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Critical thinking and hoops

Critical thinking: Are you born with it or can you learn it?

Leaders in business and the armed services frequently ask, is critical thinking something we are born with or it is something that can be taught and learned? That question reminds me of basketball. I'll tell why in a moment.

Children can develop critical thinking everyday

But first, you have to agree that we all can see some evidence in children, including preschoolers, of the development of critical thinking when they engage in their everyday problem solving and decision making. We notice that they are quick to learn which strategies work and which do not in various contexts and with various people. We adults may not approve of some of the strategies they use. And they learn that too.

There is no doubt that childhood is the time when critical thinking abilities and mental attributes begin to emerge. We see in children the ability to draw simple "if-then" conclusions, to evaluate choices, and to interpret what others are saying and feeling. We see attributes emerging, like persistence, inquisitiveness, and the development of a rudimentary sense that the child can figure things out if they just try a little harder - an attribute we call "confidence in reasoning."

Guiding children toward stronger critical thinking

K-8 Critical Thinking Skills = to analyze, interpret, evaluate, explain, reflect, conclude

Critical thinking can take some big leaps forward in children if their parents and other adults guide them toward trying to solve their problems and to make decisions more thoughtfully. Teaching the how and why of things. Critical thinking can grow when children realize that they have to figure out how to cope for themselves with the everyday problems - skinned knees, boredom, bullies, and getting everyone to agree on the rules of whatever game they want to play. Some of those things may not seem like much to busy adults, but they are important to the kids -- learning how to navigate childhood social interactions with ever more success both demands and develops critical thinking. That's why doing everything for our kids is not an optimal parenting approach - we need to teach them to solve their own problems, which cannot be achieved if we take all their problems from them. Of course, formal schooling can help in the development of critical thinking if the teachers focus on how to analyze, to to apply relevant criteria when making an evaluation, and how to explain our points of view using sound reasons and solid evidence.

Suppressing critical thinking

K-8 Critical Thinking Habits of Mind: curious, creative, engaged organized, fair-minded and focused

All three influences - parents / playground / classroom -- can be negative as well as positive in some situations. Some adult interactions suppress critical thinking, for example when adults always refuse to give reasons or consistently belittle and stifle a child's "Why?" questions. Some playground experiences reinforce more reactive and socially unacceptable responses than thoughtful ones - for example if a child learns that some version of "getting angry and tipping over the checkerboard" is a way to consistently avoid losing. And some methods of formal instruction -- especially those that are based only on memorization, authority, and and blind acceptance of dogma -- suppress the natural tendencies we humans have to want to know the why and how of things and not just the what.

The hoops analogy:

Basketball is a game I like to coach and to play. Most of us can improve our shooting if we practice. Our shooting will deteriorate when we lay off too long. Whatever our skill level, decisions about how to compete more effectively are better if we reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. This enables us to make tactical adjustments in real time, and is often more effective than simply running our standard offense and defense even if they are not working. That is why age and guile often overcome youth and strength in pick-up games worldwide.

Pushing the analogy - a good coach can get the best out of each player individually and out of the team as whole. Everyone can improve their hoops skills. Yes, as all of us who love the game know, 99.999% of us will never be a Magic Johnson, a Lebron James, or a Michael Jordan. Nature sets broad limits, an upper and a lower. What we do within those limits is the reflecting-teaching-learning-and-practice part.

That's true for hoops and for critical thinking.

Nature vs. nurture is a false dichotomy. It's both.

 Dr. Peter A  (Pete) Facione is a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment and a principal at Measured Reasons LLC , a Los Angeles based research and consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision making.

Building stronger skills

An investment in quality improvement

The effectiveness of employees depends on the strength of their decision skills and thinking mindset characteristics.  When your employees are good thinkers, they make better decisions, fewer errors and they are more productive.  Developing high quality thinking skills and motivation will provide a strong return on your investment.

Investing in employee improvement takes planning.  

