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critical thinking core competency

Critical Thinking Competency

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Did you know employers rated critical thinking as the most important skill they seek in job candidates? This essential skill is defined as the ability to “identify and respond to needs based upon an understanding of situational context and logical analysis of relevant information.”

Behaviors that demonstrate this skill include:

There are ample opportunities within the Huntsman School to build critical thinking skills. Start by completing one or more of the activities listed below. It is important to become a critical thinker and problem solver, and equally important to know how to articulate this skill to employers. The goal is to showcase your experience and skills in specific competency areas through your resume/cover letter, elevator pitch, STAR interview response, or a personal statement.

Activities to Develop Critical Thinking Skills:

Career Readiness Competency Information provided by NACE- National Association of Colleges and Employers

Critical Thinking and Reflective Thinking

Critical and Reflective Thinking encompasses a set of abilities that students use to examine their own thinking and that of others. This involves making judgments based on reasoning, where students consider options, analyze options using specific criteria, and draw conclusions.

People who think critically and reflectively are analytical and investigative, willing to question and challenge their own thoughts, ideas, and assumptions and challenge those of others. They reflect on the information they receive through observation, experience, and other forms of communication to solve problems, design products, understand events, and address issues. A critical thinker uses their ideas, experiences, and reflections to set goals, make judgments, and refine their thinking.

Thinking Core Competencies

Analyzing and critiquing

Students learn to analyze and make judgments about a work, a position, a process, a performance, or another product or act. They reflect to consider purpose and perspectives, pinpoint evidence, use explicit or implicit criteria, make defensible judgments or assessments, and draw conclusions. Students have opportunities for analysis and critique through engagement in formal tasks, informal tasks, and ongoing activities.

Questioning and investigating

Students learn to engage in inquiry when they identify and investigate questions, challenges, key issues, or problematic situations in their studies, lives, and communities and in the media. They develop and refine questions; create and carry out plans; gather, interpret, and synthesize information and evidence; and reflect to draw reasoned conclusions. Critical thinking activities may focus on one part of the process, such as questioning, and reach a simple conclusion, while others may involve more complex inquiry requiring extensive thought and reflection.

Designing and developing

Students think critically to develop ideas. Their ideas may lead to the designing of products or methods or the development of performances and representations in response to problems, events, issues, and needs. They work with clear purpose and consider the potential uses or audiences of their work. They explore possibilities, develop and reflect on processes, monitor progress, and adjust procedures in light of criteria and feedback.

Reflecting and assessing

Students apply critical, metacognitive, and reflective thinking in given situations, and relate this thinking to other experiences, using this process to identify ways to improve or adapt their approach to learning. They reflect on and assess their experiences, thinking, learning processes, work, and progress in relation to their purposes. Students give, receive, and act on feedback and set goals individually and collaboratively. They determine the extent to which they have met their goals and can set new ones.

I can explore.

I can explore materials and actions. I can show whether I like something or not.

I can use evidence to make simple judgments.

I can ask questions, make predictions, and use my senses to gather information. I can explore with a purpose in mind and use what I learn. I can tell or show others something about my thinking. I can contribute to and use simple criteria. I can find some evidence and make judgments. I can reflect on my work and experiences and tell others about something I learned.

I can ask questions and consider options. I can use my observations, experience, and imagination to draw conclusions and make judgments.

I can ask open-ended questions, explore, and gather information. I experiment purposefully to develop options. I can contribute to and use criteria. I use observation, experience, and imagination to draw conclusions, make judgments, and ask new questions. I can describe my thinking and how it is changing. I can establish goals individually and with others. I can connect my learning with my experiences, efforts, and goals. I give and receive constructive feedback.

I can gather and combine new evidence with what I already know to develop reasoned conclusions, judgments, or plans.

I can use what I know and observe to identify problems and ask questions. I explore and engage with materials and sources. I can develop or adapt criteria, check information, assess my thinking, and develop reasoned conclusions, judgments, or plans. I consider more than one way to proceed and make choices based on my reasoning and what I am trying to do. I can assess my own efforts and experiences and identify new goals. I give, receive, and act on constructive feedback.

I can evaluate and use well-chosen evidence to develop interpretations; identify alternatives, perspectives, and implications; and make judgments. I can examine and adjust my thinking.

