How to assess the impact of a critical thinking program

Measuring changes and gains in thinking skill. Insight Assessment report graphic showing pretest to posttest distribution of scores on a mindset scale

Critical thinking can be analyzed, measured and improved. The more we are supported and challenged to exercise our core critical thinking skills, the stronger these skills become.

In order to obtain high quality data about the effectiveness of a critical thinking program, you will need obtain baseline data by assessing thinking skills both before and after the training. Scores on Insight Assessment test instruments will improve with the effective training of reasoning skills.

There are a number of ways to document quality improvement in critical thinking skills for your institution or organization:

  • Group Difference Scores: One method is compare the difference in the mean scores reported for your group before and after a training program or course.  This method compares the scores as a whole rather than looks at changes within the individual. The expected positive group difference change from pretest to posttest will not tell you how many of the individuals have improved, nor will it describe the range of improvement made by each individual.
  • Individual Difference Scores: To learn more about the proportion of individuals who have improved and the degree to which they have improved, the best method is to calculate the difference between the pretest and posttest scores for each person you have assessed. Individuals will have made different progress as the result of an educational offering aimed at building critical thinking skills. Some individuals may not have improved their critical thinking skills during the interim time period. If the difference score is at or near zero, they have shown no effect as a result of the educational training program.  The OVERALL Score for Insight Assessment test instruments is the score that is best used to calculate difference scores.
  • Comparison Percentile Difference Scores: A third option is to calculate difference scores for the comparison percentiles reported for each individual at pretest and posttest. Example: Improving your group’s overall percentile score from 52nd to 58th percentile demonstrates a significant overall gain in critical thinking scores. Insight Assessment offers a wide range of options of external criterion groups for. percentile score comparisons.

Individual difference scores provide the most information on the effectiveness of training techniques. In any given sample when individuals test twice, individual difference scores will demonstrate individual gains in critical thinking scores. For example, the demonstration of a two-point gain in CCTST OVERALL Score from pretest to posttest is associated with becoming more metacognitive about the reasoning process and with observable evidence of efforts to actively build reasoning skills. Large individual difference scores are observed in most pretest posttest studies for at least some individuals.

Longitudinal studies of individual critical thinking gains over time are rare. In one longitudinal study of practicing U.S. military nurses, demonstrated gains at posttest were retained in three consecutive cohorts at one-year post completion of the specified training program. Additional gains were also seen in many of these practicing professionals, suggesting that individuals who have become more reflective about, and evaluative of, their reasoning process continue to make gains.

Scores or percentiles that drop significantly at posttest are very rare, as critical thinking skills are not lost over a short period of time in the absence of cognitive injury, chemical impairment, or a failure to give or to be able to give best effort.

The fact that Insight Assessment test instruments measure only critical thinking and not content knowledge makes it possible to use these instruments as a pretest and posttest to measure improvement in critical thinking that occurs during any educational program or staff development exercise.

Contact Us to discuss how the data reported on Insight Assessment test instruments will help you meet your assessment program goals.

  • It’s difficult to develop an internal program for improving thinking skills. INSIGHT Development Program includes assessment and critical thinking training modules that can be integrated into your training programs or can be implemented as new initiative. Contact us to learn more.

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