Critical thinking may just be the most important and widely espoused college level student learning outcome.
Whether you are admitting new students, assessing an ongoing initiative or measuring achievement of learning outcomes by graduating seniors, Spring is an important time to gather critical thinking test data.
Assessing critical thinking in the Spring enables successful programs to:
- collect exit data on graduating students to document that they have developed the skills and attributes that demonstrate strength in critical thinking
- capture baseline data to document current student performance
- assess incoming students’ needs for tailored curricula in critical thinking
- obtain high quality data for accreditation self-studies
- benchmark student performance data against national percentiles
- examine evidence of the effectiveness of the strategies used to train critical thinking
- to provide faculty with information that they can use to support student success
- demonstrate school commitment to the importance of critical thinking as a learning outcome.
Well calibrated measures of critical thinking have been shown to be predictive of performance in educational programs, success in the workplace, and achievement in professional practice. Strong critical thinking skills and positive critical thinking habits of mind are vital to success in every academic discipline and major field of study. For over 25 years Insight Assessment’s scenario-based objective measures of critical thinking have provided clients with data on the relative strength of each test taker and on their test taker groups overall.
Spring testing pays off throughout the campus. Contact us to learn more our suite of test instruments calibrated for undergraduate, graduate and professional program college students. Our validated, objective assessments are used globally to report on strengths and weaknesses of the thinking skills and mindset attributes of individual and group test takers. Our online app based assessment delivery includes flexible test taker access, advanced security, global multilingual delivery and easy access to sample questions.
Contact us today. There's still time to implement an impactful Spring assessment program.
It is natural to wonder how to prepare to take one of our tests. We provide testing instruments to academic institutions for admissions purposes and learning outcomes assessment purposes. And we provide other testing instruments to businesses for employee selection and training purposes.
Insight Assessment educational and employment test instruments are designed to measure a person’s reasoning skills and thinking mindset. Here is how they work:
- If you take one of our thinking mindset assessments you will be presented with a list of simple statements and asked whether you agree or disagree with each of those statements. No study or other kind of preparation is needed for this kind of an assessment.
- If you take one of our thinking skills tests you will be presented with questions that ask you which is the best response? All the information needed to answer is provided in the question itself. You’ll need to apply your critical thinking skills to that information and then select the best response from those provided. Again, no studying or specialized subject matter knowledge is needed, since the questions provide the content about which you’ll be reasoning.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the assessment in an environment free of distraction.
- If you are taking the assessment in app or online mode, your test administrator will provide a link and user login instructions. Your test may be timed; the online test systems include a timer that counts down the remaining time. The timer does not start until you actually bring the first test question up on the screen.
- If you are taking the test in paper and pencil mode the test administrator will provide instructions.
- Tests are scored electronically using our secure, validated testing system. Test results will be provided to you or your test administrator.
Building strong reasoning skills and a positive thinking mindset involves engaging problems and making decisions in a thoughtful way. There are many products designed to engage and strengthen critical thinking. For example, the introductory college level textbook, “Think Critically,” by Facione and Gittens, available from Pearson Education.
Generic adult level sample critical thinking skills questions and thinking mindset questions are posted on our website. These samples are only examples, not the same as the ones used on the tests you may being asked to take by schools, colleges or businesses.
Our own free app, Critical Thinking Insight, contains examples of critical thinking assessments, although not the same ones used by schools, colleges and businesses. You may want to download our app and view the free sample skills and mindset questions there. This will also give you a chance to familiarize yourself with our app based online test systems.
A good critical thinking test is not going to be a test of factual knowledge about critical thinking. Memorizing information and definitions is not the key. A good critical thinking test will engage you in using your thinking skills and mindset because critical thinking is a process. Achieving greater success with critical thinking requires practice. Regularly exercising your critical thinking skills builds strength.
Before you implement your critical thinking program make sure that the individual and group data reported will be objective, high impact and relevant.
