What’s the difference between a skill and a disposition?

A skill is something a person can do, like reading, swimming, singing, or thinking. Skills are more or less well developed within the range of a person’s abilities. A person may have the ability to play the piano, but not have developed his or her skill at playing the piano.

A disposition (attribute, disposition) is a habitual inclination, like being loving, trustworthy, open-minded, or, on the negative side, biased, imprudent, or cowardly. A person may or may not be disposed to use some of their skills. A person, for example, might be skilled at painting walls and woodwork, but not be inclined to take on that chore.

We can test a person’s skills by asking them to perform tasks that require the use of those skills.

We can assess a person’s disposition by asking the person about their beliefs, preferences, and values. This is not to say that creating and validating these kinds of tests and measures does not, itself, require a good deal of skill, and knowledge.

To explore the relationship between being skilled at critical thinking and being disposed at critical thinking, download a copy of “The Disposition Toward Critical Thinking:Its Character, Measurement, and Relationship to Critical Thinking Skill” free from from our CT Resources.

Engaging problems and making decisions using critical thinking involves both skills and habits of mind. For a complete assessment of a test taker’s critical thinking, it is recommended that both skills and dispositions be measured. Insight Assessment offers a comprehensive array of both critical thinking skills tests and measurements of critical thinking attributes. Use the product selector to identify the skills and attributes tests calibrated for your intended test takers. Contact us to discuss the goals of your critical thinking assessment program.

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