I can ask questions and offer judgments, conclusions, and interpretations supported by evidence I or others have gathered. I am flexible and open-minded; I can explain more than one perspective and consider implications. I can gather, select, evaluate, and synthesize information. I consider alternative approaches and make strategic choices. I take risks and recognize that I may not be immediately successful. I examine my thinking, seek feedback, reassess my work, and adjust. I represent my learning and my goals and connect these with my previous experiences. I accept constructive feedback and use it to move forward.

I can examine evidence from various perspectives to analyze and make well-supported judgments about and interpretations of complex issues.

I can determine my own framework and criteria for tasks that involve critical thinking. I can compile evidence and draw reasoned conclusions. I consider perspectives that do not fit with my understandings. I am open-minded and patient, taking the time to explore, discover, and understand. I make choices that will help me create my intended impact on an audience or situation. I can place my work and that of others in a broader context. I can connect the results of my inquiries and analyses with action. I can articulate a keen awareness of my strengths, my aspirations and how my experiences and contexts affect my frameworks and criteria. I can offer detailed analysis, using specific terminology, of my progress, work, and goals.

The Core Competencies relate to each other and with every aspect of learning.

Connections among Core Competencies

The Core Competencies are interrelated and interdependent. Taken together, the competencies are foundational to every aspect of learning. Communicating is intertwined with the other Core Competencies.

Critical and Reflective Thinking is one of the Thinking Core Competency’s two interrelated sub-competencies, Creative Thinking and Critical and Reflective Thinking.

Critical and Reflective Thinking and Creative Thinking overlap. For example:


Critical and Reflective Thinking is closely related to the two Communication sub-competencies: Communicating and Collaborating. For example:

Personal and Social

Critical and Reflective Thinking is closely related to the three Personal and Social sub-competencies, Personal Awareness and Responsibility, Social Awareness and Responsibility, and Positive Personal and Cultural Identity. For example:

Connections with areas of learning

Critical and Reflective Thinking is embedded within the curricular competencies of the concept-based, competency-driven curriculum. Curricular competencies are focused on the “doing” within the area of learning and include skills, processes, and habits of mind required by the discipline. For example, the Critical and Reflective Thinking sub-competency can be seen in the sample inquiry questions that elaborate on the following Big Ideas in Science:

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Critical thinking as a core competence for the future

critical thinking core competency

Abstract   –  The idea of learning as a transfer of knowledge pure and simple has been increas ingly challenged. A complex future requires tools  and abilities enabling us to respond effectively  without needing to rely on others. This article ex plores the role of creativity, critical and indepen dent thinking as well as core skills and compe tences that are useful for a self-reliant individual. Educators need to interact with learners in ways that raise their consciousness to question as sumptions about established routines and systems and motivate learners towards critical thinking in life and in learning. 

We live in an era of change. Technology and globalisation are two strong driving forces, changing the way we interact, learn and work. Advances in technology mean that competences such as communication include new and more complex skill sets compared to only a few years ago. We are increasingly attending virtual meetings, and learning activities are often conducted online. More and more services, such as filling in your tax return, applying for a job and so on, are done online. Snail mail is now almost obsolete. Trends and progress in technology have made information readily available, and it comes from many sources. This means that there is a need to be selective in the way we consume information. We also need to apply critical thinking when it comes to processing it. New realities and ways of life to which we are exposed create different and complex interactions that require skills in order to act quickly, independently and thoughtfully as well as to think critically in order to question and analyse information and to make effective decisions.

The need for critical thinking

A fast-paced world requires skills and competences that can keep up with the rapid changes and enable us to adapt to society and actively participate in all spheres of social and economic life. Surviving in the future therefore has to include skills and competences that aim to promote the ability to think in a critical way through life experiences from a personal, civic, social and even an economic perspective. Borrowing from

critical thinking core competency

Dewey and Piaget, Kolb (1984) developed ways of enhancing critical thinking through the model of experiential learning based on

Such reflective practices can promote autonomous learning, and aim to develop understanding and critical thinking skills. In this article, I will consider competences by first looking at capabilities and focusing on the role of self-reliance as a component of critical thinking, after which I will review the role of a critical being and finally look at how critical thinking is a practical competence for the future.

“Surviving in the future therefore has to include skills and competences that aim to promote the ability to think in a critical way through life experiences from a personal, civic, social and even an economic perspective.”

Developing practical capabilities.

