Assessing Critical Thinking In Middle And High Schools

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 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.

{"id":"400","title":"","author":"","content":"<!--- \r\n<table width=\"200\" height=\"299\" cellspacing=\"1\" cellpadding=\"3\" border=\"0\" bgcolor=\"navy\" align=\"right\" summary=\"\">\r\n<tbody>\r\n<tr bgcolor=\"white\">\r\n<td valign=\"top\" style=\"background-image: url(http://www.criticalthinking.org/image/pimage/Testing-pencil1.jpg); background-repeat: no-repeat;\" _mce_style=\"background-image: url(http://www.criticalthinking.org/image/pimage/Testing-pencil1.jpg); background-repeat: no-repeat;\">\r\n<div align=\"center\"><font color=\"#ffffff\"><b>National Academy on </b></font><font ><br /> </font> <font color=\"#ffffff\"><b>Critical Thinking</b></font><br /> <font color=\"#000066\"><b>Testing and Assessment</b></font></div>\r\n<br /> <br />\r\n<div align=\"center\"><font ><b>How Can We Best Test and Assess Critical Thinking?</b></font><br /> <br /> <br /> <font ><b>A Three-Day Academy<br /> <font color=\"#808080\"><font color=\"#993300\"> September 11-13, 2007<br /> **this event has ended**</font><br /> </font></b></font><font color=\"#0000ff\"><b> <br /> <a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/conference/Testing-Assessment.cfm\" _mce_href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/conference/Testing-Assessment.cfm\" style=\"; font-weight: bold;\" _mce_style=\"font-weight: bold;\"><b>Click to Read More...</b></a><br /> <a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/store-page.cfm?PageID=630&CategoryID=1&P=conference&itemID=266\" _mce_href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/store-page.cfm?PageID=630&amp;CategoryID=1&amp;P=conference&amp;itemID=266\" style=\"; font-weight: bold;\" _mce_style=\"font-weight: bold;\"><b><br /> </b></a> </b></font></div>\r\n</td>\r\n</tr>\r\n</tbody>\r\n</table>\r\n--->\r\n<p><span><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/assessment/machine_test.cfm\"><img src=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/image/pimage/CT_Test_onlineAd.jpg\" alt=\"Critical ThinkingBasic Understandings Online Test\" hspace=\"5\" align=\"right\" /></a></span><span>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 thinking&hellip;). It is to improve students&rsquo; 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.</span></p>\r\n<p><span>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:</span></p>\r\n<ul>\r\n<li><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/White%20PaperAssessmentSept2007.pdf\" target=\"_blank\"><strong><span>Consequential Validity: Using Assessment to Drive Instruction</span></strong></a></li>\r\n</ul>\r\n<p><span>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). </span><br /> <span><br /> To this end, the fellows of the Foundation recommend:</span></p>\r\n<ol>\r\n<li><span>that academic institutions and units establish an oversight committee for critical thinking<br /> &nbsp;</span></li>\r\n<li><span>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).<br /> <br /> </span></li>\r\n</ol>\r\n<p><span><span style=\"color: #000099;\"><strong>The following instruments are available to generate evidence relevant to critical thinking teaching and learning:</strong></span></span></p>\r\n<ol type=\"1\">\r\n<li><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Course_Evaluation_Form.doc\"><strong>Course Evaluation Form:</strong></a> provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students perceive faculty as fostering critical thinking in instruction (course by course).&nbsp;Machine scoreable.</li>\r\n<li><strong>Critical Thinking Subtest: Analytic Reasoning:</strong> provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are able to reason analytically. Machine scoreable (currently being developed).</li>\r\n<li><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/online-critical-thinking-basic-concepts-test/679\"><strong>Critical Thinking: Concepts and Understandings:</strong></a> 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).&nbsp;Machine scoreable</li>\r\n<li><strong>Fair-mindedness Test:</strong>&nbsp;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).