You’ve done the easy part: You’ve realized that good thinking is critical to the success of your group/organization. You’ve decided that you need reliable metrics to achieve your goal of improving the quality decision making and problem solving.
Now it’s time to make the most important decision: how do you decide which assessment tool and company will efficiently deliver the high integrity data you need to meet your objectives?
Effective thinking and reasoning tests must:
- Measure and document a comprehensive view of the strengths and weaknesses of test takers’ thought processes. For a complete assessment of an individual’s thinking, it is essential to measure both skills and mindset. Individuals can have the right skills but not the motivation to use them, so their mindset matters a lot.
- Be calibrated for the intended test takers. Assessments should be matched with the appropriate educational or job responsibility levels and, if possible, for the appropriate professional fields of the targeted test takers. Thinking assessments are not one-size-fits-all.
- Support the language needs of your test takers. Language flexibility in the assessment instruments and in the test taker interface (TTI) can minimize the possibility that the measure of an individual’s thinking skills is affected by language ability. Why good translations matter
- Be user friendly. Effective tests engage and challenge test takers with scenarios and situations relevant to their interests in a variety of formats.
- Be firmly based on research in critical thinking, statistical analysis and measurement science.
- Have a proven record of reliability and meet statistical requirements of validity. The strength of any test is determined by the validity of the questions and the quality of data gathered.
- Deliver individual and group results in fast, detailed, readable and presentation ready reports which are calculated to assist decision-making.
- Report strength and weaknesses of specific core components of decision making as well providing an overall metric
- Provide the option of internal and external group norm percentile comparison
- Include secure, encrypted app based interface available 24-7, easily administered at single or multiple sites, at test centers or independently to groups and to individuals.
- Be supported by high quality client service starting from an informed consultation on test selection and logistics through delivery and analysis of results
Keep these criteria in mind as you analyze and evaluate test tools and companies. Be thoughtful about choosing your thinking assessments. Be sure you’re choosing the best.
All Insight Assessment solutions meet these criteria. We set the standard for objective, validated group and individual analytics on the strength and weakness of core components of thinking skills and mindset. Insight Assessment offers a uniquely comprehensive array of test instruments calibrated specifically for educational, professional, business, health care, defense and legal uses. Our metrics are used and applied in 50 states and 60 countries in over 30 languages. Reports and analytics provide accurate measurements of essential individual skills and mindset attributes. Group reports display aggregated statistics and bar-charts on each metric. Flexible administration options are available globally 24/7. Results are delivered within minutes of completion of the assessment.
Contact us to design an assessment program that matches your goals, intended test takers and reporting needs. Get the data you need for admissions, accreditation, outcomes assessment, hiring, training, program evaluation, research and all other projects that require good thinking.
Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset, Part 3.
The cultivation of a positive critical thinking mindset is both easier and yet more difficult than one might at first believe. Here are specific recommendations about ways to exercise the seven positive thinking attributes discussed in Part 2 of this series. Strong critical thinking skills depend on a strong critical thinking mindset. These recommendations should be practiced daily.
Putting the Positive Critical Thinking Mindset into Practice
- Truth-seeking – Ask courageous and probing questions. Think deeply about the reasons and evidence for and against a given decision you must make. Pick one or two of your own most cherished beliefs, and ask yourself what reasons and what evidence there are for and against those beliefs.
- Open-mindedness – Listen patiently to someone who is offering opinions with which you do not agree. As you listen, show respect and tolerance toward the person offering the ideas. Show that you understand (not the same as “agree with”) the opinions being presented.
- Analyticity – Identify an opportunity to consciously pause to ask yourself about all the foreseeable and likely consequences of a decision you are making. Ask yourself what that choice, whether it is large or small, will mean for your future life and behavior.
- Systematicity – Focus on getting more organized. Make lists of your most urgent work, family and educational responsibilities, and your assignments. Make lists of the most important priorities and obligations as well. Compare the urgent with the important. Budget your time to take a systematic and methodical approach to fulfilling obligations.