Human beings progress in life through interaction with their environment, family, home, community and society at large. As we plan our progress and development, we create situations that shape and optimise our practical capabilities to manage our environments. This requires flexible and practical capabilities to shape the physical, social, technological and cultural ways that will nurture positive progress. Those abilities involve empowerment and self-reliance, to be creative in life choices that will shape that future in the way that we envision. Supporting the development of such capabilities should involve empowering individuals and communities to be able to “do” and to “be”. According to Nussbaum (2011), this capability to do and to be is about the availability of genuine opportunities where questions such as “what are people able to do” are considered, shifting the emphasis onto skills that create opportunity. This approach looks at abilities to evolve and to use knowledge effectively in order to strengthen skills and competences for life and work through critical thinking. We knew this in the past, but we have lost it. Capabilities to operate and act in this way have been eroded over time, mostly during the period of colonisation, where capabilities and confidence to act independently were suppressed, particularly in Africa.

critical thinking core competency

The effects of colonialism on self-reliance

Colonisation in Africa was built on perceived ideas of the levels of the human race and the place of the African people who, it was felt, needed to be modernised. Political, health, education and cultural systems were set up based on the colonisers’ culture, and indigenous systems were disregarded as inadequate or non-existent. These systems created a limited sense of who the communities were, leading to experiences of self-hate, low self-esteem and lack of respect for one’s own culture and the start of an experience of a peculiar type of psychological dependency on others (Woolman, 2001). When most African countries gained independence in the 1960s, ideologies such as materialism and consumerism were embraced by indigenous peoples, and colonial-style leadership continued, embracing repressive and undemocratic systems and structures which the new leaders had observed and learnt. The citizens considered themselves free and independent, but they were still mentally colonised, still dependent on the former coloniser to provide guidance (Mungazi, 1996). Colonisation, due to its oppressive ways, had rendered the indigenous people incapable of practicing creativity, and had left them without the ability to mould their own lives.

The role of critical thinking in self-reliance

Progress and staying competitive in a complex future is an elaborate process of making choices and freedom to make those choices. This requires education and learning that look beyond creating skills for livelihood and income generation which are narrow in the way they focus on a set of skills for particular tasks. The perceived potential for skills which generate short-term profits will take individuals only so far. Dilemmas and challenges that arise from a complex environment would need skills that enable one to examine and reflect on issues and grasp current events in the world in a way that can support practical decision-making. Critical thinking is a skill that enables one to “self-evolve” through reflection, evaluation and decision-making. This may lead to improved self-esteem and self-confidence. In adult learning situations, this becomes essential when it comes to enabling learners to identify obstacles that prevent them from reaching their goals. Critical thinking enables them to operate in a self-reliant and efficient way in a potentially complex future, and to become capable and critical beings.

The critical being

Reflecting and acting in a critical way is more than a set of skills, it is an approach to life centred on the concept of a “critical being”. This concept embraces critical reflection, critical self-evaluation and critical action where a critical person becomes more than a critical thinker. He/she is able to critically engage with the world through self-critique and challenging that which appears to be self-evident. Barnett (1997) suggested a way of looking at being critical in levels made up of critical reason (knowledge), critical reflection (the self) and critical action (the world), where he emphasised the need to contest and challenge issues in order to be free of beliefs and knowledge systems that limit potential.

Some learning processes often focus on outcomes that have defined and pre-determined competences, which may limit critical thought due to the defined outcome. If learning encourages open conversation, where the outcome is open to a learner’s circumstances based on the issues that they are addressing, critical thinking and open-ended reflections on concepts take place. This way individuals can look beyond dependence on a defined way of thinking or working, and become self-reliant by developing a flexible set of skills that fit into a rapidly-moving world that is continually reshaping itself.

Perception of the critical being in the future

Educators and leaders have an obligation to support adult learners in overcoming the effects of domination that eroded self-efficacy and gave way to a mind-set of inadequacy. Community development initiatives, for example, continually rely on aid and on the support of government and international agencies to solve local problems. This lack of belief in individual and community ability is perpetuated by an education system that does not expose learners to creative and critical perspectives and exposes citizens to a future of dependence. If competences do not include critical thinking, then when a crisis situation arises, the reflective process that can enable one to address the situation is ineffective.

