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    Teachers: Define critical thinking

    I'm in the process of revising all our assessment forms. Critical thinking is a one of those new higher education buzz words that people like to throw around and which nobody seems to really be able to define. Our affiliate university has even designated several courses as CT courses, although the criteria for doing so is ambiguous. Intro to Sociology is critical thinking but Intro to Anthropology is not even though they are essentially the same. Go figure. In any event, one of my accreditation agency's pet goals along with the university is "students will develop critical thinking skills." What exactly is critical thinking and how do we know if the student has developed those skills and if they haven't how to we assure that they do? I have a PhD in anthropology and I have no idea how an introduction to sociology course would accomplish that goal. I have some idea how CT can apply to our more focused scientific curriculum, but I'd like to know what others are doing with this in terms of defining the concept, measuring and assessment. The Department of Education will be the bane of my existence. I used to think it would be the students, but they were just a warm up exercise.
    Those who never succeed themselves are always the first to tell you how.

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    Critical thinking is like pornography: I know it when I see it.

    I realize that isn't helpful

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    Perhaps the critical thinking for sociology would include: Discuss how the sociology models affect current political parties and voting results. Determine how society attitudes towards groups of people affect perceptions of poverty.

    It's been a few years since I was in college or grad school, but is sociology where one discusses ethical models?

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    As a university history professor, I would argue that "critical thinking" should be an integral component of any course in any discipline (unfortunately, critical thinking tends to be missing in high school education as well which is part of the problem). Evaluation is fairly straightforward, as it is obvious in all written work as well as in group discussions. Using history as an example, at its most basic level, critical thinking requires that a student provide analysis of a question rather than a simple summary of events in either their written work or in oral discussion. One needs to be able to explain how one arrived at a conclusion, using those "facts" that support an argument as well as being able to address points that perhaps work against it. It's really the difference between "A" work and "C" work, at least in my discipline.

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    To me, critical thinking is the ability to properly integrate information. Can the student apply existing knowledge and research methods to challenge new information? Can the student use new information to alter an approach or a way of thinking? Can the student apply knowledge to inform an area of investigation. That sort of thing.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    To me, critical thinking is taking a situation and being able to debate for and against a situation and determine a choice that is found upon consequences of the action.
    In high school, I thought that debate clubs provided an excellent opportunity to develop critical thinking. You needed to be prepare to argue both sides with points and the consequences of either side. Hot topics when I was going to school: military draft, voting age, legalization of certain drugs (yes, even in the late 60's and early 70's it was a debate)
    Which is why I asked about ethical models - one could develop an essay requirement or even a debate in class to determine if the metric was "met"

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    Quote Originally Posted by PrincessLeppard View Post
    Critical thinking is like pornography: I know it when I see it.

    I realize that isn't helpful
    Bint. Why yes, I'll put that in the assessment plan: I know it when I saw it--you'll just have to trust me.

    Just you wait, Missy. High school teachers will have to do this soon enough and Prancer and I will laugh at you.
    Those who never succeed themselves are always the first to tell you how.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nlyoung View Post
    Using history as an example, at its most basic level, critical thinking requires that a student provide analysis of a question rather than a simple summary of events in either their written work or in oral discussion. One needs to be able to explain how one arrived at a conclusion, using those "facts" that support an argument as well as being able to address points that perhaps work against it.
    Critical thinking comes from the root of critique. So basically one is asking students to be capable of engaging in critique. That means:

    - being able to identify the main and subsidiary arguments being made
    - what is the evidence in support of those arguments
    - what is the strength of those arguments
    - what are the flaws of the main and subsidiary arguments
    - what is the student's independent assessment of the topic raised in the primary and subsidiary arguments
    - what evidence does the student provide in support of his/her assessment
    - is the student able to integrate his/her analysis with the arguments from other scholars
    - what are the theoretical and practical implications of both the initial arguments raised, and in the arguments offered by the student
    - how do those implications impact the scholarly discipline and larger sociopolitical debates
    - how clearly expressed is all of the above by the student

    Those would be the central questions and methods of evaluating critical thinking.

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    Been there, done that! I've been working with various high school humanities curriculum development processes for years, and the issue of how we define and assess critical thinking always comes up.