- Critical Thinking Confidence – Commit to resolve a challenging problem by reasoning it through. Embrace a question, problem, or issue that calls for a reasoned decision, and begin working on it yourself or in collaboration with others.
- Inquisitiveness – Learn something new. Go out and seek information about any topic of interest, but not one that you must learn about for work, and let the world surprise you with its variety and complexity.
- Judiciousness – Revisit a decision you made recently and consider whether it is still the right decision. See if any relevant new information has come to light. Ask if the results that had been anticipated are being realized. If warranted, revise the decision to better suit your new understanding of the state of affairs.
To learn more, you can find the entire essay Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione) as well as the seminal essay Critical Thinking: What it is and Why it Counts in the Insight Assessment Resources library.
We hope this series has been informative, helpful and has engaged you in reflecting on ways you can be a better critical thinker. We are passionate about the impact of growing, measuring and promoting good thinking worldwide. Insight Assessment provides assessment programs validated research based tools such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, which measures each of these seven critical thinking habits of mind and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test which reports on overall thinking and five components of critical thinking skill. Contact us to discuss your assessment needs.
- Download our free app, Critical Thinking Insight, for free sample questions and in app purchasable critical thinking assessments for children and adults.
- See Part 1 of the How To Cultivate A Critical Thinking Mindset series to take the Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form.
- See Part 2 of the How To Cultivate A Critical Thinking Mindset series for definitions of the 7 positive mindset attributes that are integral to strong critical thinking.
- Follow our blog, Thinking Insight.
Be sure you exercise your thinking skills today. “A mind stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 2.
A strong critical thinking mindset is the product of the interaction of key attributes and mental disciplines.
Seven measurable critical thinking habits of mind:
Researchers have identified seven measurable aspects within the overall disposition toward critical thinking. Based on this research, we can describe someone who has all seven positive critical thinking habits of mind as a person who is:
- Truth-seeking—meaning that the person has intellectual integrity and a courageous desire to actively strive for the best possible knowledge in any given situation. A truth-seeker asks probing questions and follows reasons and evidence wherever they lead, even if the results go against his or her cherished beliefs.
- Open-minded—meaning that the person is tolerant of divergent views and sensitive to the possibility of his or her own possible biases. An open-minded person respects the right of others to have different opinions.
- Analytical—meaning that the person is habitually alert to potential problems and vigilant in anticipating consequences and trying to foresee short-term and long-term outcomes of events, decisions, and actions. Another word to describe this habit of mind might be “foresightful.”
- Systematic—meaning that the person consistently endeavors to take an organized and thorough approach to identifying and resolving problems. The systematic person is orderly, focused, persistent, and diligent in his or her approach to problem solving, learning, and inquiry
- Confident in reasoning—meaning that the person is trustful of his or her own reasoning skills to yield good judgments. A person’s or a group’s confidence in their own critical thinking may or may not be warranted, which is another matter.
- Inquisitive—meaning that the person habitually strives to be well informed, wants to know how things work, and seeks to learn new things about a wide range of topics, even if the immediate utility of knowing those things is not directly evident. The inquisitive person has a strong sense of intellectual curiosity.
- Judicious—meaning that the person approaches problems with a sense that some are ill structured and some can have more than one plausible solution. The judicious person has the cognitive maturity to realize that many questions and issues are not black and white and that, at times, judgments must be made in contexts of uncertainty.
Internalizing critical thinking habits of mind
In Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 1 you explored your disposition toward critical thinking by using the Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form. If you described yourself honestly, you have a rough idea if consistently apply critical thinking skills to problems, question, or issue is at hand.
The good news is that it is possible to strengthen your critical thinking mindset. Positive critical thinking habits of mind can be nurtured by internalizing the values that they embody and by reaffirming the intention each day to live by those values
- Be Alert for Opportunities. Each day we should be watch for opportunities to make decisions and solve problems reflectively. Rather than just reacting, take some time each day to be as reflective and thoughtful as possible in addressing at least one of the many problems or decisions of the day. 10 Positive Examples of Critical Thinking.