In critical thinking, the learner actively constructs new ideas or concepts and supports a learner’s efforts towards becoming aware of their surroundings beyond their immediate contacts. (Merriam and Caffarella, 1999). They become aware that any opportunity can be a learning opportunity, and that it does not have to be in a certain setting for it to qualify as a learning process. This awareness of opportunities for learning can enhance experiences and offer an opportunity to reflect and to identify useful ways to navigate through the myriad of issues, both current ones and those which are to be faced in the future. Exercising thinking in a critical manner as a way of life has the potential to translate into a transformation of learners’ outlook on life in general.

Critical thinking in community learning – a Kenyan example

Approaches to community learning should include a process that explores skills and competences for self-reliance through critical thinking as a way to survive now and in the future. Community and adult educators should think creatively, and also support learners in thinking and acting creatively and critically in their approach to life. This can begin with the way in which educators interact with the learners in order to explore and expose that potential using creative methods that encourage opportunities for thought, discussion and personal expression. In my research study with Kenyan communities, evidence showed that participants had not been exposed to learning and working in ways that enabled them to reflect and think critically and to engage with issues. When presented with opportunities to work in this way, the groups demonstrated innate capabilities to reflect and evaluate situations and showed a desire to develop skills that could be useful for their decision-making process. In this research process, the participants were engaged in a way that required them to reflect on, evaluate and respond to questions presented to them, and then to discuss their ideas emerging from that thinking process. By working with community participants in this way, we demonstrated faith in the participants’ abilities to apply themselves. By respecting the ideas that emerged, learners were able to recognise their capabilities to think and act independently, and to begin to work towards building confidence and self-belief.

Critical thinking as a future competence

If critical thinking helps us make better informed decisions, then we are able to avoid certain mistakes that would have occurred unnecessarily. There is no specific guarantee that critical thinking will provide success and happiness, but it is useful when it comes to avoiding dependence on others and choices that may lead to unnecessary difficulties. In the words of earlier thinkers such as Immanuel Kant, critical thinking liberates us, guides us through the journey of finding meaning for ourselves, and helps us understand why we believe what we believe. As critical thinkers or critical beings, we do not naively accept knowledge or situations, but we re-think our circumstances based on the evidence that we gather, in order to improve our situations. Critical thinking is not being suggested here as the perfect route to freeing man from what Kant (1784) referred to as “immaturity”, but it can act as a starting point for assessing what one needs.

When critical thinking is used constructively with the purpose of attempting to understand our knowledge and to reason things out, then we are able to put issues into perspective, and this can be a positive process. Critical thinking allows us to question things, and this in turn enables us to construct new ideas from knowledge that we have and to build on that knowledge rather than depending on other people to “help” or “advise” us without applying ourselves first. Actively constructing new ideas and concepts requires internalising knowledge and building the learning based on the information learnt. This means that learning becomes an individual’s active process to discover principles, ideas and facts. Critical thinking enables people to go through this process, to focus on their development and to review their moti-vation, self-efficacy and even attitudes towards the learning process.

This shifts the focus on to competences for decision making based on critical reflective practice that enhances continuous learning and meaningful improvement as well as progress. This means for the future that practical skills and competences will need to focus on creative and critical thinking that leads to self-reliance centred on:

critical thinking core competency

By acquiring and updating practical critical thinking as a central part of skills and competences, people can adapt to society and actively participate in all spheres of social and economic life, thus taking more control of their future. This process encourages continuous learning and emphasises knowing, doing and being. It advances levels of knowledge in a way that reminds us that learning represents a way of life that can be affected by the way in which we choose to respond to what life presents to us. Our outlook, self-beliefs and habits of the mind provide an open-minded attitude that enables learning to take place in a way which builds effective skills and competences that are useful for a fast-paced world.

Barnett, R. (1997): Higher Education: A Critical Business. Open University Press, UK.

Kant, I. (1784): “What is Enli ghtenment”. www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/kant.html

Kolb D. A. (1984): Experiential Learning experience as a source of learning and development, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Merriam, S. B. and Caffarella, R. S. (1999): Learning in Adulthood. A comprehensive guide, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mungazi, D.A. (1996): The Mind of Black Africa. London: Praeger.

Nussbaum, M. (2011): Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Woolman, D.C. (2001): “Educational reconstruction and post-colonial curriculum development: A comparative study of four African countries”. International Education Journal Vol. 2, No. 5, 2001. 

About the author

Dr Nancy Njiraini is a Director at the Networks for Learning social enterprise. She is also an Affiliate of the University of Glasgow and an Adjunct Lecturer at PUEA. Nancy has a PhD in Adult Education and has collected extensive experience in work-based learning, community learning, TVET and practical research in adult learning.

