Mazer, J., Hunt, S., Kuznekoff, J. (2007). Revising general education: Assessing a critical thinking instructional model in the basic communication course. The Journal of General Education, 56(3&4), 173-199.

In this article the authors describe their program and the courses where their critical thinking model is used. They also define critical thinking (as that is very important to do before embarking on any kind of assessment) and report on an experiment where they compare two CT instructional models for two Communications 110 courses, one current and one proposed. For assessment, they used two measurements. The first is a 17-item Likert scale for self assessment developed by Halpern (1996)1 and the second is a test specific to the content of the course. There were 10 multiple choice questions that measured students’ recognition of arguments, evidence, and fallacies.

This paper is useful for anyone wanting to see how CT is used in communication courses. Authors state that CT instruction is most effective when housed within a content course, such as a basic communication course, and applied to specific assignments” (p. 176). Moreover, there are many sources listed that address these important issues.

The research instrument used, as self-assessment tool which they call the CTSA, or the Critical Thinking Self Assessment, is

1Halpern, D. (1996). Thinking critically about critical thinking. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

The authors have graciously granted me permission to publish the self-assessment instrument used in their study (with some modifications), as it is not included in the article.

Critical Thinking Self Assessment (CTSA) (printed with permission from Stephen Hunt)

 Directions: This questionnaire is designed to help you examine your own skills by asking you to describe how you interact with things you read and hear. Doing this accurately can help you know what skills you need to work on and what skills you have already developed. Your answers will not affect your grade in any way; so be honest with yourself. Think about times when you have seen or heard professionally-produced articles, stories, videos, books, speeches, or sermons that were designed to persuade you to believe something. Consider only those times when you paid attention. Using these recollections, and recollections about your own writing and speaking, please answer the following questions as honestly as you can. Please circle the appropriate response using the scale below (1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = frequently, 5 = always)

Never Rarely Sometimes Frequently Always
1. When I read or hear items like those described above, I am able to get the point. 1 2 3 4 5
2. I am able to follow a fairly complex line of argument, so that I can tell which things are offered in support of which other things, and how it’s all supposed to fit together. 1 2 3 4 5
3. After reading or hearing someone’s line of argument on an issue, I can give an accurate, detailed summary of how the line of argument went. 1 2 3 4 5
4. I feel confident about deciding whether it is reasonable to believe a piece of evidence or a reason used in support of a conclusion. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I can tell when there are logical holes in the reasoning that is supposed to connect a conclusion and the reasons being used to support that conclusion. 1 2 3 4 5
6. I know how to tell the difference between a credible source and a garbage source of information or ideas. 1 2 3 4 5
7. I look for the hidden assumptions that are often present in an argument. 1 2 3 4 5
8. When I read reliable statistics that show two factors rise and fall together, I recognize that it doesn’t necessarily mean one caused the other. 1 2 3 4 5
9. When I evaluate someone else’s line of thinking, I consider their arguments rather than just deciding whether I agree with their conclusions. 1 2 3 4 5

Portfolio Assignment

Never Rarely Sometimes Frequently Always
10. I know how to go about deciding how strong an argument really is. 1 2 3 4 5
11. I am able to come up with acceptable reasons or evidence to support my conclusions when I write or give organized oral presentations. 1 2 3 4 5
12. When I write an essay or give a talk I try to respond carefully to possible significant objections to my positions. 1 2 3 4 5
13. I am able to construct an organized, logical argument that stays on topic. 1 2 3 4 5
14. When I present an argument for a position, other people can follow what I’m saying. 1 2 3 4 5
15. When there are good arguments for contrary views on a subject, I know how to evaluate them and come up with the best conclusion. 1 2 3 4 5
16. I am willing to take the time and make the effort to think through an argument carefully before deciding what I think about it. 1 2 3 4 5
17. I enjoy thinking through an issue and coming up with strong arguments about it. 1 2 3 4 5

In order to obtain a score, simply sum all 17 items. Your CTSA score ______.  Look back over your answers. Do you see any patterns of weaknesses or strengths? You can compare your score on the CTSA to other ISU students’ using the percentile chart below (the average beginning of semester CTSA score in a previous sample of ISU students was 64.11).

                  Percentiles                  Score

25                             60.00

50                             63.00

75                             69.00

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s