- For a thinking process to be successful, it must be done with the habits of mind that have been identified as supporting strength in critical thinking. To learn more, you can find the entire essay Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione) in the Insight Assessment Resources library.
Critical thinking mindset attributes can be objectively measured.
Many educational and professional programs use Insight Assessment validated research based test instruments such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), which reports on each of the seven critical thinking habits of mind and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) which gives scores on overall thinking and 5 components of thinking skill.
Want to learn more?
- See Part 1 Cultivating a Positive Critical Thinking Mindset to take the Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form
- Part 3 (October 31): recommendations to stimulate growth in seven positive critical thinking attributes
- Download our free app, Critical Thinking Insight, for free sample questions and in app purchasable assessments for adults and children.
- Follow our blog, Thinking Insight
Cultivating a Critical Thinking Mindset Part 1.
Having strong critical thinking skills is only half the equation. You can be skilled at thinking but if you don’t chose to apply those skills to learning and problem solving, the quality of your decisions suffer. Critical thinking mindset attributes lead to the consistent intention to apply critical thinking skills.
Do you have strong thinking habits of mind?
Here’s a self-rating form developed by researchers and authors, Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione. This measure does not assess critical thinking skills. Instead you are asked to reflect on whether your own behavior over the past two days manifested a positive, ambivalent, or negative tendency toward engaging in thoughtful, reflective, and fair-minded judgments about what to believe or what to do.
Critical Thinking Mindset Self-Rating Form
Answer yes or no to each statement.
Can I name any specific instances over the past two days when I:
- was courageous enough to ask tough questions about some of my longest held and most cherished beliefs?
- backed away from questions that might undercut some of my longest held and most cherished beliefs?
- showed tolerance toward the beliefs, ideas, or opinions of someone with whom I disagreed?
- tried to find information to build up my side of an argument but not the other side?
- tried to think ahead and anticipate the consequences of various options?
- laughed at what other people said and made fun of their beliefs, values, opinion, or points of views?
- made a serious effort to be analytical about the foreseeable outcomes of my decisions?
- manipulated information to suit my own purposes?
- encouraged peers not to dismiss out of hand the opinions and ideas other people offered?
- acted with disregard for the possible adverse consequences of my choices?
- organized for myself a thoughtfully systematic approach to a question or issue?
- jumped in and tried to solve a problem without first thinking about how to approach it?
- approached a challenging problem with confidence that I could think it through?
- instead of working through a question for myself, took the easy way out and asked someone else for the answer?
- read a report, newspaper, or book chapter or watched the world news or a documentary just to learn something new?
- put zero effort into learning something new until I saw the immediate utility in doing so?
- showed how strong I was by being willing to honestly reconsider a decision?
- showed how strong I was by refusing to change my mind?
- attended to variations in circumstances, contexts, and situations in coming to a decision?
- refused to reconsider my position on an issue in light of differences in context, situations, or circumstances?
- Give yourself 5 points for every “Yes” on odd numbered items and for every “No” on even numbered items. If your total is 70 or above, you are rating your disposition toward critical thinking over the past two days as generally positive. Scores of 50 or lower indicate a self-rating that is averse or hostile toward critical thinking over the past two days. Scores between 50 and 70 show that you would rate yourself as displaying an ambivalent or mixed overall disposition toward critical thinking over the past two days.
This article is adapted with permission from Cultivating A Critical Thinking Mindset (Peter A. Facione, Carol A. Gittens and Noreen C. Facione, Measured Reasons). More resources, including Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers can be found in the Insight Assessment Resources library.
Insight Assessment provides validated research based multilingual tools such as the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), which measures seven critical thinking habits of mind and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) which gives scores on overall thinking and five components of thinking skill. We are proud of our uniquely comprehensive array of thinking skills and mindset assessments calibrated specifically for educational, professional, business, health care, defense and legal uses.
Want more to learn more?