Make the best use of your efforts and available budget. INSIGHT gives you the optics to:

  1. Select key talent to grow with and plan how to develop them. Your actions should be governed by data and metrics .
  2. Develop strong thinkers who make fewer mistakes, understand the importance of policies and drive innovation.
  3. Assess their thinking and reasoning skills, then match your goals to training programs that focus on developing the core strengths.
  4. Develop the critical thinking skills that motivate the best talent. Employee improvement is easier when you start with engaged and skilled thinkers. Assess the skills you have and hire for those you don’t.

INSIGHT Business Professional provides the reports you’ll need to support your employee improvement and engagement plans; INSIGHT Development Program provides efficient, effective online training focusing on the 15 thinking skills & mindset attributes most needed in your business.

Get the results you need to improve

Insight Assessment consultants have been conducting training and development workshops for decades to advance critical thinking ability for our customers.    Please contact Insight Assessment. Our INSIGHT business solutions provide the data you’ll need to support your 2019 employee engagement and continuous improvement plans.

Health Science Educators Train Critical Thinking

Training the critical thinking skills required for academic and clinical success

For several decades, health science educators have been working hard to train critical thinking in students and practicing clinicians.

This effort to provide thinking clinicians starts at the time of admission to each of the clinical specialty programs, many of whom receive an extraordinary number of applicants for a limited number of training seats. Educating physical therapists, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, and all other clinical specialists requires years of course work as well as extensive clinical practice hours. The challenge for these programs is to admit students who will succeed in their training and licensure examinations, and then transition well to jobs that immediately demand strength in problem analysis and decision making.

Power of critical thinking assessment data

Researchers have been studying the power of critical thinking scores at admission to predict clinical ratings, degree completion and licensure rates.   Studies in Dentistry, Family Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Audiology, Midwifery, Psychology, Dental Hygiene and others have demonstrated the added value of including a critical thinking assessment as a part of the admission protocol.  Additional investigations are underway for Physician Assistants, Respiratory Therapists, Dieticians, and other specialties. See Admissions, Retention and Licensure for short descriptions of these peer-reviewed, independent research studies using HSRT , CCTST and  CCTDI .

Evaluating effectiveness of training techniques

Particular training techniques have been closely studied for their effectiveness in building critical thinking skills and a thinking mindset. Significant gains in critical thinking have been related to problem-based learning strategies, the use of patient simulators, cased-based seminars, concept-mapping strategies, experiential learning programs, peer questioning techniques, and reflective writing exercises. Citations and summaries of these investigations can be found on this Training Techniques link.

Comparing admissions and exit scores

Following student cohorts over time and collecting a second or third measure of critical thinking skills and mindset at program completion has informed many educational researchers about

  • which particular skills and mindset attributes are commonly seen in admissions cohorts,
  • which skills and mindset attributes are improved in relation to particular training techniques,
  • which skills require attention in curriculum building.

Exit scores provide a baseline comparison when new curriculum is introduced.

Improving thinking requires explicit instruction

 One claim is no longer in question:

  • Assuring and improving students' critical thinking skills cannot be a matter of implicit expectation.

This is the conclusion Philip Abrami and colleagues who conducted of a meta-study examining 117 published studies comprising 20,698 participants, all documenting the importance of explicitly training critical thinking. The cases improve, that the controls either don’t show improved skills or they improve less. They advise that educators must also make learning objectives clear to students and provide preservice and in-service training for educators to help them become increasing effective as trainers of critical thinking. If you would like to read more about these studies, click on the links above, and also on this collection of study summaries on Learning Outcomes Assessment .

Critical thinking as predictive indicator

International collaborations to create valid and reliable language translations of Insight Assessment test instruments now support a global research effort. Peer-reviewed studies from Hong Kong, Australia, Peoples Republic of China, Ireland, Canada, UAE, Turkey, Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, The Netherlands, Malaysia, USA and many other areas have demonstrated the predictive power of critical thinking skills scores as indicators of an accomplished health science student and practicing clinician.

