Expert Consensus on Critical Thinking

Critical thinking definition from the APA Delphi Consensus Definition

The Delphi Report

The landmark 1990 APA Delphi Report describes the findings of the two year project to articulate an international expert consensus definition of critical thinking, including its core cognitive skills. The experts identify the characteristics of an ideal critical thinker, and present specific recommendations relating to critical thinking instruction and assessment.

Click here to download a PDF of the Executive Summary of  Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction

Defining Critical Thinking Skills

“The Critical Thinking Movement” of the 1980s witnessed a growing accord that the heart of education lies exactly where traditional advocates of a liberal education always said it was — in the processes of inquiry, learning and thinking rather than in the accumulation of disjointed skills and senescent information. By the decade’s end the movement to infuse the K-12 and post-secondary curricula with critical thinking had gained remarkable momentum.

The momentum continues to build now, in the 21st Century, as employers, educators, and policy-makers continue to endorse the development of students’ critical thinking as an essential educational priority. Then, and perhaps still today, the successes of “The Critical Thinking Movement” raised vexing questions for educators: Which skills, exactly, are the ones that comprise the core group of critical thinking skills? What pedagogical approaches are most effective to teach for critical thinking, and not simply about critical thinking? What assessment strategies and tools work best for the assessment of critical thinking as a required student learning outcome?

When asked by the individual professor or teacher seeking to introduce critical thinking into her own classroom, such questions are difficult enough. But they took on social, fiscal, and political dimensions when asked by campus curriculum committees, school district offices, boards of education, and the educational testing and publishing industries. Given the central role played by philosophers in articulating the value, both individual and social, of critical thinking, in analyzing the concept of critical thinking, in designing college level academic programs in critical thinking, and in assisting with efforts to introduce critical thinking  into the K-12 curriculum, it is little wonder that the American Philosophical Association took great interest in the critical thinking movement and its impact on the profession. 

In December of 1987, the APA, through its Committee on Pre-College Philosophy asked Dr. Peter Facione to serve as the lead investigator to coordinate an international effort to determine the extent to which experts agreed on the definition of critical thinking for purposes of college level teaching and assessment. The result became known as  the Delphi Report, a document which continues to influence critical thinking theory, teaching, and assessment in the full spectrum of academic disciplines and professional fields.

Critical thinking requires skills and dispositions

A key result of the inquiry is the articulation by the panel of critical thinking experts of a conceptualization of critical thinking in terms of two dimensions: cognitive skills and affective dispositions. Section II of the report describes the Delphi research methodology. Section III address the skill dimension of critical thinking and Section IV focuses on the dispositional dimension of critical thinking.  The Delphi Report concludes with fifteen recommendations pertaining to critical thinking instruction and assessment.

For commercial or resale reprint permissions of the APA Delphi Report or “Critical Thinking What It Is and Why It Counts”  contact Insight Assessment.

Insight Assessment’s comprehensive array of critical thinking test skills and dispositions test instruments are based on the Delphi Expert Consensus Definition of Critical Thinking.  Research has shown that these instruments predict strength in critical thinking in authentic problem situations and success on professional licensure examinations. Contact us to learn more.

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