A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum

A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum

Hedva Lewittes (State University of New York-College at Old Westbury, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-667-9.ch002
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In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New York’s General Education program. System-wide, an initiative was implemented that took into account national debates about standardized and course embedded evaluation. As part of this process faculty developed a rubric that delineated the criteria for rating critical thinking on a four-point scale. Components of the rubric were integrated into the curriculum of a Psychology of Adulthood and Aging course and used to formulate study questions. Feedback to students and the modification of curriculum and evaluation measures was ongoing. Pre-tests and post-tests scored with the rubric provided data on learning.
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“Teaching to the test” has often been criticized for narrowing educational objectives. However, in this case study teaching to a rubric expanded the curriculum and pedagogy. The rubric, developed for system-wide use by the State University of New York (SUNY), provided a basis of integrating assessment into the Psychology of Adulthood and Aging a 3000 level general education course at the College of Old Westbury. In 2000 SUNY adopted new general education requirements that included critical thinking as an infused competency (Office of the Provost System Administration, 2001) defined by the following learning outcomes.

Students will:

  • 1.

    identify, analyze and evaluate arguments as they occur in their own or others’ work;

  • 2.

    develop well reasoned arguments (p. 6).

In 2004 these learning outcomes were evaluated in the adulthood and aging course as part of SUNY’s mandated system-wide assessment of General Education. My participation in this assessment was a significant step in a process of evaluation and modification that has been ongoing. Results indicated that approximately one third of the class was not fully meeting standards. Many of the students came with only a freshman writing and an introductory psychology course as background. I became interested in the challenge of infusing critical thinking into the disciplinary content. In addition, a review of the assessment exam suggested that it was not an adequate measure of both learning outcomes.

As the first three-year cycle of General Education assessment neared completion, SUNY began to consider making standards and tests more uniform. A faculty panel was appointed to develop a State University of New York Critical Thinking Rubric based on the already required learning outcomes that could be used throughout the system. As a panel member, the experience of defining and developing an instrument to measure critical thinking provided a valuable foundation. Over several semesters, I created a series of six lessons organized around study and small group discussion questions that incorporated the elements of critical thinking delineated in the SUNY rubric and encouraged student engagement. In the fall 2007 semester, the Psychology of Adulthood and Aging was once again assessed; by this time, critical thinking had been integrated into the course’s curriculum. The SUNY learning outcomes were in the syllabus, and a packet of study/discussion questions explicitly identified the elements of critical thinking covered in each of the collaborative learning units. Pre-test and post-test essays were based on readings discussed in the small groups.

The objective of this chapter is to describe how the SUNY critical thinking learning outcomes and rubric served as a basis of small group discussion units and assessment in the Psychology of Adulthood and Aging. The process of the rubric’s development within SUNY is discussed in the context of national debates about the purposes of assessment. The decision to adopt a course embedded approach at the College at Old Westbury is related to the campus’ demographics and mission. Research and theory about critical thinking and collaborative learning provide a foundation for the curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation measures and a framework for understanding the assessment results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Guided Instruction: An interaction between teachers and students that involves questioning, dialogue, feedback and creating a structured environment to promote inquiry, exploration, discovery and engagement

Rubric: A measurement instrument based on learning outcomes that can be used for assessing written work

Course Embedded Assessment: An evaluation method that utilizes curriculum, assignments and exams based on the disciplinary content of a class

Critical Thinking: The ability to identify, analyze and evaluate arguments in one’s own and others work and to develop well reasoned arguments

Collaborative Learning: A group process that involves participants contributing to and acquiring knowledge and understanding from the interaction

Engaged Learning: An active process in which knowledge and understanding are acquired through participation, inquiry, involvement and direct experience

Closing the Loop: An institutional process in which assessment data is used for improvements in teaching, courses and curriculum, findings are disseminated, assessment measures and processes are evaluated and assessment related professional development is planned and supported

Pedagogical Imperative: An approach to assessment of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Carnegie Commission that emphasizes the use of data for improvement and views the classroom as laboratory where faculty see themselves as responsible for student learning.

Metacognitive Mental Strategies: An awareness of one’s own thought processes that enables the deliberate use of procedures that operate on and transform information

Reflective Thinking: The ability to be a self-directed learner and to deliberately employ critical thinking as a mental strategy in approaching problem solving and intellectual tasks