In summary, Dr. John Eigenauer, reminds us that measurable gains in critical thinking are obtainable by implementing proven methods and best practices, which always include explicit instruction in critical thinking.

Our thanks to all of you educators and scientists who are who are providing evidence of the improvement of health science education internationally through the use of our critical thinking assessments and training programs .

There are effective strategies for thinking critical thinking

A guest post by Peter A Facione, Measured Reasons LLC.

“How can we develop critical thinking in... ?”

This is a question I hear a lot from business leaders, military personnel, and educators.  The good news: We know how to improve critical thinking.  And, we can measure the gains.

To learn what works, Philip Abrami and colleagues reviewed 341 publications documenting experimental and quasi-experimental studies using standardized measures of critical thinking.  If you want to see the research yourself, check out “Strategies for Teaching Students to Think Critically: A Meta-Analysis,” Abrami, P. et. al, Review of Educational Research, June 2015, Vol. 85, No. 2, pp. 275–314.

What did Abrami’s team conclude?  He and his colleagues found that

“there are effective strategies for teaching critical thinking at all educational levels and across all disciplinary areas.  Notably, the opportunity for dialogue, exposure to authentic or situated problems and examples, and mentoring had positive effects on critical thinking skills.” 

This means that the organization itself, including the trainers, mid-level managers, and top-level leaders, need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  The organizational culture must encourage the kinds of “why” questions that require managers, employees, and leaders to explain their reasons and state their evidence, not spout rote answers.  

The magic here is in the doing. 

An organization does not need to spend millions and millions of dollars on glitzy technology. The organization needs, instead, to infuse some critical thinking into account in hiring, it needs to train its people to use some easily applied critical thinking development techniques in its educational programs and, just as important, it needs to infuse thoughtful critical thinking questions and practices into its deliberative processes. 

Yes, critical thinking is reflective.  Yes, it takes time for an individual or a group to think well about a problem or a decision.  Shooting from the hip is not critical thinking.  Going with our gut is not critical thinking.  Bluff and bluster are not critical thinking strategies.  For many years I worked with combat veteran senior enlisted Special Ops E9 personnel.  We quickly recognized the important difference between “excellent training to react instinctively in a fire fight” and “critical thinking for when there was time to problem-solve and plan.” Both are vital. Repeat, both.

Critical thinking cannot substitute for knowledge.  It cannot substitute for the expertise developed by years of thoughtful practice. To diagnose situations well and to figure out what course of action is best, experts at the top of their game use all three:  knowledge, thoughtful practice, and, critical thinking.   

To learn more download “Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts.”

The go to organization for tools to develop and to assess critical thinking is Insight Assessment .

Dr. Peter A. Facione, Ph.D. is a leading figure in the quest to demonstrate empirically that a consensus understanding of critical thinking could be attained and that the core cognitive skills and centrally important dispositional habits of mind of critical thinking could be learned, taught, and assessed.  Dr. Peter A  (Pete) Facione is a Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment and  a principal at Measured Reasons LLC , a Los Angeles based research and consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision making.

Images from Insight Assessment Group Reports

Strong critical thinking predicts academic and professional success

Insight Assessment critical thinking test instruments are used globally to objectively identify the student applicants who have the strongest critical thinking skills and the desire to apply those skills.  Many clients use this reliable and nationally benchmarked assessment data as an essential component in their admissions process.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the value of incorporating the assessment of critical thinking in the admissions.

Why consider candidate critical thinking as part of the admissions process?

Whatever else is being considered, admitting people who are both willing and able to think is an important element in developing and sustaining a high-quality admission process.

If candidates do not demonstrate sufficient reasoning skills strength or the positive internal motivation and drive to make a success of themselves, then they are much less likely to succeed academically.  A high-quality admissions process which consistently yields a strong and successful cadre of new students is vitally important when programs are over-subscribed.

