Articles on Assessment Critical Thinking 2

Here are two more articles that talk about assessment. 

Halpern, D. (2001). Assessing the effectiveness of critical thinking instruction. Best of the Journal of General Education: Featuring Articles from 1984–2000, 270-286.

Halpern provides a brief justification for why we teach critical thinking and how important it is. She lists 19 thinking skills that most courses draw from if they purport to enhance CT, e.g., reading with a high level of comprehension, using analogies, restructuring problems, planning a course of action.

Before launching into a survey of ways that CT is assessed, she cautions that any test must be sensitive enough to pick up subtle changes in students’ thinking abilities and in their disposition to think critically, e.g., a willingness to suspend judgment to consider information that would go against their thinking.

Halpern then outlines the various issues that surround a reliable assessment of critical thinking including who is tested and when, as well as which courses and activities contribute to critical thinking. She concludes that critical thinking can and should be taught in college, as its effects will benefit the students and businesses for years to come.

My question is why we wait until college to embark on teaching such a vital skill.

For further reading, see the 2013 issue of Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, 28(3), with several articles critiquing the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment (HCTA) and her reply.

Ikuenobe, P. (2001). Teaching and assessing critical thinking abilities as outcomes in an informal logic course. Teaching in Higher Education, 6(1), 19-32.

Many believe that informal logic and critical thinking intersect. Ikuenobe agrees but adds that although learning logical principles of reasoning is necessary for critical thinking, they are not sufficient because courses in informal logic do not clearly state outcomes. The article advances detailed abstract principles in informal logic that are also applicable to critical thinking, as well as the five developmental stages they are divided into for teaching, from the more passive skill of identifying to the more active ones of articulating, constructing, and evaluating argument structures.

Ikuenobe outlines in great detail what elements go into each of these stages and lists outcomes that can be turned into assessments, e.g., in Level 1, “They are able to identify statements, other kinds of sentences, arguments and …identify premises and conclusions in different texts” (p. 29). Level 5, however, involves the open-ended criterion of “applying general logical principles to the context of a subject matter” (p. 30).

While comprehensive, the article assumes intimate knowledge of informal logic and how to teach it, for instance, analyzing argument structure. The article is useful in helping us understand how informal logic and critical thinking might overlap. But the title might be a bit misleading in that it does not give any information on how to teach any of these skills. Perhaps most useful is the opportunity it provides those teaching critical thinking to see how their efforts jibe with the tenets of informal logic so they can build a few of those elements into their curriculum.

Published by Nancy Burkhalter

I am in love with words. Trained as a linguist, journalist and researcher, I write, teach writing, and research everything about writing, especially how writing aids critical thinking. I've taught around the world, including three years in Kazakhstan, and a year each in Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.

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