    One conclusion we almost always come to is that, since "critical thinking" is a somewhat amorphous concept, it's sometimes easier to think of it in the slightly more defined way of "critical thinking skills." And of course it's much easier to assess and evaluate "skills" than "thinking."

    From one curriculum I worked on, critical thinking skills include:

    ~ demonstrating skills of critical analysis (e.g., questioning, imagining, experiencing, hypothesizing, inferring, predicting, comparing, classifying, verifying, identifying relationships and patterns, extrapolating, using analogies, creating metaphors, recognizing contradictions, identifying the use of rhetoric, summarizing, drawing conclusions, defending a position, reflecting, reassessing a position)
    ~ developing pertinent questions to define the topic, issue, or situation
    ~ identifying connections among
    - their own and others’ experiences
    - local and global issues and events
    - past and present events and situations (e.g., causal connections, similarities)
    - a range of points of view on the topic, issue, or situation
    ~ making reasoned judgments (e.g., logical, based on evidence) about an issue, situation, or topic
    ~ citing evidence to justify their position

    These are all in addition to more basic research and media analysis skills, which of course are foundational to critical thinking/critical analysis (as well as being easier to define!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by rfisher View Post
    Bint. Why yes, I'll put that in the assessment plan: I know it when I saw it--you'll just have to trust me.

    Just you wait, Missy. High school teachers will have to do this soon enough and Prancer and I will laugh at you.
    Please. We've been doing this crap the entire nine years I've been teaching. We just haven't hit critical thinking yet.

    Have you had to define your essential learnings and enduring understandings yet?


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    Critical thinking ability is the difference between a lab tech/staff scientist/master's degree and a doctorate. A master's degree student can go into lab and collect a vast quantity of data. But they lack the critical thinking ability to determine the quality of the data, to understand how pieces of data relate to each other, how they compare/relate to other published data, and what the data indicate in terms of future experiments that will need to be carried out to support and expand upon a developing hypothesis.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PrincessLeppard View Post
    Please. We've been doing this crap the entire nine years I've been teaching. We just haven't hit critical thinking yet.

    Have you had to define your essential learnings and enduring understandings yet?

    Yes, only the HLC is calling them degree qualifications profiles and we have to identify the areas of learning (specialized knowledge, intellectural skills, applied learning etc.,) associate program goals to each profile, identify courses which will meet the individual program learning goals of which there has to be a minimum of two at different points in the curriculum which will allow us to assess progression of the outcome, then set benchmarks to measure that progression and develop associated rubrics for each. And that is at the program level. Each individual course now has to tie itself back into a specific program goal and establish the learning outcome, assessment tool and benchmark. We call those enduring understandings life-long learning and it's also a bitch to quantify. It's easy to write some vague goal. It's another thing to quantify it. My faculty have plenty of input on what these mean and zero input on how to assess them. I need tools and benchmarks. Exams are useless as an assessment tool because you can make the results of an exam what ever you want them to be. I can't get that point across to the faculty either.

    Critical thinking is one of the program goals and it has to have a specific assessment tool and benchmark. It can't be something we know when we see it. The problem is the assessment and benchmarks. It was all well and good when it was a general concept, but now it has to be a measurable outcome. There are no "arguments" for the student to debate or select a side in medical imaging. This is a very defined science. It's a challenge to bring evidence based practice into a discussion for my senior students that relates to the role of the radiographer. It's even difficult to do this at the level of the radiologist (physician) since it is the clinician who orders imaging studies and not the radiologist. I know because there are about two articles that even make the attempt and I have to explain them to the students because they haven't a clue what the author is trying to say.
    We have to quantify the difference between students. One of our goals is that the student will be clinically competent. This is a piece of cake. I have multiple ways to assess this learning outcome. Quantifying critical thinking, and more importantly progression of critical thinking is much more challenging.

