Why K-12 Schools Assess Critical Thinking

K-12 student smiles at camera while working on standardized test

With standardized tests already consuming a significant amount of class time, one could wonder why K-12 schools add a valid and reliable assessment of critical thinking to their testing calendar. Here are four reasons why K-12 schools measure critical thinking.

1. Critical thinking drives academic achievement.

Educational research studies show that students possessing strength in critical thinking are better equipped to learn. Analytical and interpretive skills enable students to understand and integrate content material. Skills in inference and explanation enable students to see the implications of the knowledge they are gaining. This leads students to ask better questions and learn more deeply. The mindset attributes of inquisitiveness, organization, foresight, and persistent inquiry drive students to get more out of their classes. Numeracy at a basic level is essential because everything today from the news to marketing messages uses infographics. Because these critical thinking skills and attributes are so important, schools assess ability. Here is one example of the many research studies that connect K-12 critical thinking with academic achievement: Critical Thinking in the Classroom…and Beyond. 

2. Parents understand the lifelong advantages critical thinking in K-12 students provides.

The answer is straightforward. Teaching critical thinking is central to the enterprise. Educators and parents know that stronger critical thinking leads to better learning, decision-making, and problem-solving. People with stronger critical thinking enjoy a higher likelihood of success in the workplace. Communities thrive when people apply strong critical thinking to resolving disputes and making improvements. Democracy depends on a well-informed citizenry where voters can apply their critical thinking to the issues on the ballot. Countries throughout the world are coming more and more to acknowledge the many social, professional, and personal advantages of strong critical thinking. Here is one example from India’s highly competitive educational system: Why Critical Thinking is Crucial for Students of Today. 

3. K-12 Educators know that assessment shows students what’s important.

In education, we get what we measure. That’s why students are always asking teachers what is going to be on the test. Schools assess student critical thinking because they value it. and they want to send a message to students that strong critical thinking is important. 

4. Assessment provides data on educational effectiveness.

Today educational programs throughout the world are expected to be able to demonstrate that they are effectively improving critical thinking skills. The data from well-designed assessment programs help parents and educators target educational development to ensure that students are developing the strength of thinking skills and learning attributes. Assessing critical thinking helps schools “make their case” to the voting public and to policymakers that the schools are effectively preparing children to succeed academically and eventually in the workplace too. K-12 schools and academies of all kinds – independent, charter, public, private, international – value critical thinking. And they know that good assessment will provide objective data that can be used to benefit students, teachers, and parents. Here are some of the many things that schools do with the data:

Group summary data can be used to:

  • ensure K-12 students are developing the reasoning skills needed for academic success
  • provide the objective data teachers need to incorporate necessary reasoning skills into class work, reading comprehension, instruction, and curriculum
  • evaluate the effectiveness of curricular programs, instructional strategies, and educational materials in developing critical thinking learning
  • strengthen support programs by identifying areas where greater emphasis on critical thinking is needed
  • benchmark a group’s overall score in critical thinking against relevant external national benchmarks
  • document the growth in student critical thinking skills from program entry to exit
  • support the admissions process with data on the overall strength of the applicant group

Comprehensive individual reports can be used to:

  • help counselors and teachers understand how each student’s skill level impacts the quality of their learning and problem-solving
  • provide parents with an understanding of their student’s skills, needs, and learning style
  • identify and target specific areas for improvement
  • provide objective information for class placement
  • support the development of individual education plans
  • supplement admissions processes with key predictors of student success such as critical thinking skills, numeracy, and learning orientation

Contact us to discuss how your school can assess students’ critical thinking.

Because critical thinking is the process of reasoned judgement, a valid critical thinking assessment provides students the opportunity to demonstrate their critical thinking. Have more questions about critical thinking? Check out the Top Ten Critical Thinking FAQs. 

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