Admissions decisions are scrutinized when retention rates and graduation rates are being carefully tracked, when the consequences of admitting underprepared applicants can have a negative impact on other students, on the morale of the faculty and staff, or on the overall reputation of the program.  Critical thinking admissions data can be used to document the overall success of the program as well as specific applicants. Multitask with the right admissions tools

What metrics are the most important for admissions?

Different programs will find different metrics of value, but in general, on the skills dimensions the OVERALL reasoning skills score is an excellent marker of the applicant’s strength. To score well overall, the applicant must excel in the sustained, focused and integrated application of the core thinking skills, including analysis, interpretation, inference, evaluation, explanation, induction and deduction.

The OVERALL score is the best predictor of the capacity for success in educational or workplace settings which demand reasoned decision making and thoughtful problem solving.  Looking at specific skill metrics makes sense for programs that have specialized academic learning demands.  For example, STEM programs and programs that demand strengths in quantitative reasoning will probably focus on the Numeracy Score along with the OVERALL score.

The mindset metrics that are most interesting for transfer student and non-traditional or returning adult admissions purposes include the Motivation to Learn, the Drive to Succeed, and Resilience as assessed on the College Success Mindset.  For graduate professional schools using the CCTDI, metrics like Truth-Seeking, Foresight, and Maturity of Judgment are considered important. 

What score is the most useful – the numerical score, the qualitative evaluation, or the percentile?

Insight Assessment test instruments report at least two scores for every metric:  numerical and qualitative. Highly competitive programs may wish to establish a numerical cut score as a threshold for consideration for admissions.  Other programs may wish to identify a qualitative level, e.g. “strong” or “positive” which all admitted students should have achieved.  Clients are able to decide which score option is most relevant to their program goals.

Percentile scores are associated only with the OVERALL skills score.  Percentiles are benchmark comparisons. The client organization determines which comparison group percentiles to be associated with the OVERALL score.  For instance, a professional school of nursing may select the Health Sciences Reasoning Test as its admissions test.  The school can decide whether it wants to use graduate student percentiles, four-year undergraduate student percentiles, or two-year associate degree level student percentiles. That decision depends on the level of the program for which applicants are being evaluated.  Percentiles, Norms and Comparison Groups

See specific  assessments for the metrics they measure and the comparison percentiles that are available

Can a program use its admission data for other purposes?

Yes, absolutely.  Admissions data can be thought of as pretest data. As such, those data can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of curricular innovations or to describe the entering class or cohort of students to interested stakeholders.   Data is also frequently used in cross-sectional or longitudinal studies of program effectiveness or in accreditation self-study reports.  Why link assessment, admissions and accreditation

Since the data can be downloaded in an Excel spreadsheet, it is relatively easy to integrate information about the critical thinking skills and learning mindset attributes of large groups of students with other institutional data or uploaded into research quality software programs such as SPSS or Minitab.

What can be included in the custom demographic questions?

The Insight Assessment online testing system enables clients to add as many as ten of their own custom demographic questions .  The responses to those questions are included in the downloadable Excel spreadsheet available at any time to the program’s test administrator.

Some undergraduate student admissions clients ask about prior work experience, some inquire about the applicant’s age, or which languages the applicant speaks.  At the graduate level some clients include questions about the applicant’s undergraduate major, which sub-specialty the applicant may be interested in pursuing, or whether the applicant intends to enroll full time or part time. 

Our experienced staff can assist with the wording of demographic questions, but the questions themselves depend on the information that the client believes to be relevant for purposes of informing itself about its applicants individually or as a group.  Two formats are available – open text or pull-down menu.  The pull-down menu format is by far the most widely used because it enables easily quantifying the proportionate number who select each response. 

How are the individual and the group reports used in admissions?

The individual report details an applicant’s scores on each reasoning skill or each mindset attribute assessed. Thus, the individual report gives the best overall picture of that applicant’s different strengths or areas that may need further development. Because the individual report focuses on only one applicant, it can be a useful document for individualized conversations with the applicant or advisor meetings with the newly admitted student.

