A printable version of this information can be found here. 



Assessing Critical Thinking

 It is all about assessing critical thinking not you or your course!

What is the Purpose of a Core/General Education Curriculum?

To provide students a broad base of knowledge and experiences and develop their creative and intellectual potential, whatever their specific majors may be. 

Why Do We Assess Student Learning in Core?

  • How do we know if students are learning and developing CORE knowledge, skills and habits of mind, if we’re only assessing subject content outcomes?
  • How can we improve our core curriculum?

What does it mean to be an Inquiry Core course?

  • The central goal of every Inquiry course is to provide students with an understanding of the methods used to discover and create the factual and theoretical knowledge of the discipline.
  • Inquiry Core courses are intended to improve students’
    • Understanding of disciplinary methods, including the kinds of questions asked in the discipline and the methods that practitioners use to explore those questions
    • Demonstrate critical thinking skills within the field.
    • Demonstrate communication skills.

How do students demonstrate critical thinking skills?
What are the skills we’re looking for?

  • 1) Reason using relevant evidence gathered, evaluated and synthesized as appropriate for the scholarly, disciplinary or interdisciplinary field to create meaningful information.  
  • 2) Analyze, construct, or critique arguments or data considering premises, assumptions, contexts, and conclusions and anticipate counterarguments and respectfully consider, accommodate or incorporate opposing viewpoints as appropriate.
  • 3) Demonstrate creative or innovative approaches to asking and answering questions, defining problems, identifying solutions, and creating knowledge or art.

Characteristics of Assignments that Promote Critical Thinking

  • Academic Prompts
    • Open-ended questions or problems
    • Ill-structured, require development of a strategy
    • Involve analysis, application, synthesis, and evaluation
    • Require explanation or defense of the answer given
  • Performance Tasks and Projects
    • Comples challenges that mirror the issues and problems faced by adults
    • Feature a setting that is real or simulated
    • Require students to address and identified audience
    • Allow students greater opportunity to personalize the task
    • Task, criteria, and standards are known in advance and guide student's work
Source: Wiggins, G. P., McTighe, J., Kiernan, L. J., Frost, F., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

What Does Your Syllabus Say?

  • Review your own syllabus
    • How are these critical thinking skills and habits are taught and demonstrated to students in your courses?
    • How do students demonstrate through work in course, labs, or recitations, that critical thinking skills and habits are being developed?
  • Share your findings at your table and p ick three examples to share with the group

What is an “Assessment Artifact”?

  • Let's Recap

Let's Assess!

  • At each table is an example of a student project/assignment.   Using the provided rubric, evaluate the student’s work individually (10 minutes)
  • Compare your results at your table (5 minutes)
  • Report out –
    • How close did your assessment compare to each other?
    • What were some of your observations as you applied the rubric to the student artifact?
  • At this point you might be asking yourself:
    • How will this work? How much time will it take?
    • How many artifacts will I have to assess?


  • Each instructor will be asked to submit 5 RANDOMLY selected artifacts demonstrating Critical Thinking from their course(s)
  • Artifacts will be organized and then distributed to different faculty who teach in the same inquiry area (IH/RH, IA/RA, IS/RS, IN/RN). Faculty will NOT be assessing their own student’s work or work from a departmental colleagues class.
  • Each faculty will assess 5 artifacts and report their findings in a Qualtrics Survey
  • THAT’S IT….and the Provost Office will post specific directions on the Core 2.0 website which is available as a link on the Office of the Provost webpage. We will also communicate with you and your department heads via email with directions.

What Happens to the Data?

  • Information provided by the assessment survey will only demonstrate how well we are developing critical thinking skills among our students. (It will not be disaggregated at the course level)
  • Results of the survey will be provided to all faculty and posted on our CORE website
  • Information gathered will generate potential CFE workshops and trainings for future assessment activities.
  • Remember: It’s all about continued quality improvement of student learning