- Follow our blog, Thinking Insight to read Parts 2 and 3 of this series on cultivating a critical thinking mindset
- Part 2 (October 24) seven mindset attributes that characterize a positive critical thinking mindset
- Part 3 (October 31) for recommendations to stimulate 7 critical thinking attributes
- Download our free app, Critical Thinking Insight for free sample questions and in app purchasable self-tests such as My Thinking Skills – Adult Level, My Thinking Mindset – Adult Level, My Leadership Potential – Adult Level, My Learning Mind - Ages 5-10 and My Learning Mind - Ages 11-17 .
Successful teams possess the ability to come at a problem from myriad directions to determine the best course of action. Projects rarely fail due to technical gaps since the gap is usually recognizable even if the solution is complex. Many teams fail because elements of analytical thinking are missing from the group. For example:
- If the team is risk averse, they may be reluctant to determine the solution that has the strongest likelihood of success, given information at hand. INSIGHT measures problem-solving in contexts of risks, ambiguity and uncertainty.
- If the team is not detail oriented, it may lead to failure to correctly identify the significance and complexity of critical data elements. INSIGHT measures strength in problem analysis.
- If the team is not a team, the perspectives and opinions of some team members may not be considered in the analysis of optimal solutions. INSIGHT measures tolerance and professionalism.
- If the team is close minded, they may fail to seek out innovation and system changes, settling on familiar solutions too soon. INSIGHT measures adaptability.
- If the team is not inspired, they will flounder without individuals communicating enthusiasm and inspiring the team members to give their best. INSIGHT measures motivation and commitment.
Bottom line: the team fails to meet the goal. The team did not include the skills needed to contribute constructively to team problem solving and decision making.
INSIGHT Business is an array of assessment tools specifically designed to provide the metrics needed to create teams of people able to learn their jobs quickly and to perform successfully in situations requiring complex problem solving. INSIGHT delivers objective, reliable, statistically valid metrics about specific strengths and weaknesses in 5 essential thinking skills and 10 associated thinking mindsets that drive optimally productive and collaborative groups.
Many of our customers are assembling the team for critical projects only after assessing thinking skills and assuring that all aspects of analysis and a positive thinking mindset are present. Another approach is to assess the team post assembly to assure that the thinking skills and mindsets are sufficient to be successful. Some of our clients have even supplemented the team where necessary to optimize team performance.
Effective teams think well together. Don't let your teams be limited by poor reasoning skills. Contact us to start building your dream team using INSIGHT individual and group reports.
Focus your next professional development training on employee tasks that involves problem identification and the related decision about whether to manage the problem or to report it to the appropriate supervisor. These are situations that must be analyzed accurately and decisions that must be made well by all employees in the group.
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.
Begin with a pilot INSIGHT project that will test the value and degree of thinking in your workplace. You might want to demonstrate the power of employee assessment by integrating it with your next employee development program. While helping groups of employees to improve their skills to support effective job performance, you will be adding real time personal feedback about how well they are learning. As with any development program, the training must fit the level of employee and their job responsibilities. INSIGHT provides four levels of staff assessment with specializations in business, healthcare, law, defense and education.
You can use the program format: case discussion, employee assessment, and debrief.
Sample Training Program Module (estimated 60-90 minute program):
- Conduct your usual program covering the main content, using at least one representative case to teach the desired information about problem identification and the criteria for reporting more serious problems to supervisors. This part should be limited to 25-45 minutes to avoid cognitive fatigue being a factor for trainees’ learning. After introducing the case, allow employees to talk together until they have each decided how the case should be handled (by speaking aloud in the group, or talking with a teammate in small groups).
- Administer an in-program assessment using INSIGHT Mindset (15-20 minutes). Each employee can complete the assessment while in the training session, and then receive an individual report using a computer, tablet or smart device.
- Complete the training by clearly identifying the key elements of the case and the mindset characteristics that are demonstrated when employees can see the key elements and anticipate the need for risk management (for example, recall when an employee in the group discussion appraised the case honestly and systematically, when an employee was intolerant of opinions that were not consistent with their own, when someone reconsidered in light of new information, and when there was a call to clarify the facts of the case.