The group report includes tables and charts that give useful information about the entire admissions pool, or about sub-sets of that pool.  Because the data can be aggregated or disaggregated by any of the demographic factors, group reports can be generated in a matter of minutes by programs interested in comparing sub-groups of applicants.  Tables of descriptive statistics and colorful bar charts give an accurate and complete picture of how a group of applicants performed on each metric.   Group reports covering multiple applicant cohorts supply information that can reveal multi-year trends in the quality of the applicant pool.

Contact us today to discuss how critical thinking data can support your admissions program.

Critical thinking Data for community college success

The success of students in their classes and in the workplace depends on the strength of their critical thinking skills and personal mindset attributes. Recognizing the importance of building these reasoning skills and habits of mind, many 2-year college programs prioritize the achievement of critical thinking student learning outcomes.

Critical thinking assessment data benefits the institution and its graduates.

Community colleges, certificate programs and technical institutes use Insight Assessment test instruments to evaluate critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills, the motivation to learn, the drive to succeed, and more. Objective individual and group data support vital institutional processes including:

  • Program Admissions – Over-subscribed programs, particularly those in the health sciences, use the  Health Sciences Reasoning Test AD (HSRT AD) level and the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) to identify the most promising applicants. For example, because of their importance for indicating the candidate’s potential for learning and professional success, the OVERALL reasoning skills on the HSRT AD and the Cognitive Maturity score on the CCTDI become data points programs can use in their process for evaluating applicants. 
  • Student Success Advising and Transfer Readiness – The Drive to Succeed and the Motivation to Learn can be as important to student success as critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills. Student retention and academic success programs use the College Student Success reasoning and mindset instruments to gather valuable data on these and other significant attributes. Advisors can sit down with students and use the individual test taker reports our system generates to personalize their conversations.

Why two-year programs choose Insight Assessment data

Insight Assessment offers Two-Year Colleges:

  • Proven, valid, reliable, and cost-effective instrumentation calibrated for their students
  • Measurements of academic attributes and/or thinking/learning skills predictive of college success
  • Nationally benchmark two-year college comparison percentiles
  • Industry leading 24/7/365 electronic app-based testing technology
  • Detailed reports of scores for each individual tested 
  • Presentation ready aggregate group reports, including tables and graphs
  • English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many other language options
  • Client report interface for aggregating and disaggregating data
  • Client options for adding demographic response items
  • Knowledgeable client support for gathering high quality, relevant data

Educators trust Insight Assessment because we offer the highest quality cost-effective assessments, two-year college level benchmarking, college-specific data integration, options for testing in multiple languages, online app-based test administration, easy to understand score reporting, and expert data analysis services.  

Call today for more information.  We can have you ready to test online this week

Numeracy

The ability to think well in quantitative contexts is required for personal, academic, workplace and professional success today.

People with strong numeracy skill apply their critical thinking to solve quantitative reasoning problems. Being better able to analyze and interpret quantitative information, they can draw more accurate conclusions.  They can explain how they reached those judgments.  And, considering what the quantitative information tells us, they can better evaluate the claims others may make.

What is Numeracy?

Numeracy is simply the application of critical thinking skills like analysis and interpretation, along with mathematical basics, like algebra, to quantitative information. More than being able to compute a solution to a mathematical equation, numeracy includes the understanding of how quantitative information is gathered, manipulated, represented, and communicated verbally and visually, such as in texts, graphs, charts, tables and diagrams. Another name for numeracy is “Quantitative Reasoning.”    

       An example: engaging numeracy skill to analyze TV news

Where is the Numeracy in Everyday Life?

Our complex culture offers many opportunities to apply our numeracy skills. Quantitative information is everywhere. 