Contact [email protected]  

critical thinking core competency

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critical thinking core competency


Critical Thinking

What is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is NOT problem solving, is NOT creativity, is NOT information literacy, is NOT knowledge transfer, it is definitely NOT about criticizing someone's opinion. 

Critical thinking is the ability to make judgement clearly and rationally by processing, engaging and evaluating information through reflective and independent thinking. The judgement could be based on many approaches and sources such as what you have learnt, known, understood, examined, experiences, saw, and heard.

Chan, cky (2021).

There are many definitions on critical thinking. Here are some of the definitions:

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. (Scriven & Paul, 1987).

Critical thinking is the process of purposeful, self-regulatory judgement. This process gives reasoned consideration to evidence, context, conceptualizations, methods and criteria. (Facione, 1990)

Critical Thinking involves three things: (1) an attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one's experiences, (2) knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, and (3) some skill in applying those methods. (Glaser, 1941)


Are You a Critical Thinker?

A critical thinker is someone who is able to do the following:

Evaluate the situation clearly and rationally;

Assess alternate perspectives;

Process, connect and reflect on the information from many sources of evidence; and

Form independent judgement based on evidence or sound reasoning.

A critical thinker does not only accumulate information well, but they also know how to use the information to deduce important facts and outcomes. By conceptualizing outcomes, critical thinkers are better at problem-solving than people who simply memorize information. Because of this, employers value critical thinking, especially in roles where preparing strategy is essential.

Critical thinker_F.png

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking is significant to be taught as it is essential in one’s lifelong development, both in learning, in workplace and in life. There are a number of reasons explaining how essential critical thinking competency is.

Employers consider critical thinking skills as one of the most valued attributes of job candidates (Penkauskienė, Railienė & Cruz, 2019); 

Individuals with critical thinking competency “experience fewer negative life events” (Australian Christian College, 2021, p. 1);

Critical thinking competency is required for individuals to “discern falsehood and make reasoned arguments” (p. 1), especially for their faith;

With critical thinking competency, individuals can renew minds and cultivate wisdom;

With critical thinking competency, language and presentation skills are enhanced (Lau & Chan, 2021);

With critical thinking competency, individuals’ creativity is promoted (Lau & Chan, 2021); and

With critical thinking competency, one can process self-evaluation (Lau & Chan, 2021).

How is Critical Thinking Developed?

Before we look into some effective instructional strategies that help developing critical thinking, we should first understand some barriers that hinder the development of this competency.

Barriers for Students in Developing Critical Thinking Competency

The barriers mainly include (1) problem transfer and (2) didactic teaching approach.

As mentioned by Goodsett (2020), the problem of transfer is the most notable barrier for developing critical thinking competency. While students develop their critical thinking competency in certain domain successfully does not exactly mean that they are able to transfer this competency to a new context. Some reasons of the lack of transfer include: (1) memory problems and (2) the inability in recognizing what critical thinking skills should be used.

While for didactic teaching approach, In Pithers & Soden’s research (2000), it is proposed that some teaching behaviours of critical thinking may hinder students’ development of critical thinking competency. Some examples of these teaching behaviours include:

Simply demonstrating and explaining while teaching;

Interrupting students’ responses while teaching;

Only disapproving but not praising students while teaching;

Asking only recall-type questions while teaching; and

Believing there is a “correct programme” to teach critical thinking.

For more information about the hindrance in the development of critical thinking competency, you may refer to the research done by Pithers & Soden (2000).

Effective Instructional Strategies in Teaching Critical Thinking

Having a basic understanding on the barriers, we now look into some instructional strategies that are proven to be effective in developing students’ critical thinking competency.

Socratic teaching is one of the oldest and the most powerful teaching tactic for developing students’ critical thinking. According to Elder & Paul (1998), Socratic teaching is a question-driven instruction. In this type of teaching, students are not directly given information (answers). Instead, teachers ask questions to prompt students’ critical thinking because the underlying assumption in Socratic teaching is “thinking is driven not by answers but by questions” (p. 297). Through this pedagogy, students engage in an inquiring and probing mind set in order to draw conclusions and even generate new ideas. Through engaging in critical thinking, reasoning and logic, one is prepared for Socratic questioning.

