? Randall Lennox Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

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Presentation on theme: "Making Sense of Critical Thinking: What Is It? How Do We Teach It? How Do We Assess It? Randall Lennox Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making Sense of Critical Thinking: What Is It? How Do We Teach It? How Do We Assess It? Randall Lennox Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Kent State University 48 th AIR Annual Forum Critical Thinking?

2 Presentation Overview ● How do institutions define critical thinking as a learning outcome? [In Progress] Theories of critical thinking development and implications for teaching critical thinking skills ● Critical thinking assessment

3 1995 Study from Sonoma State University Paul R.W., Elder L., & Bartell T. (1997). California Teacher Preparation for Instruction in Critical Thinking. Assessed current teaching practices and knowledge of critical thinking at colleges and universities throughout California and found that: Although 89 percent of the faculty surveyed claimed that critical thinking is a primary objective in their courses, – Only 19 percent could explain what critical thinking is, – And only 9 percent of these faculty were teaching critical thinking in any apparent way.

4 What am I looking for at other college and university sites? If critical thinking is a learning outcome (particularly at the institutional level), it should be clearly defined Methods of assessment and criteria for measurement should be identified clearly and succinctly Data should be available

5 Exemplar: University of Virginia Institutional Assessment and Studies

6 Why do I like the UVA site? Critical Thinking is clearly defined and goals and expected outcomes are identified Standards are provided Methodology is clearly described and results are reported on the website

7 Presentation Overview How do institutions define critical thinking as a learning outcome? [In Progress] Theories of critical thinking development and implications for teaching critical thinking skills Critical thinking assessment

8 What is Critical Thinking? “Critical thinking is the ability and disposition to improve one’s thinking by systematically subjecting it to rigorous self-assessment” (Elder & Paul, 1996). Critical thinking is “a form of thoughtful judgment or reflective decision-making” (Facione, 2004).

9 Critical Thinking Research Two landmark studies: 1) Facione, P.A. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. Pages 1–19 in Facione P.A., ed. The Delphi Report. Millbrae (CA): California Academic Press. 2) Paul R.W., Elder L., & Bartell T. (1997). California Teacher Preparation for Instruction in Critical Thinking: Research Findings and Policy Recommendations. Santa Rosa (CA): Foundation for Critical Thinking.

10 Facione's Model Facione, P. (2004). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts.

11 Facione’s Model (cont.)‏ Interpretation Categorization Decoding Significance Clarifying Meaning Analysis Examining Ideas Identifying Arguments Analyzing Arguments Evaluation Assessing Claims Assessing Arguments Inference Querying Evidence Conjecturing Alternatives Explanation Stating Results Justifying Procedures Presenting Arguments Self-Regulation Self-examination Self-correction Facione, P. (2004). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts.

12 Elder & Paul’s Model Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker Stage Six: The Master Thinker Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1996). Critical thinking: A stage theory of critical thinking.

13 Elder & Paul’s Model (cont.)‏ Stage One: The Unreflective Thinker –Unaware of role thinking plays in life –Lacks ability to assess one’s own thinking Stage Two: The Challenged Thinker –Aware that problems in thinking cause problems in life –Applies acquired thinking skills inconsistently Stage Three: The Beginning Thinker –Recognizes specific problems in one’s own thinking –Starts to understand and begin to change thinking Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1996). Critical thinking: A stage theory of critical thinking.

14 Elder & Paul’s Model (cont.)‏ Stage Four: The Practicing Thinker –Approaches problems globally and systematically –Actively analyzes one’s own thinking Stage Five: The Advanced Thinker –Good command over egocentric nature; fair-minded –Maintains a consistent high level of thinking Stage Six: The Master Thinker –Continually monitors and revises strategies for effective thinking across multiple domains Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1996). Critical thinking: A stage theory of critical thinking.