  • Consumers can apply numeracy skills to understand better the quantitative information found on food packaging and pricing.
  • Saving money by comparison shopping is all about trying to find the best value.  To be good at that demands that we apply our numeracy skills.  
  • Everyone who works in an office where management information comes in part through charts and graphs have ample opportunities to apply numeracy skills. Spreadsheets, bank statements, phone bills, investment portfolio reports, the specifications on electronic goods and even the gas mileage and other data on the car’s digital dashboard all offer us valuable knowledge in the form of quantitative information. 

Numeracy, applying critical thinking to quantitative information, is essential in today’s world.

Where is the Numeracy in Professional Life?

There is no professional field or academic discipline, including the arts and humanities, which does not rely at least in part on quantitative information. 

  • Some fields, like the STEM disciplines, and all the professions from agriculture and aerospace, to banking, engineering, health care, manufacturing, shipping, and transportation rely very heavily on scientific, mathematical, or technological information. For the tens of millions who work in these professional fields, numeracy is vitally important.  
  • Specific examples are too numerous to mention.  Depending on the field, professionals may ask themselves questions like these: What is the rate of return on this investment? How strong must these beams be to hold up this bridge?  How many BTUs must the furnace produce to properly heat this new house? What is the proper dosage of this medicine for this patient?  How much postage do we need to ship this package?

As mundane as these questions may seem, they are all very important to the professionals and their clients.  They all require the application of critical thinking, along with specific knowledge of the professional field and some basic mathematics, to solve problems and to make decisions involving quantitative information. They all require numeracy.

Educators and employers prize the ability to think critically in ambiguous contexts, precise contexts and in quantitative contexts. 

To fully understand strengths and weakness in an individual's critical thinking skills requires the assessment of numeracy as well as the traditional metrics (analysis, inference, evaluation, deduction, induction and others).  All Insight Assessment testing tools provide this comprehensive measurement of critical thinking strength.

Contact us for the complete solution to the assessment of critical thinking of:

Health Professional Collage

When we think about critical thinking and clinical decision making, most of us immediately focus on the skills.  Health care professionals must have strong reasoning skills; but they need more.  To be effective patient after patient on a day-to-day basis, health care providers need to have the consistent internal motivation to apply those skills. Otherwise there are going to be mistakes that can lead to dire outcomes. 

Strong thinking mindset impacts a patient’s health care outcomes

In the challenging/busy care delivery environment, we don’t spend time celebrating the preponderance of strong decision-making that occurs daily in our health care institutions. Most health professionals have positive if not strongly positive thinking attributes in general.  For example:

  • They are systematic.  Health care professionals take an organized and focused approach to patient care, to making an accurate diagnosis, and to developing what they anticipate will be an effective treatment plan.
  •  It’s rare to see a health care practitioner who is not open-minded about the lifestyles of their clients. 
  •  Health care professionals often show strength in truth-seeking which leads them to endeavor to make accurate diagnoses. This means they strive to follow the clinical evidence available to them where ever it may lead. 
  • They trust in the power of reason to lead to good decisions, rather than abandoning reason in favor of emotionality, social status, or blind allegiance to authority. 
  • One key habit of mind is to tirelessly strive to get the problem right before starting to treat it. 
  • Health care providers who have strong critical thinking engage with honesty and integrity in the process of reviewing their clinical decisions with colleagues. This is the time when they sit down together and go over the patient’s case to evaluate what went right and what might have gone wrong, and how they can do better next time.

Strengths or weaknesses in critical thinking skills and mindset impact patient morbidity and mortality.

Even one weak thinker can do a lot of damage and strain a team. In health care, where time is of the essence, there are always plenty of problems. The diagnostic challenge is to figure out what problem needs to be managed today for the client to be optimally healthy. This is true for clinicians in all fields.  And it is challenging when, as is often the case, a client has more than one problem that needs attention.

Lots of things can go wrong.