The research of Yang, Newby & Bill (2005) can support the effectiveness of Socratic teaching in fostering students’ critical thinking. In their research, they study “the effects of using Socratic questioning to enhance students’ critical thinking skills in asynchronous discussion forums (ADF) in university-level distance learning course” (p. 163) through conducting an experiential research lasting for two consecutive 16-week semesters.  Under the experiential research, there are two planned research procedures naming Treatment I and II, in which observations are performed at appropriate times for the measurement and collection of the required data. The measurement of students’ critical thinking is conducted through applying the California Critical Thinking Skills Test, as well as using the coding scheme for critical thinking evaluation in computer conferencing to analyse class discussion content in the ADF context. The findings indicate that critical thinking skills can be enhanced through the use of Socratic questioning in an ADF context, as long as the course design, as well as instructional interventions are appropriate. This is because in an ADF context, students are given the time to conduct thoughtful analysis, to negotiate and reflect their discussions. While for teachers, they are allowed to “model, foster and evaluate the critical thinking skills exhibited during the discussion” (p. 179).

Apart of Socratic teaching, a reflective judgement model, which “builds on the idea of ill-structured problems” (Goodsett, 2020, p. 4) is also proposed by King and Kitchener (2004) to approach critical thinking. Maskey (2011) has conducted a research evaluating the relationship between critical thinking and reflective judgment by comparing two measures, the Reasoning about Current Issue (RCI) test for reflective judgment and the HESI Exit Exam for critical thinking. The samples involved in this study are senior associate degree nursing students. The findings of the study indicated a positive correlation between reflective judgment and critical thinking, though it is important to bear in mind that critical thinking and reflective judgment should be viewed as two separate concepts.  

Another instructional strategy is the inquiry-based instruction model which “promotes the metacognitive element of critical thinking” (Goodsett, 2020, p.4) to allow students identify misconceptions and knowledge gaps, so that students are able to develop the mechanisms they need to fill the gaps. In this model, it emphasizes on developing students with the habit of inquiry and as a result they know how to ask thoughtful questions (King, 1995). King (1995)’s research demonstrates examples on how inquiry-based approach can be applied for the promotion of critical thinking. For example, King tries to guide students to generate their critical thinking questions through reciprocal peer questioning, which means students take turns in asking questions to their peers and answer their peers’ questions in a reciprocal manner.

Concept mapping is also a useful instructional strategy to promote critical thinking as it allows students to expand their thinking on various issues. A research related to concept mapping is conducted under the nursing education context. In Yue, Zhang, Zhang & Jin (2017)’s research, concept mapping’s effect in the development of critical thinking is assessed. The results of the study support the effectiveness of concept mapping in improving students’ critical thinking competency.

How Should I Assess Critical Thinking?

Teaching and learning critical thinking are challenging but the possibility to develop critical thinking competency remains as long as effective instructional strategies are used. Once students develop their critical thinking competency, the next area we need to focus on is the assessment of their competency.


There are various types of assessments for critical thinking. According to Liu, Frankel & Roohr (2014), there are multiple themes captured by critical thinking assessments due to “the multivariate nature of definitions offered by critical thinking” (p. 4). Some common assessments include California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory, Watson–Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Cornell Critical Thinking Test and Collegiate Learning Assessment+, etc. The key themes focused by these assessments, such as reasoning, argumentation, analysis, as well as evaluation, are always overlapped. However, there are also some dimensions that are differed in each test, such as the debate on whether decision making or problem solving should be included in critical thinking as well. 

Examples of Assessment Approaches for Critical Thinking

Case Studies

To demonstrate how critical thinking can be assessed, we look into the research conducted by Mahmoud & Mohamed (2017). In their research, they investigate “critical thinking disposition among nurses working in Public Hospitals in Port-Said Governorate” (p. 128). Through this study, they investigate on three areas, including (1) the staff nurses’ critical thinking level, (2) the “highest and lowest critical thinking subscale among staff nurse” (p. 129) and (3) whether the critical thinking disposition of the nurses is related to their job and personal characteristics. A total of 196 nurses are recruited for the study through random sampling from 3 public hospitals. The California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory is used for assessing the dispositions, with a 6-point Likert Scale as the scoring system (6 as strongly agree and 1 as strongly disagree). The findings of the study reveal that the majority of the staff nurses “are ambivalent regarding the total critical thinking disposition, according to the distribution of the scores obtained from CCTDI.

