Critical Thinking: Project History

Over the course of the 2012-13 academic year, a volunteer task force comprised of De Anza faculty members has worked to develop a tool for assessing the Critical Thinking ICC, a core component of the college’s mission statement. The task force began by reviewing responses from attendees of the 2012 SLO convocation, which featured a presentation on the institutional assessment of critical thinking from Dr. Carol Ann Gittens (Santa Clara University). Attendees were asked to identify the features of student performance in their respective disciplines that indicate proficiency in critical thinking. After reviewing all responses, the task force worked to distill them into a rubric for assessing critical thinking, representative of the characteristics identified by our wide-ranging disciplines. Once the rubric was developed, select faculty members were invited to test our assessment tool. Testing was conducted in two phases. Toward the end of the fall 2012 quarter, task force members attempted to use the tool to assess an activity in their own courses. This resulted in revisions and refinements to the rubric itself. During the winter 2013 quarter, 20 faculty members were selected by the SLO core committee as excellent candidates for ‘alpha testing’ our Critical Thinking (CT) assessment rubric. Of the 20 faculty that were contacted, 10 agreed to participate. Of the 10 who agreed to participate, 5 have submitted their documented assessments as of 5/28/13.

The sample is of course too small to yield significant findings about the extent to which De Anza enhances critical thinking skills as an institution. The ‘test run’ does, however, suggest some encouraging things about the tool that our task force has worked so hard to create. The rubric can be successfully applied to activities across a broad range of disciplines (assessments have thus far been conducted in biology, chemistry, computer science, nursing, philosophy, and political science), and testers report that using the tool offers an excellent opportunity for reflecting upon the relationship between specific in-class activities and the broader mission of the college.

The rubric is now ready for widespread use, and all members of the campus community are encouraged to apply it to their work with students at De Anza. The assessment tool, along with instructions for its use, can be found here. The assessment process takes very little time to complete, and can contribute profoundly valuable insights into one of De Anza’s core values. Please consider conducting an assessment in the coming quarter. By assessing ourselves, we open up new possibilities for discourse, reflection, and enhancement.

Special thanks are in order to all who have participated in the development and testing of the rubric thus far: Karen Chow, Mayra Cruz, Ryan Dickson, Cassie Hanna, Anu Khanna, Clara Lam, Coleen Lee-Wheat, Hua-Fu Liu, Piper McNulty, Mallory Newell, Clare Nguyen, Mary Pape, Jeff Schinske, Donna Stasio, Robert Stockwell, Monika Thomas, and Erik Woodbury.

Back to Top