Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests

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There are three important questions regarding what the Collegiate Learning Assessment CLA measures. and why it is important First what is the rationale for assessing critical thinking skills2 independently as. compared to academic disciplines Second are there unavoidable interaction effects between measures. of critical thinking skills and academic disciplines In other words do students in some disciplines do. better on performance assessments the constructed response tests the CLA uses to measure critical. thinking skills than others Third what evidence is there that these skills can be measured and are of. practical use Below are CAE s answers to these questions. The Rationale for Critical Thinking Skills, Critical thinking skills defined as analytic reasoning quantitative reasoning problem solving and. writing fill an important gap not dealt with by academic majors Students major in disciplines that faculty. are organized within and support It is perhaps natural that faculty view their respective disciplines as. the core products of undergraduate education However in recent decades interest in improving critical. thinking skills has increased significantly Definitions of knowledge and learning increasingly focus on. the ability to apply learned skills to new situations 3 In today s global Knowledge Economy the ability to. access structure and use information becomes more essential than merely having command of specific. discipline based content Thus a central focus of undergraduate education is teaching and improving. critical thinking skills both independently and within disciplines. If there is merit to focusing on critical thinking skills examining them only within the context of disciplines. of inquiry or through analytic constructs such as the humanities natural sciences physical sciences or. social sciences commits what statisticians call the individualistic fallacy4 the parts do not add up to. define undergraduate education as a whole for students This is because the development of these core. cognitive skills is a joint product of the courses and experiences students encounter over their four years. of undergraduate study Moreover because there is a holistic quality about these cognitive skills it is. important to assess them with measurement instruments that are able to capture their holistic quality. Performance assessments are able to carry out this task Multiple choice tests alone do not. Potential Interaction Effects Between,Critical Thinking Skills and Academic Major. Questions remain as to whether critical thinking skills are independent from discipline based skills. There are also arguments claiming that these skills cannot be measured independently from academic. disciplines 5 The following logic is used in CLA Performance Tasks. As an example consider a teacher who instructs students in her chemistry course on how to assess the. characteristics of different substances such as how they each respond to fire the so called flame. test The instructor then gives each student a different unknown and asks him or her to determine its. chemical composition Students are evaluated not only on their ability to figure out what the unknown. substance is but also on the appropriateness of the tests they ran the sequence of those tests and the. rationale for their decisions and conclusion, This unknown substance test certainly requires substantive and procedural knowledge of chemistry. such as how to run a flame test but it also assesses generic problem solving and reasoning skills So. a task that provides students with the knowledge they need in the figures graphs technical reports. and newspaper articles in the Document Library can focus on assessing critical thinking That is what. the CLA does and why there is no empirical interaction between the substantive context setting for a. performance task prompt and an examinee s academic major The performance task format structure. and approach do a good job of isolating the skills and abilities we want to measure. Two peer reviewed papers present corroborative evidence to support this point In the first paper S Klein. et al 2008 discuss findings by R Shavelson on the interaction between performance task content and. Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests 1. academic majors Klein and colleagues noted how Shavelson 2010 investigated this issue using college. seniors who took a CLA Performance Task during spring 2007 Each performance task was assigned to one. of three content areas science social science or the humanities Students self identified the area of their. major as science and engineering social science humanities or other Ultimately Shavelson constructed. five student level regression equations using combinations of measures of the students entering. academic ability the SAT and indicator variables for task area and academic major area to predict CLA. scores When SAT scores are included in the model other variables have almost no effect on predictive. accuracy A more recent study using data from 12 632 graduating seniors from 236 four year institutions. in the United States corroborates Shavelson s findings Steedle Bradley 2012 In this study there were. no significant interactions between CLA Performance Tasks and academic disciplines This does not mean. that what one studies has no effect on performance on tests of critical thinking Overall Steedle and. Bradley 2012 and Arum and Roksa 2011 find that students who majored in disciplines in the arts and. sciences including the humanities foreign languages physical and natural sciences mathematics and. engineering did better than academic majors in applied professional fields such as health education. and business In other words students majoring in the arts and sciences tend to do better on all of the. performance tasks than do students in applied professional fields However science majors do not do. better on performance tasks set in a science context than they do on performance tasks set in a business. context Why might arts and science or engineering students do better on performance tasks overall. One hypothesis is that there is more writing and analysis required of students in those fields. What Evidence is there to Demonstrate,that Measuring Critical Thinking Skills Has. Practical Uses for Colleges and Universities, Let us examine whether empirical results of critical thinking skills tests are of practical utility for the.