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Christopher S. Schreiner
Christopher S. Schreiner
Chapter 1
Melissa A. Dyehouse, John Y. Baek, Richard A. Lesh
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Multi-Tier Design Assessment in the Development of Complex Organizational Systems
Chapter 2
Hedva Lewittes
In this chapter critical thinking is assessed using two critical thinking learning outcomes that were required for the State University of New... Sample PDF
A Critical Thinking Rubric as the Basis of Assessment and Curriculum
Chapter 3
Suzanne Pieper, Erika Edwards, Brandon Haist, Walter Nolan
The purpose of this chapter is to review literature over the past ten years regarding technology tools that are being used in higher education to... Sample PDF
A Survey of Effective Technologies to Assess Student Learning
Chapter 4
John Baer, Sharon S. McKool
The Consensual Assessment Technique is a powerful tool used by creativity researchers in which panels of expert judges are asked to rate the... Sample PDF
Assessing Creativity Using the Consensual Assessment Technique
Chapter 5
Christine Charyton, Zorana Ivcevic, Jonathan A. Plucker, James C. Kaufman
This chapter discusses creativity assessment as a means for evaluating skills required in higher education. Creativity is assessed in the context of... Sample PDF
Creativity Assessment in Higher Education
Chapter 6
Asao B. Inoue
This chapter articulates writing assessment as a technology, theorized with three aspects (power, parts, and purpose), accounting for the ways in... Sample PDF
The Technology of Writing Assessment and Racial Validity
Chapter 7
Sheila S. Thompson, Annemarie Vaccaro
The purpose of this chapter is to address epistemological and methodological approaches to assessing assessment. The authors’ intent is to show how... Sample PDF
Qualitative and Quantitative Methods as Complementary Assessment Tools
Chapter 8
Teresa Flateby
The development of the Cognitive Level and Quality of Writing Assessment online system is described in this chapter. Beginning with needs identified... Sample PDF
Effects of Assessment Results on a Writing and Thinking Rubric
Chapter 9
Barbara D’Angelo, Barry Maid
Outcomes-based assessment provides data for programs to demonstrate student learning as a result of their enrollment in the program and to assess... Sample PDF
Assessing Outcomes in a Technical Communication Capstone
Chapter 10
Sonya Borton, Alanna Frost, Kate Warrington
As Jacqueline Jones Royster articulated at the 2006 Conference on College Composition and Communication, English departments are already assessing... Sample PDF
Assessing the Composition Program on Our Own Terms
Chapter 11
Joan Aitken
This chapter uses a case study to exemplify one approach to assessment of three instructional delivery formats: (a) online, (b) distance, satellite... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Instructional Delivery Formats
Chapter 12
Victor W. Brunsden
The author present a case-study of a classroom technique that allows assessment and some remediation of several shortcomings of college student... Sample PDF
Inverting the Remedial Mathematics Classroom with Alternative Assessment
Chapter 13
David A. Eubanks
This chapter describes Coker College’s subjective performance assessment program to rate student thinking and communication skills. It uses a... Sample PDF
A Case Study of Authentic Assessment
Chapter 14
P. Tokyo Kang, David Gugin
This chapter reports an outcomes assessment study conducted at the University of Guam. The assessment project was conducted during the 2006-07 and... Sample PDF
Outcomes Assessment in Japanese Language Instruction
Chapter 15
Barika Barboza, Frances Singh
This chapter describes an outcomes assessment study completed in a basic composition course at a small urban open admissions community college. The... Sample PDF
Assessing the Effectiveness of a Basic Writing Course
Chapter 16
Lorraine Gilpin, Yasar Bodur, Kathleen Crawford
Peer assessment holds tremendous potential to positively impact the development of preservice teachers. The purpose of this chapter is to describe... Sample PDF
Peer Assessment for Development of Preservice Teachers
Chapter 17
Charlotte Brammer, Rhonda Parker
In 2002, Samford University began working on a long-term learning assessment plan designed to evaluate its undergraduates’ competencies in written... Sample PDF
Workshops and E-Portfolios as Transformational Assessment
Chapter 18
Daniel F. Chambliss
This chapter describes how the trend favoring assessment initiatives of a system-wide scope such as program review and collegiate learning... Sample PDF
A Neglected Necessity in Liberal Arts Assessment: The Student as the Unit of Analysis
Chapter 19
Deirdre Pettipiece, Timothy Ray, Justin Everett
Perhaps due to its applicability as a performance of skill sets in virtually all disciplines, writing as a mechanism for measuring student success... Sample PDF
Redefining Writing Reality Multi-Modal Writing and Assessment
Chapter 20
Sean A. McKitrick
This chapter introduces methods that can be used to engage faculty in the assessment process, working within a shared governance structure in... Sample PDF
Engaging Faculty as a Strategic Choice in Assessment
Chapter 21
Steven M. Culver, Ray VanDyke
There is much in the assessment literature about the necessity of developing a culture of assessment and mandates from accrediting bodies include... Sample PDF
Developing a Receptive and Faculty-Focused Environment for Assessment
Chapter 22
John Wittman
This chapter argues that as primary stakeholders in writing program assessment, students and instructors need to be included proactively in... Sample PDF
New Collaborations for Writing Program Assessment
Chapter 23
Mya Poe
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Reporting Race and Ethnicity in International Assessment
Chapter 24
Joan Hawthorne, Tatyana Dumova, April Bradley, Daphne Pederson
In this chapter the authors describe a method developed to assess the outcome of a “cultural familiarity” general education goal. Challenges in... Sample PDF
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