15 What is some of the research saying? More education = higher level of critical thinking skills (Onwuegbuzie, 2001)‏ Social sciences training > “hard” sciences training (Lehman, Lembert & Nisbett, 1988)‏ Attitude (e.g., “open-minded” and “confident”) = > development over time (Facione, 2004)‏ Critical thinking (measured by CCTST) correlates highly with GPA and reading skills among college students (Facione, 2004)‏

16 Teaching Critical Thinking Single Course Advantages: uniform, clear outcomes, expert faculty Disadvantages: where does it belong? where will responsibilities lie? what about funding? Integrated Advantages: across the curriculum, entire faculty community is involved Disadvantages: faculty need training on integrating and assessing

17 Exemplar: Bissell and Lemons (2006) A New Method for Assessing Critical Thinking in the Classroom Bissell, A.N. & Lemons, P.P. (2006). A New Method for Assessing Critical Thinking in the Classroom. Attempted to assess critical thinking skills in an Introduction to Biology course Used Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives Developed “an assessment methodology to enable the design of questions that clearly measure both the content we want students to know and the cognitive skills we want them to obtain”

18 Presentation Overview How do institutions define critical thinking as a learning outcome? [In Progress] Theories of critical thinking development and implications for teaching critical thinking skills Critical thinking assessment

19 How is Critical Thinking measured? There have been many assessments of critical thinking (dating back at least to 1941 with the work of Edward M. Glaser). Three well-known assessments: –Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Assessment (WGCTA)‏ –California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) and California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI)‏ –Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA)‏

20 Where to go for more info… The Critical Thinking Community (www.criticalthinking.org)‏www.criticalthinking.org Sonoma State University, California Critical Thinking on the Web (www.austhink.org/critical/)‏www.austhink.org/critical/ Austhink makes argument mapping software. Company founded by Dr. Tim van Gelder, University of Melbourne Indiana University Writing Program Summary of Critical Thinking Articles (http://www.indiana.edu/~cwp/lib/thkgbib.shtml)‏http://www.indiana.edu/~cwp/lib/thkgbib.shtml Articles from 80s and 90s, but annotated, so easy to browse as a starting point.

21 What comes next: Critical Thinking Research Clearer definition: A universal definition (if possible) would make teaching and assessment easier. More breadth of research: While substantial research exists on college students and critical thinking (both undergraduates and graduate students), a better understanding of development across the lifespan, including how critical thinking skills are acquired, would help.

22 What comes next: Teaching & Assessing Critical Thinking? Many colleges and universities have required writing intensive courses embedded into each field of study Perhaps there could be critical thinking intensive courses in each discipline, elevated to the same level of importance in the curriculum as writing, and support provided (special training, limited enrollments?) to encourage faculty in teaching and assessing critical thinking

23 References Bissell, A.N. & Lemons, P.P. (2006). A New Method for Assessing Critical Thinking in the Classroom. BioScience, 56(1), Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1996). Critical thinking: A stage theory of critical thinking: Part II. Journal of Developmental Education, 20(2), 34. Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1996). Critical thinking: A stage theory of critical thinking: Part I. Journal of Developmental Education, 20(1), 34. Facione, P. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruct. Executive summary: "The Delphi Report". Millbrae, CA: The California Academic Press. Facione, P. (2004). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. Millbrae, CA: The California Academic Press. Lehman, D. R., Lempert, R. O., & Nisbett, R. E. (1988). The effects of graduate training on reasoning: Formal discipline and thinking about everyday-life events. American Psychologist, 43(6), McMillan, J. H. (1987). Enhancing college students' critical thinking: A review of studies. Research in Higher Education, 26(1), Onwuegbuzie, A. (2001). Critical thinking skills: A comparison of doctoral- and master’s- level students. College Student Journal, 35(3), Paul R.W., Elder L., & Bartell T. (1997). California Teacher Preparation for Instruction in Critical Thinking: Research Findings and Policy Recommendations. Santa Rosa (CA): Foundation for Critical Thinking. Reynolds, J. (1996). Cognitive development theories can be tools in our classrooms. University Studies Today, Fall 1996, 3-4.

24 Thank you! For more information, Randall Lennox kent.edu This presentation is available online at


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