  • A clinician might address only an easily managed problem. Or a clinician might stick with a plan of care when the evidence shows that it is not working.  
  • Then there is the inability to analyze difficult clinical problems, or to identify and implement an effective treatment plan. These kinds of mistakes signal weak thinking skill.

Building the motivation to use critical thinking skills

Health science institutions understand that strong decision-making in patient care doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Building critical thinking and clinical reasoning is embedded in the preparation of health science students.  Hiring and training programs in the health care field prioritize strong thinking skills and mindset from initial hiring through ongoing professional development improvement programs.

Assessing skills and mindset provides clinical educators with the objective and detailed information they need to address strengths and weaknesses.   The goal is to build strong critical thinking in their clinicians and in their decision teams

Tools for Quality Improvement

Insight Assessment is a pioneer in the assessment of the critical thinking mindset. We offer the leading instruments for the assessment of critical thinking in the health care field.  Educational programs rely on our assessment results for admissions, to predict licensure, provide appropriate comparison group norms and to support program and curriculum validation.   Our instruments have been integrated into long term studies of the improvement of strong skills and attributes in students and professionals in many health specializations .

Assessment

Insight Assessment health science test instruments are used throughout the world to assess the critical thinking mindset and skills of practitioners and students:

Development

Health care organizations interested in tools to assess and to enhance critical thinking in current employees and applicants will want to consider the Insight Development Program . This online program integrates effective self-instructional professional development training modules with a valid individualized assessment of thinking mindset attributes and reasoning skills.

Contact us today to discuss how Insight Assessment tools are helping health science institutions build stronger critical thinking skills and mindset attributes needed to maximize patient outcomes.

Demonstrate the Power of Employee Assessment

Introducing an emphasis on critical thinking is valuable to every workplace because stronger critical thinking at every level of the organization improves risk management, communication, collaborative action, fiscal management, innovation and the achievement of company goals.

Many large organizations wish to implement a pilot program prior to rolling out a new training program for large numbers of employees.  There are two primary strategies for piloting the integration of employee thinking skills improvement into professional development programs. Some organizations prefer to create their own training materials and do in-house training; others prefer to integrate a specialized training program into their human resource programs.

Set Goals and Benchmarks

New training programs should include gathering data about the value and degree of thinking in your workplace.

Integrating assessment into the launch of a new employee development program is an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of employee assessment while evaluating the effectiveness of the program. Assessing before the training begins establishes a benchmark for current thinking skills: Assessing post training objectively documents the impact of the training.

By adding assessment to your training program to help groups of employees improve their skills to support effective job performance, you will be adding real time personal feedback about how well they are learning.

Be Relevant

Focus your professional development training on relevant employee tasks that involve problem identification and the related decision about whether to manage the problem or to report it to the appropriate supervisor. These are the type of situations that must be analyzed accurately and decisions that must be made well by all employees in the group.

  • Option One: If you wish to create your own training content, here’s a sample training module outline employing case discussion, employee assessment, and debrief.
  • Option Two: If you would prefer to integrate a comprehensive employee thinking package into your human resources processes, INSIGHT Development Program integrates proven instructional modules that guide individuals toward the continued improvement of their reasoning using workplace examples, together with a valid assessment of thinking mindset attributes and reasoning skills.  Scenarios, examples and reflective mental exercises in these modules center on the workplace, but these skills and attributes apply to problems and decisions in all aspects of life. Designed to be used as independent study by employees, it can also be incorporated into existing training programs.

Reinforce the plan

Conclude training by asking each employee to look at their personal assessment individual report to see where they might work to improve their critical thinking skills and mindset.  Providing personal assessment diagnostics can encourage better understanding of their specific strengths and weaknesses in these core skills.   

Use pre and post training metrics to evaluate the impact of your pilot program. Metrics on the group reports as well as individual reports can also help determine whether there are any individuals in the group that require more intensive training to be reliable decision makers.