&nbsp;Machine scoreable. (currently being developed).</li>\r\n<li>&nbsp;<a style=\"font-weight: bold;\" href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/store/products/the-international-critical-thinking-reading-and-writing-test/257\">Critical Thinking Reading and Writing Test:</a> 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).&nbsp;Short Answer.</li>\r\n<li><a style=\"font-weight: bold;\" href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/assessment/ICAT-info.cfm\">International Critical Thinking Test:</a> provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, students are able to analyze and assess excerpts from textbooks or professional writing.&nbsp;Short Answer.</li>\r\n<li><strong><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Commission%20Study%20Appendix.PDF\">Commission Study Protocol for Interviewing Faculty Regarding Critical Thinking</a>: </strong>provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, critical thinking is being taught at a college or university (Can be adapted for High School).&nbsp;Based on the <a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/store/products/california-teacher-preparation-for-instruction-in-critical-thinking/147\">California Commission Study</a>.&nbsp;Short Answer.</li>\r\n<li><strong>Foundation for Critical Thinking <a style=\"font-weight: bold;\" href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/resources/PDF/Interview%20Questions%20for%20Teachers.pdf\">Protocol for Interviewing Faculty Regarding Critical Thinking</a>: </strong>provides evidence of whether, and to what extent, critical thinking is being taught at a college or university (Can be adapted for High School).&nbsp;Short Answer</li>\r\n<li><strong>Foundation for Critical Thinking <a style=\"font-weight: bold;\" href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/resources/PDF/Interview%20Questions%20for%20Students.pdf\">Protocol for Interviewing Students Regarding Critical Thinking</a>:</strong> 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).&nbsp;Short Answer.&nbsp;</li>\r\n<li><strong><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Criteria%20for%20CT%20Assignments.doc\">Criteria for critical thinking assignments.</a></strong>&nbsp; Can be used by faculty in designing classroom assignments or by administrators in assessing the extent to which faculty are fostering critical thinking.<a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Critical%20Thinking%20Grid.doc\"><br /> </a></li>\r\n<li><strong><a href=\"http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/Critical%20Thinking%20Grid.doc\">Rubrics for assessing student reasoning abilities</a>.</strong> A useful tool in assessing the extent to which students are reasoning well through course content. &nbsp; <span style=\"font-family: Arial;\"><span style=\"font-family: Arial;\"><br /> </span></span></li>\r\n</ol>\r\n<p>All of the above assessment instruments can be used as part of pre- and post- assessment strategies to gauge development over various time periods.</p>\r\n<p><br style=\"clear: both;\" /></p>","public_access":"1","public_downloads":"1","sku":"","files":[{"id":754,"filename":"data/pages/25/5d47996f9e66870c2e26307fc3feeb0a57d84a8f55f34.pdf","realfilename":"data/pages/25/5d47996f9e66870c2e26307fc3feeb0a57d84a8f55f34.pdf","title":"White Paper Assessment","order":0},{"id":755,"filename":"data/pages/0/f1932cf866b37b955d26368a3c8a22dc57d84a8f56ed3.doc","realfilename":"data/pages/0/f1932cf866b37b955d26368a3c8a22dc57d84a8f56ed3.doc","title":"Course_Evaluation_Form","order":1},{"id":756,"filename":"data/pages/18/418336441cd992e6f8c65c4ded7dbe2f57d84a8f579bc.doc","realfilename":"data/pages/18/418336441cd992e6f8c65c4ded7dbe2f57d84a8f579bc.doc","title":"Criteria for CT Assignments","order":2},{"id":757,"filename":"data/pages/75/70bf72d07d92201e3bb641a29070b28257d84a8f5849b.doc","realfilename":"data/pages/75/70bf72d07d92201e3bb641a29070b28257d84a8f5849b.doc","title":"Critical Thinking Grid","order":3},{"id":758,"filename":"data/pages/89/70c24f2faf54b6994d9f963f3b97cb6057d84a8f58ebe.pdf","realfilename":"data/pages/89/70c24f2faf54b6994d9f963f3b97cb6057d84a8f58ebe.pdf","title":"Interview Questions for Teachers","order":4}],"images":[]}