- Conclude by asking each employee to look at their personal assessment individual report to see where they might work to improve their critical thinking mindset.
Follow up this mindset training module with one that focuses on decision skills such as analysis, inference, evaluation and numeracy. Providing personal assessment reports of these skills can encourage better understanding of their specific strengths and weaknesses in these core skills. Metrics on the group reports as well as individual reports can help determine whether there are any individuals in the group that require more intensive training to be reliable decision makers.
Insight Assessment offers the optimal combination of test quality, value, scoring and support service, and organization-specific skills and attribute testing. Discuss your project by phone with one of our client support specialists or senior assessment consultants.
Looking for additional training strategies? Check out our complimentary teaching and training resources.
When presented with a tough decision, the way you think through the problem and assess available options is significant. Are these strategies part of your decision making process?
- Define the problem in some manner or other.
- Identify and list decision-critical factors.
- Identify a promising option
- Search until you find an option that is good enough.
- Test the promising option against others
- Ask yourself if that option is no worse than any other
- Structure the dominance of the “to be chosen” option
- Marshal your facts and reasons to support the option you are preparing to choose.
With any of these decision-making patterns, you risk renegotiating the factors, redefining the problem, exaggerating the virtues of our preferred option, or magnifying the defects of all other possible options.
The decision process can becomes flawed we when we move, more or less quickly, through a process that includes sorting through options. By discarding the implausible ones, identifying one or more promising options, evaluating it or them on the basis of our decision-critical criteria, and selecting the option we come to judge to be superior, we may not re-examine our assumptions or question our prior decision even when we should. And we tend to dismiss the counter-evidence unless it is forceful not only in its content but in its psychological impact or if we begin to see the potential for severely adverse consequences.
The challenge is always, how to avoid locking-in decisions prematurely. Fortunately decision skills can be improved through training and practice. Here are some practical Strategies to Avoid Locking in Decisions Prematurely.
Insight Assessment offers many other complimentary practical tools and Resources that support the training, development and assessment of decision making skills and the thinking mindset.
With specializations in business, healthcare, law, defense and education, INSIGHT provides the optimal combination of organization-specific skills and attribute testing, test quality, value, scoring and support service. Discuss your project by phone with one of our client support specialists or senior assessment consultants.
- To test your personal decision skills and mindset, check out the personal assessments offered on our app, Critical Thinking Insight
Training leaders how to get the answers they need to strengthen the quality of their decisions
Effective leaders need to be able to make judgements based on conflicting or incomplete data involving internal or external challenges. Asking clear and relevant questions is an essential leadership skill. Decision making quality in unfamiliar and uncertain problem situations depends on getting optimal answers.
These crucial question asking skills can and must be improved through practice. Building questioning skills is an important part of training thinking skills.
The Insight Assessment complimentary resource, Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Training Tool provides a list of focused questions trainers can use to stimulate the skills needed to acquire important information, identify unspoken assumptions, clarify issues and explore options.
As trainees integrate this question asking strategy into their thinking processes, they will be able to improve these core thinking and decision making skills. This list includes questions for each of these components of decision making:
Trainers: Download Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Training Tool so that you can apply this technique to strengthen the training strategies you currently use to improve thinking skills and mindset in your trainee and student groups. Insight Assessment offers a comprehensive array of objective, validated business thinking assessment tools that report individual and group diagnostics of overall strengths and weakness that can be used to guide the development of educational efforts to address the needs of personnel. Comprehensive personal reports provide insights for to individual trainees, highlighting reasoning strengths and identifying areas for improvement.
If you are interested in additional strategies for teaching and training reasoning skills, check out the many complimentary Teaching and Training Resources offered by Insight Assessment including:
- Effective Techniques for Building Reasoning Skills
- Techniques for Trainers of Reasoning Skills and Decision Making