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How to Assess Critical Thinking

Assessing Critical Thinking

Developing appropriate testing and evaluation of students is an important part of building critical thinking practice into your teaching. If students know that you expect them to think critically on tests, and the necessary guidelines and preparation are given before hand, they are more likely to take a critical thinking approach to learning all course material. Design test items that require higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, rather than simple recall of facts; ask students to explain and justify all claims made; instruct them to make inferences or draw conclusions that go beyond given data. Essays and problems are the most obvious form of item to use for testing these skills, but well-constructed multiple-choice items can also work well. Consider carefully how you will evaluate and grade tests that require critical thinking and develop clear criteria that can be shared with the students.

In order to make informed decisions about student critical thinking and learning, you need to assess student performance and behavior in class as well as on tests and assignments. Paying careful attention to signs of inattention or frustration, and asking students to explain them, can provide much valuable information about what may need to change in your teaching approach; similarly, signs of strong engagement or interest can tell you a great deal about what you are doing well to get students to think. Brief classroom assessment instruments, such as asking students to write down the clearest and most confusing points for them in a class session, can be very helpful for collecting a lot of information quickly about student thinking and understanding.

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