post secondary education sector To set the stage many readers may be familiar with the controversial. findings of Academically Adrift Arum Roksa 2011 and the extended commentary about its findings. that called into question whether college was fostering sufficient learning by students This study was. in part based on a sample of 25 colleges and universities that tested students longitudinally with CLA. Performance Tasks over a four year period 6 If we can shed further light on this issue it may help advance. our views on this subject and other related subjects to improve student learning 7. Table 1 presents the effect size statistics for all the colleges and universities testing with the CLA between. the 2005 06 and 2011 12 academic years 8 Effect size is a simple way of quantifying the difference. between two groups Cole 2002 In this case a sample of graduating seniors is compared to a sample of. entering freshmen The data are aggregated at the institutional level which is the most appropriate way to. analyze CLA results because the CLA protocol relies upon a matrix sampling approach Each student takes. either a performance task or an analytic writing task comprised of make an argument and critique an. argument prompts but not both Therefore the results are not reliable at the student level but are reliable. at the institutional level,The results are noteworthy for several reasons. 1 The average effect size reflecting differences in CLA performance between entering freshmen and. graduating seniors was 73 over several test administrations The distribution of effect sizes shown in. Figure 1 suggests two things that CLA scores increase over the course of college and that some colleges. contribute significantly more than others in terms of learning The distribu tion of value added scores. shown in Figure 2 corroborates the latter point note that value added scores are set to have a mean of 0. and a standard deviation of 1, 2 Most importantly the symmetric bell shaped curves of Figures 1 and 2 present a balanced picture. of the collegiate landscape of student learning Institutions with very low effect sizes or value added. Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests 2. scores are in precarious territory but there are also significant numbers of institutions with high growth. measures that are clear candidates for best practice investigations The results suggest that it is time to. implement a portfolio of studies aimed at understanding the pedagogical practices of the institutions in. the high end of the bell shaped curves 9, 3 This distribution can be used to continually gauge acquisition of critical thinking and writing skills. Regardless of whether institutions are above or below the average effect size or value added score why. not commit to shift the entire distribution upward by 10 over five years then another 10 and so on. CLA Effect Size Statistics All schools 2005 2012,Percentile Score Range. Year N Mean St Dev,25th 75th Lower Upper,2011 12 158 0 78 0 51 0 48 1 06 0 76 2 30.
2010 11 180 0 77 0 42 0 50 1 04 0 23 1 84,2009 10 150 0 70 0 41 0 43 0 90 0 34 2 21. 2008 09 167 0 73 0 37 0 48 0 97 0 09 1 92,2007 08 167 0 69 0 40 0 45 0 93 0 39 2 11. 2006 07 108 0 71 0 48 0 37 1 00 0 58 2 05,2005 06 108 0 70 0 48 0 42 1 02 1 02 1 77. Average 148 0 73 0 44 0 44 0 99 0 49 2 03,All Years 103 0 73 0 44 0 44 0 99 1 02 2 30. Table 1 shaded area corresponds with Figure 1,1 2 0 8 0 4 0 00 4 0 81 2 1 62 0 2 4.
Figure 1 histogram of effect size across all institutions testing. between 2005 and 2012 n 1038, Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests 3. CLA Value Added Score Statistics 2009 2012,Percentile Score Range. Year N Mean St Dev,25th 75th Lower Upper,2011 12 150 0 01 0 97 56 0 64 2 88 2 58. 2010 11 176 0 00 0 98 57 0 74 2 81 2 74,2009 10 155 0 01 1 00 56 0 71 2 75 4 34. Average 160 0 01 0 98 56 0 69 2 81 3 22,All Years 481 0 01 0 98 56 0 70 2 88 4 34.
Table 2 shaded area corresponds with Figure 2,3 0 2 5 2 0 1 5 1 0 0 5 0 00 5 1 01 5 2 02 5 3 0. Value Added Scores, Figure 2 histogram of value added scores across all. institutions testing between 2009 and 2012 n 481,Conclusion. Entrants to today s work force can expect to change jobs several times over the course of their career. The skills required for specific jobs are likely to change quickly as well In contrast the importance of. the core critical thinking skills is enduring There are additional core cognitive skills such as leadership. teamwork and moral decision making worthy of measuring as soon as it can be demonstrated that they. can be measured reliably Over time research will attempt to broaden the reach of the core cognitive. skills measured However we have made a good start Critical thinking skills at the heart of virtually. all definitions of core cognitive skills can be measured and measured in a way that is independent. from academic disciplines The tables and figures presented here show that college matters significantly. and that some colleges and universities exhibit more impact on the growth of critical thinking skills than. others This means there is a wide canvas for faculty and administrators to study best practices to improve. teaching and learning, In conclusion CLA results can be usefully applied to improve educational programs The CLA is a. standardized test a test administered in the same conditions for all examinees and it is often the belief. that such assessments are not useful for improving classroom instruction However there is increasing. evidence that performance tasks like those included in the CLA can play an important role in classroom. learning and assessment Chun 2010 This is important because in order for faculty to take assessment. seriously they must consider assessment instruments as authentic and useful to them in the classroom. Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests 4. References, Arum R Roksa J 2011 Academically Adrift Limited Learning on College Campuses Chicago Ill University of Chicago Press.
Banta T Pike G 2012 Making the Case Against One More Time National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. NILOA Occasional Paper 15 September 24 30, Benjamin R Klein S Steedle J Zahner D Elliot S Patterson J 2012 The Case for Generic Skills and Performance. Assessment in the United States and International Settings www cae org. Bransford J Brown A Cocking R eds How People Learn Washington D C National Academy Press. Cole R 2002 It s The Effect Size Stupid What effect size is and why it is important Paper presented at the Annual. Conference of the British Educational Research Association Exeter England University of Exeter. Ewell P 2012 A World of Assessment OECD s AHELO Initiative Change September October 35 42. Keeling R Hersh R 2011 We re Losing Our Minds Rethinking American Higher Education New York Palgrave McMillan. Klein S Freedman D Bolus R 2008 Assessing School Effectiveness Evaluation Review 32 6 511 525. Three Principle Questions About Critical Thinking Tests 1 Dr Roger Benjamin President of the Council for Aid to Education Three Princile uestions Aout CriticalThining Tests 1 There are three important questions regarding what the Collegiate Learning Assessment CLA measures and why it is important First what is the rationale for assessing critical thinking skills 2 independently as

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