    Finding a quantifiable assessment tool is the real challenge here. So far, none of you have identifed that. I can tell you these new requirements coming down from the DoE have caused havoc on our campus. At least clinical classes in the College of Health Professions have a starting point because we have to do this for our national accreditation bodies. I feel for departments like history or English who have not had to do this until now. One thing our unversity is doing is if a specific course does not tie into a specific program goal, it's likely to be eliminated. I don't have a problem, but many departments will.
    Last edited by rfisher; 06-07-2012 at 05:25 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rfisher View Post
    Finding a quantifiable assessment tool is the real challenge here. So far, none of you have identifed that. I can tell you these new requirements coming down from the DoE have caused havoc on our campus. At least clinical classes in the College of Health Professions have a starting point because we have to do this for our national accreditation bodies. I feel for departments like history or English who have not had to do this until now. One thing our unversity is doing is if a specific course does not tie into a specific program goal, it's likely to be eliminated. I don't have a problem, but many departments will.
    One thing that might be measurable for critical thinking is the students ability to review a list of patients awaiting imaging and prioritize those patients based on specific criteria. I know in my old hospital, all the MDs ordered Stat, so everything was Stat and the Radiology manager had to prioritize the patients herself. If there was no clinical criteria for choosing patient A over patient B, she'd do it using her own twisted system that allowed her techs to know what was going on without giving it away to the docs.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    One thing that might be measurable for critical thinking is the students ability to review a list of patients awaiting imaging and prioritize those patients based on specific criteria. I know in my old hospital, all the MDs ordered Stat, so everything was Stat and the Radiology manager had to prioritize the patients herself. If there was no clinical criteria for choosing patient A over patient B, she'd do it using her own twisted system that allowed her techs to know what was going on without giving it away to the docs.
    Except that isn't a measurable skill. The STAT order always takes precedence. We don't really teach triage as that isn't within the radiographer's scope of practice. Your manager was actually in non-compliance with the ARRT.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rfisher View Post
    Except that isn't a measurable skill. The STAT order always takes precedence. We don't really teach triage as that isn't within the radiographer's scope of practice. Your manager was actually in non-compliance with the ARRT.
    Except a stat order in the ED has a higher priority than a stat order in the ambulatory care clinic. One being critical and one being a level of priority for patient and doctor (get in and out as soon as possible).

    I do think the abstract courses such as literature, sociology etc. have a harder time in developing quantitative measurements. Courses that are built on qualitative designs are extremely difficult to measure.

    For the DoE to expect hard data for measurement of critical thinking skills in those courses is

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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers123 View Post
    Except a stat order in the ED has a higher priority than a stat order in the ambulatory care clinic. One being critical and one being a level of priority for patient and doctor (get in and out as soon as possible).
    :
    True. The ED always has top priority, however, it's seldom that the radiographer has to make that choice unless there is only one of you. We just had a mock trauma simulation for a bunch of high school kids. The med-flight crew landed, EMS did a mock field assessment, and the respiratory and nursing faculty did a mock ER treatment. Calling for x-ray was part of the simulation. The order was for a chest, cervical spine and femur. I had chest pains when the two imaging students imaged the femur first. Clearly a lack of critical thinking skills. However, when I turned to the faculty who teaches procedures to ask what happened, I learned that he'd never actually discussed trauma with them in class, yet we expect them to know this. This is a major default with his class and we had an immediate discussion of how this is going to be changed forth with. Now, I just have to figure out where within the overall program assessment to include and measure the results.

    Sadly, I also just read the only 4 articles on teaching and assessment of critical thinking among radiography students and it seems that although all four authors thought they were teaching it in their programs, their assessments were less than 60% indicators which is an epic fail. Their conclusions were programs need to find a better methodology of teaching and assessing critical thinking skills. Well, duh. That was helpful research.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis@BC View Post
    Been there, done that! I've been working with various high school humanities curriculum development processes for years, and the issue of how we define and assess critical thinking always comes up.

    One conclusion we almost always come to is that, since "critical thinking" is a somewhat amorphous concept, it's sometimes easier to think of it in the slightly more defined way of "critical thinking skills." And of course it's much easier to assess and evaluate "skills" than "thinking."