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.

{"id":401,"title":"Consequential Validity","author":"","content":"&lt;p&gt;&lt;br /&gt; 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, summariz&amp;shy;ing, 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.&lt;br style=\"clear: both;\" /&gt;&lt;/p&gt;","public_access":"1","public_downloads":"1","sku":"","files":{},"images":{}}



June 18 2014, Volume 1, Issue 5, No. 11

Driving Question:  What does meaningful assessment of 21st Century Skills look like?

"We'd like to call our first witness to the stand - Jim Jones, the paramedic who examined the body at the scene." As "Jim Jones" takes the witness stand, the "prosecutor" walks him through a series of questions relating to the murder mystery simulation students have been working on for the past couple of weeks. During that time, 6th graders have collaborated in small groups to examine evidence related to an alleged murder in order to put together a case against one of four suspects. Now they're presenting their cases in a grand jury format– hoping to receive a true bill by establishing probable cause. In order to do this, they've had to select and use evidence to support the scenario they developed, then figure out what witnesses they need and how those witnesses should testify in order to establish three key points: the victim is dead, the victim was murdered, and the victim was murdered by their suspect (establishing means, motive, and opportunity).

Once the final witness testifies and the prosecutor summarizes with a closing statement, the real fun begins as the grand jury members question individual witnesses, attempting to find weak points in the testimony that's been presented. It soon becomes apparent, as is often the case, that even though the group thought they had an air-tight case, there are some problems in what they've presented. The grand jury deliberates quickly, and then we process the trial as a class – going through the key elements point by point to analyze strengths and weaknesses.

These trials serve as a culminating project and summative assessment for the mystery unit developed for 6th graders in my Language Arts class, and each of the four mock trials provides an opportunity to assess students in a variety of ways. During this unit, students worked on Common Core standards as they read and viewed a variety of mysteries before participating in the simulation, making inferences using textual evidence, summarizing, comparing, and analyzing theme and plot. In addition, they've worked on many 21st Century Skills that can be assessed as they present their cases. Students who develop and present the particular case are assessed on their critical and creative thinking (investigating, inductive reasoning, constructing support) as well as communication and collaboration skills. Students who serve as grand jury members are assessed on critical thinking (analyzing errors) as they take notes while witnesses testify and figure out how and what to question in that stage of the proceedings. Students who observe and write up an analysis of the trial are assessed on critical thinking (analyzing errors, constructing support) and written communication skills. And the biggest payoff is that students are highly engaged throughout this entire process. In fact, they're as engaged as I ever see them in my classroom.

This raises a key question for me as an educator – am I the only one who can/should assess student performance? It's abundantly clear in this example that students are able to effectively assess their own performance, as well as the performance of their peers. During the case-building process, I model the testifying process and provide several opportunities for students to practice testifying and cross-examining, pointing out typical strategies and pitfalls. Students are also used to providing feedback to each other, and they do so regularly in the class, so they're comfortable with this process. As the trials unfold, each group quickly learns whether or not they've succeeded in their goal to establish probable cause, because problem areas become apparent once the grand jury members begin questioning witnesses. Grand jury members also learn whether they've overlooked key issues as the questioning unfolds. And during the whole group processing, students tell each other where the particular case was strong, where it was weak, and what they could have done differently to make it more compelling. This type of feedback and self-assessment has been shown to have significant impact on student performance, and this is a perfect opportunity for them to practice these skills in a real-life setting.

Obviously, this type of performance assessment may not always be possible, and there are times when I have to take over the role of evaluator. But I've worked on increasing the amount of peer and self-assessment that happens on a regular basis in my classes, because I've seen the impact it has on student performance and overall engagement. When students present to the entire class, they receive immediate feedback from a real audience they care about. When they read and respond to each other's writing about books they've read in an on-line forum, their audience expands beyond the teacher and includes real people with opinions about what they've written and how effectively they've communicated. When they participate in debates, inquiries, simulations, and mock trials, they take on real-life roles that require the application of key 21st Century skills – and provide opportunities for realistic and meaningful feedback from themselves and one another.

The goal of productive assessment is to provide specific, relevant, and informative feedback in order to help students achieve goals. When done effectively, it not only informs student performance, but also serves as a motivational tool to encourage them to go beyond where they already are. Clearly, including peer and self-assessment into regular practice, when done strategically, can help teachers meet their goals in educating and producing self-directed 21st Century learners who are able to think critically and creatively and communicate this thinking to others.

 


 Brian Bindschadler teaches at Orange Grove Middle School, Catalina Foothills School District, Tucson, AZ. 


Up Next: Engaged Learning: A Researcher's View

 

  

One thought on “Assessing Critical Thinking In Middle And High Schools

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *