Measuring Critical Thinking

In 2009—the same year articles in an Educational Leadership issue on "Teaching for the 21st Century" recommended that schools assess key 21st century skills—our school district in southeastern Virginia began creating a large-scale performance assessment to gauge students' critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

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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.

Because our strategic plan focused on "teaching and assessing those skills our students need to thrive as 21st century learners, workers, and citizens" (Virginia Beach City Public Schools, 2008).

And, although we'd created instructional opportunities for students to acquire 21st century skills, we had no way to measure students' performance on these skills districtwide.

The most effective way to measure critical thinking is to use a validated critical thinking skills test to assess the skills used to solve problems and make decisions AND to use a critical thinking mindset measure to assess the level of the person's consistent internal motivation or willingness to use his or her critical thinking skills when it counts in decision making.

Costly mistakes and poor judgments might be the result of deficient thinking skills, but an equally likely cause is a mindset that predisposes the decision-maker to biased, hasty or superficial analysis of the situation at hand.

A student should be able to develop their own perspective of the material.

Justifying this position and recognizing what bias they might be bringing to it are advanced skills.

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