    From one curriculum I worked on, critical thinking skills include:

    ~ demonstrating skills of critical analysis (e.g., questioning, imagining, experiencing, hypothesizing, inferring, predicting, comparing, classifying, verifying, identifying relationships and patterns, extrapolating, using analogies, creating metaphors, recognizing contradictions, identifying the use of rhetoric, summarizing, drawing conclusions, defending a position, reflecting, reassessing a position)
    ~ developing pertinent questions to define the topic, issue, or situation
    ~ identifying connections among
    - their own and others’ experiences
    - local and global issues and events
    - past and present events and situations (e.g., causal connections, similarities)
    - a range of points of view on the topic, issue, or situation
    ~ making reasoned judgments (e.g., logical, based on evidence) about an issue, situation, or topic
    ~ citing evidence to justify their position

    These are all in addition to more basic research and media analysis skills, which of course are foundational to critical thinking/critical analysis (as well as being easier to define!).
    All of this describes my definition.
    I agree that these skills are sorely missing in education today.
    TPTB say they want students to be able to apply this.

    However, I've always doubted it; as society doesn't really want people to question authority, or the status quo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by numbers123 View Post
    I do think the abstract courses such as literature, sociology etc. have a harder time in developing quantitative measurements. Courses that are built on qualitative designs are extremely difficult to measure.
    You basically build it into your grading rubric. If you give exams, you identify which questions are involve critical thinking, and build measurements around that. If you do essays, you assign points for the things I outlined, and build measurements around that.
    Quote Originally Posted by rfisher View Post
    Exams are useless as an assessment tool because you can make the results of an exam what ever you want them to be.
    You *can* fudge the results, but a well-done exam is supposed to measure quantifiable results. It may be more of an issue with the quality of the exam.
    There are no "arguments" for the student to debate or select a side in medical imaging. This is a very defined science.

    We have to quantify the difference between students. One of our goals is that the student will be clinically competent. This is a piece of cake. I have multiple ways to assess this learning outcome. Quantifying critical thinking, and more importantly progression of critical thinking is much more challenging.

    Finding a quantifiable assessment tool is the real challenge here. So far, none of you have identifed that.
    To be fair, you asked for a definition of critical thinking, and people supplied that. Now it sounds like you want people to write your program's benchmarks, and obviously no one can do that because it's specific to your program.

    It's not that difficult to quantify critical thinking or progression of it IMO. Personally I think it's more time-consuming than anything. But perhaps it's different for technical fields.

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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    .

    It's not that difficult to quantify critical thinking or progression of it IMO. Personally I think it's more time-consuming than anything. But perhaps it's different for technical fields.
    Based on everything I've read, it seems it's actually quite difficult to quantify critical thinking. And teaching it is even more difficult to quantify. It's easy to make esoteric definitions of what it should be. Not so easy to teach or to determine how to improve the results. Our nursing program decided to use the standardized ATI test for incoming students and then readminister the exam when they graduated the theory being scores would show progression. The reality is the scores were essentially the same and some student's scores actually were lower. And the relationship to academic success in the program was statistically unreliable.

    I have excellent critical thinking skills and always have. I'm not a linear thinker and problem solving is easy for me. I get what the theory is. It's the application that frustrates me.. Personally, I don't think this can be taught. And, no. I don't need people to set benchmarks for me. The benchmark isn't the problem. It's the assessment tool. I've looked at multiple programs examples and frankly, the assessment and data they've collected are worthless and tell you nothing new. They are just making up pointless data and pretending it's meaningful. When you look closer, there is no science to the results. If it's not meaningful, it's pointless. I can make up pointless assessments, gather data, analyze and interpret it sufficiently for the accreditation requirements. I despise pointless data analysis and pretending the results mean something when I know they don't. I got a master's thesis and a doctoral dissertation by taking apart previous data that had done exactly that. When I threw out their results and reanalyzed the data, I arrived at an entirely different conclusion based on actual data rather than inference. This is making my eye twitch because I want solid science and not crap. I should have stayed in field biology. I hate educational theory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    To me, critical thinking is the ability to properly integrate information. Can the student apply existing knowledge and research methods to challenge new information? Can the student use new information to alter an approach or a way of thinking? Can the student apply knowledge to inform an area of investigation. That sort of thing.
    This is also how I understand CT as it applies to the students I teach.. from a cooking perspective - we provide the ingredients.. but can the student apply the skills attained and create a unique dish Not just the continual regurgitation of other people's work...
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