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Higher Education Success Stories

Advance Critical Thinking in Admissions, Learning & Accreditation

Advance critical thinking in admissions, learning and accreditation

Beyond their obvious educational value, good data on students’ critical thinking can enrich key academic activities.  Check out these thumbnail success stories describing how critical thinking data are used in admissions, in learning research, program quality improvement, and in outcomes assessment for professional and for regional accreditation. These examples come from institutions of every kind: from research universities, regional comprehensives, and four-year liberal arts institutions to two-year community colleges and tech schools.  Examples from Business, the Health Sciences, STEM, associate degree, baccalaureate, post-baccalaureate, professional training, and adult education programs are presented.  If you do not find your kind of program or institution in this short list, call us to ask how your peers are using critical thinking data to build institutional as well as student success.

Admissions – Professional Schools and Non-Traditional Students

  • MBA, Accounting, and other Graduate Level Business programs use the Business Critical Thinking Skills Test (BCTST) for admissions to both on-site and online programs. Individual student profiles for those students who are admitted guide advising for course selection when admission decisions occur throughout the academic year. The profile of reasoning skills scores, benchmarked against the national percentile, provides faculty with information to guide new curriculum development. BCTST reports on how well students reason in numerical contexts, when the problem situation is uncertain and when conditions allow for concise decision making.
  • Health sciences programs. Deans and directors of health sciences programs at all levels from two-year colleges to research universities have made the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) the instrument of choice for admissions in a wide range of disciplines including dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, PA, RT, PT, OT, etc. The instrument offers national benchmark comparison percentiles for graduate, undergraduate, and associate degree students. HSRT is solving the problem of a lost seat when an admitted student cannot complete the program and achieve licensure.
  • Non-traditional students.  With the renewed emphasis on returning adult, veteran, and transfer student admissions, enrollment managers are discovering the value of the skills and mindset metrics reported by the College Student Success (CSS) instrument.  The reasoning skills metrics indicate the ability to succeed in college; the mindset metrics indicate the drive, resourcefulness, and desire to achieve success.
  • Engineering & STEM programs. Because of the steep increase in the number of students hoping to enter STEM programs, Deans of Engineering and other highly impacted programs are turning to the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) for admissions. Using the undergraduate and graduate STEM comparison percentiles, an in-depth assessment of reasoning skills informs their admissions decision. As a result, the accelerated and demanding curriculum is well received by students who successfully transition to STEM professionals.   

 Accreditation – Regional and Professional

  • Research universities. State flagship and other top tier research universities demonstrate gains in critical thinking skills annually using the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) . Some take advantage of the versatility of our online testing system to enable matched-pairs longitudinal assessment designs or to disaggregate data into reports sent to each dean and department chair. Others target specific national comparison percentile benchmarks to evaluate the overall effectiveness of their baccalaureate degree programs. 
  • Regional comprehensives, liberal arts, and two-year institutions. Throughout the country regional comprehensives, liberal arts as well as research universities are responding to regional accreditation agency demands for actionable learning outcomes assessment using cross-sectional data samples gathered with the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) or the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) . In the  SACS region they address their accreditation QEP challenge by identifying critical thinking as the most worthy learning objective to address and then using the CCTST or the CCTDI to gather multi-year data samples.
  • Professional School Accreditations. many Deans of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy at a prestigious health sciences university are using the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) to gather objective, nationally benchmarked data on the critical thinking skills of students who within two months of graduation.
  • Professional School Deans get double the value by using the data for their respective school’s professional accreditation purposes and to establish school-specific critical thinking entry level admissions criteria.

Program Evaluation and Learning Research

  • Grant Funded Research. Each year NSF, NIH, DOE, and DOD competitive grant funded research projects use one or another of our well-respected and widely documented assessment tools to gather data for their projects.  In turn, we support externally funded competitive research projects with deep discounts.  These researchers recognize the validity of our assessments and appreciate the opportunity our versatile technology gives them to add demographic questions and to aggregate or disaggregate data in multiple ways automatically online.  
  • Evaluation of Training program effectiveness. The USAF uses the Health Science Reasoning Test (HSRT) to test the effectiveness of an intensive three-month nurses training program designed to develop critical thinking skills. Trainees are tested before (T1) and after (T2) the training session, and again one year after they are deployed at military medical centers (T3). Gains at T2 have documented achievement of their objective to improve reasoning skills. Additional gains at T3 show that personnel continue to improve in their reasoning and decision-making skills over time.
  • Dissertation Research. In many countries around the world, doctoral students from a very wide variety of disciplines are gathering dissertation research data on the impact of new curricular or instructional approaches or training programs. Typically implementing a pretest / posttest design, they use a wide variety of our assessment tools with subjects as young as elementary school students and as experienced as professionals.
  • Scholars and independent researchers have documented growth in student critical thinking using the same international expert consensus definition of “critical thinking” that grounds our higher education assessment instruments. See “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. They reviewed 341 publications documenting experimental and quasi-experimental studies using standardized measures of critical thinking – some of which happened to use our assessment tools – and concluded “… 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.”  

There are many more success stories to be told by our higher education clients across the nation and around the world, and by our clients from other sectors including K-12, health care, business, executive training, the military and government agencies.  But, more importantly, there is YOUR success story. 

Contact us today. Let us assist you with ideas about how you can gather and use data on students’ critical thinking in your admissions, advising, student retention, curricular development, outcomes assessment, or accreditation self-study processes.  Teaching our students to think well is at the very heart of a good education.  Let’s work together to reinforce that high purpose by building the measurement of critical thinking into the very culture of all that we do as educators.  We look forward to hearing from you about YOUR programs.

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