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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.  In it he summarizes his recent keynote speech at the 9th Annual Critical Thinking and Innovative Education Conference in Beijing, China.

This recounting of the 50-year journey to define, teach, and measure critical thinking begins at the end, with assessment.

"Education is nothing more or less, than learning to think" written in English and Chinese

Assessing critical thinking

Empirical data show there are large differences between critical thinking skills even in fairly homogeneous samples, like college students.  The same holds true for the spread of scores on vital critical thinking dispositional attributes, like truth-seeking. 

Educators can gather objective data online using powerful assessment tools like the CCTST, BCTST, HSRT, and CCTDI.   In addition, they can promote critical thinking by incorporating developmental tools such as the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric.

Learning critical thinking and decision-making

To understand how to teach for critical thinking, we begin by asking how humans learn and how we make decisions in natural contexts. 

The highly formal, top-down, methods of teaching brittle content do not work as methods of teaching for critical thinking.  Critical thinking is developed bottom-up, for reflection on realistic examples and authentic problems. 

Teachers who describe accurately their own thinking process, talking about how they analyze, interpret, explain, and evaluate reflectively, are able to model the positive habits of mind as they demonstrate the skills.  

Teaching critical thinking

To teach for critical thinking, no matter what the subject matter is or the age of the students, effective instructors can be found doing these five things:

  • Creating space during class time for dialogue – demonstrating and eliciting critical thinking;
  • Connecting classroom content to real problems and authentic examples that demand reflective judgment;
  • Making assignments that require critical thinking to earn a high grade.  Using prompts like “analyze, explain, evaluate, interpret, and infer likely outcomes;”
  • Inviting students to evaluate one another’s presentations with the Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric;
  • Giving important examinations which rely more on applying critical thinking and less on memorizing content.

Critical thinking is an active process.  To teach for critical thinking, we must engage students in using critical thinking!

Critical thinking definition from the APA Delphi Consensus Definition


Defining critical thinking

Having shared assessment data and identified effective teaching strategies, the story comes full circle with the Expert Consensus Definition of Critical Thinking which grounds all of our assessment instruments:

Critical thinking is the process of purposeful reflective judgment which manifests itself in reasoned consideration of evidence, context, methods, standards, and conceptualizations in order to decide what to believe or what to do.

Insight Assessment conference participants standing under an arch at the Beijing Foreign Studies Universities

Ariel Yeung and Peter Facione at the 2019 Beijing Critical Thinking Conference

Beijing Conference

Advancing Thinking Worldwide. Peter Facione, PhD is the Founder and Senior Researcher at Insight Assessment, the provider of critical thinking assessments and development programs for more than 30 years.

As a principal at Measured Reasons LLC, a consulting firm supporting excellence in strategic thinking and leadership decision-making, he leads workshops, executive coaching sessions and speaks at conferences and conventions.  

Facione recently spoke at the the 9th Annual Critical Thinking and Innovative Education Conference. Hosted by the Beijing Foreign Studies University, the conference was attended by educators from K-12, graduate and post graduate institutions. During the July 23-24, 2019, conference, there was enthusiastic consensus in the importance of critical thinking. Facione particularly enjoyed the discussions about the role of educators in teaching students how to improve their critical thinking skills.

illuminating lightbulb

Are your employees making good decisions?

Strong critical thinking ability is one of the most needed job skills. 

Business success is based on identifying and supporting people who have the ability to think forward, problem-solve and make good decisions.

Employees with poor thinking skills will not be able to become contributing members of your team. Companies simply cannot afford the costs of employees who lack strong problem-solving and decision-making ability.

10 reasons why business should assess employee thinking skills:

  1. Increase productivity: Assessing thinking is important because strong thinking skills are the most essential job qualification. If employees can’t think well, they won’t be productive.
  2. Reduce costs: Assessing thinking is cheaper than the cost of bad hires or employees who make poor decisions.  Poor thinking costs business money and opportunities for growth.
  3. Prescreen candidates: Assessing thinking helps you identify and build the strongest talent pool.  Save interview time and costs by screening candidates for strength of thinking.
  4. Improve performance: Assessing thinking improves performance and efficiency. Business benefits when good analytical thinking is applied to problem solving and planning.
  5. Target training: Assessing thinking makes strategic professional development possible. Objective assessment data can be used to target identified strengths and weaknesses of individuals, teams and departments.
  6. HR metrics: Assessing thinking provides objective, validated metrics for improvement initiatives.  Employee retention, engagement, training and continuous improvement programs benefit from relevant, reliable data
  7. Performance evaluation: Assessing thinking provides valuable input for employee performance reviews. Gain the ability to recognize employee potential by incorporating objective thinking metrics into the review process.
  8. Competitive edge: Assessing thinking gives you a competitive advantage over other companies who don’t prioritize good thinking. Out-thinking the competition is vital; innovation depends upon strong thinking.
  9. Company Commitment: Assessing thinking demonstrates a corporate commitment to excellent decision-making. Reinforce the advantages of promoting a positive thinking culture at work.  Identify and recognize employees who have winning business mindsets.
  10. Actionable metrics: Assessing thinking with high quality test instruments ensures you get the highest quality actionable individual and group data. Data can be used to develop good thinking throughout your organization.

To sum it up: if you want to grow and maximize competitiveness, you need high quality assessment data analyzing the key problem-solving and decision-making skills of your employees.

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To gain the competitive advantage of critical thinking

INSIGHT assesses the critical thinking skills that pay off in employee growth throughout your organization.

Insight Assessment specializes in objective, user-friendly, validated measurements of critical thinking skills and mindset attributes.  Comprehensive INSIGHT Business Professional individual reports include metrics on test taker strengths and weaknesses in the 15 essential elements of thinking skills and mindset. Individual and group reports are used worldwide for hiring, talent development, training and program evaluation. Flexible test administration is available 24/7.

Strong thinkers deliver results.    Contact us. We're ready to demonstrate how easy it is to get the benefits of assessing thinking with INSIGHT.

Why should I choose Insight Assessment solutions?

Follow our blog, Thinking INSIGHT, for resources and further discussion of the measurement of thinking skills and mindset.

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