A well designed program launch provides important information to validate the training for additional groups:

  • Objective data should document improvement in the thinking skills and mindset of participants, verifying the effectiveness of the training.
  • HR will have verified that the assessments can be administered smoothly.
  • Questions about support will have been answered.
  • The company will benefit from the improved skills that these initial participants will now apply to their work and problem-solving.

Insight Assessment has a proven track record for targeted assessment, effective skill building, and retention of knowledge over time.  Insight Assessment provides a high quality validated thinking development program, exceptional targeted test instruments, the most effective resources to improve thinking, the most accessible interfaces and the most relevant and actionable metrics so that our customers can achieve their development and assessment goals.

If you are considering a new initiative to improve employee thinking, call us at 650-697-5628.  Insight Assessment staff are prepared to assist in the planning of development and assessment programs. We are happy to provide a variety of support materials; we also invite clients to preview our products.

K-8 Critical Thinking Habits of Mind: curious, creative, engaged organized, fair-minded and focused

This Guest Blog Post by  Peter A. Facione, Ph.D., Measured Reasons LLC, is presented as part of Insight Assessment's commitment to advancing critical thinking worldwide.

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“But, is it really ethical to be teaching young people to think for themselves?”

We all were taken aback when someone at the community forum asked that question. Then the responses started rolling out from everyone else in the room. “Yes!” “By all means!”  “Of course, it is!” 

The springboard for the question was the Washington Post Opinion by Kareem Abdul Jabbar talking about critical thinking in K-12 schools.  His point was that our democracy will flounder if the national discourse is muddled by intentional misinformation, misdirection, and misrepresentation. He worried that too many of us get our “news” from social media and entertainment networks, instead of from sources that emphasize well-informed, responsible, even-handed, and fair-minded journalism.

Without the ability to have sensible, respectful, informed, and productive national conversations we should expect that our pluralistic democracy will fail. And the only way to cultivate that ability is to teach critical thinking from childhood and at every opportunity thereafter. For children especially, fostering the habits of mind may be even more important than drilling the skills.  

Learning happens best in a classroom culture that emphasizes being curious, focused, creative, fair-minded, organized, and engaged. 

Think about it.  Imagine the opposite.  Imagine a teacher that does not model those habits of mind and that does not cultivate them in the classroom. What can we the learners achieve in the negativity of that environment?

Misinterpretations and unrealistic expectations are unhelpful.

Teaching for critical thinking does not require that we should all agree.  There must always be room for reasonable people to disagree about policies and approaches.  But when we have well-established facts, we should use them as a basis for a shared understanding of the nature of our problems and the potential for our solutions. 

There will always be emotionally traumatizing catastrophes that challenge our ability to step back and take a reasoned, focused, and organized approach.  But that only means that we need to work harder to prepare ourselves for those kinds of difficulties. The mental discipline to keep our wits about ourselves can only improve our chances of successfully responding, particularly in moments of crisis.

There will always people who take an over-simplified, us-vs-them, circle-the-wagons, tribal approach. There will always be people, unaware of shades of gray, who cannot get past their naïve black-or-white interpretations and evaluations. There will always be people who seek personal advantage by politicize everything.

But, that does not mean that professional educators are off the hook.  The opposite:

The ethical duty of the professional educator is to foster cognitive growth, to help learners achieve a measure of wisdom in how they respond to problems, in how they interpret situations, and how they balanced their own interests and the interest of the common good. 

Perhaps the question in the community forum should have been:

 “How would it ever be ethical not to teach for critical thinking?”

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Professional educators, including industry trainers, who may be interested in tools to enhance their own critical thinking skills and habits of mind may wish to suggest that their employers consider utilizing Insight Development Program . This online program integrates proven instructional modules with a valid assessment of thinking mindset attributes and reasoning skills. Insight Assessment also offers a comprehensive array of test instruments for education, business, health science, K-12 and law uses.

Good thinking is in demand. Download Critical Thinking Insight from your app store today:

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Insight Assessment will not share your data with anyone. Click here to view our privacy statement.


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