Apart from the common types of assessments mentioned above, there is also another assessment method proposed by Bissell & Lemons (2006). In their research, they develop a method to assess critical thinking under the context of an introductory biology course. Their methodology consists of four main steps, including:

Write questions that requires both biological knowledge, as well as critical thinking skills.

Devise a scoring rubric after documenting the content, as well as the required critical thinking skills.

Submit the questions to experts of biology for a validity check.

Put forward the administration of the assessment to students. Score them according to the scoring rubric.

This assessment methodology, according to Bissell & Lemons (2006), is successfully undertaken in Duke University, in an introductory biology course with around 150 students. It is found that students’ awareness on the quality of response are increased. They tend to reflect more and their critical thinking abilities are improved. 

This is a general introduction on the definition of critical thinking competency, as well as its development and assessment. If you are interested in knowing more details, you may refer to the further reading session for references.

Further Readings

If you want to understand more on critical thinking literacy, you may visit this website:

Critical Thinking Skills


Australian Christian College. (2021). Critical thinking: an essential skill for every student. Retrieved from: https://www.acc.edu.au/blog/critical-thinking-essential-skill/

Bissell, A. N., & Lemons, P. P. (2006). A new method for assessing critical thinking in the classroom. BioScience, 56(1), 66-72. https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2006)056[0066:ANMFAC]2.0.CO;2

Elder, L., & Paul, R. (1998). The role of Socratic questioning in thinking, teaching, and learning. The Clearing House, 71(5), 297-301. https://doi.org/10.1080/00098659809602729

Facione, P. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (The Delphi Report).

Glaser, E. (1942). An experiment in the development of critical thinking. Teachers College Record, 43(5), 409-410.

Goodsett, M. (2020). Best practices for teaching and assessing critical thinking in information literacy online learning objects. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(5), 102163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2020.102163

King, A. (1995). Designing the instructional process to enhance critical thinking across the curriculum. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 13-17. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15328023top2201_5

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (2004). Reflective judgment: Theory and research on the development of epistemic assumptions through adulthood. Educational psychologist, 39(1), 5-18. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep3901_2

Lau. J.,& Chan, J. (2021). What is critical thinking?. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/00400910310484321/full/html

Liu, O. L., Frankel, L., & Roohr, K. C. (2014). Assessing critical thinking in higher education: Current state and directions for next‐generation assessment. ETS Research Report Series, 2014(1), 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1002/ets2.12009

Mahmoud, A. S., & Mohamed, H. A. (2017). Critical thinking disposition among nurses working in public hospitals at port-said governorate. International journal of nursing sciences, 4(2), 128-134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnss.2017.02.006

Penkauskienė, Daiva, Railienė, Asta, & Cruz, Gonçalo. (2019). How is critical thinking valued by the labour market? Employer perspectives from different European countries. Studies in Higher Education (Dorchester-on-Thames), 44(5), 804-815. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2019.1586323

Pithers, R. T., & Soden, R. (2000). Critical thinking in education: A review. Educational research, 42(3), 237-249. https://doi.org/10.1080/001318800440579

Scriven, M., & Paul, R. (1987). Critical thinking. In The 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, CA (Vol. 7, No. 9).

Yue, M., Zhang, M., Zhang, C., & Jin, C. (2017). The effectiveness of concept mapping on development of critical thinking in nursing education: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nurse education today, 52, 87-94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2017.02.018


Education - Teaching the Core Competencies

Creative and Critical Thinking Competencies

Books on critical thinking, books on creative thinking.

Education, Children's Literature, & Indigenous Studies Librarian

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Planning Templates

Student teachers may also find the following models of planning useful:

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Basic elements of critical thinking.

What is Critical Thinking Cloud WCTL

A set of information and beliefs, generating and processing skills, and the habit of using those skills to guide behavior.

Critical Thinking Can Be Defined As...

Who Are Critical Thinkers Cloud WCTL

Critical thinkers:

Ask questions

Gather relevant information

Think through solutions and conclusions 

Consider alternative systems of thought

Communicate effectively

They’re willing to admit when they’re wrong or when they don’t know the answer, rather than digging into a gut reaction or emotional point of view.

7 Habits of Critical Thinkers


Ask questions and follow the evidence

Able to make judgements amid uncertainty


Strive to be well-informed on a wide range of topics

Confident in Reasoning

Trustful of own skills to make good judgements

Organized and thoughtful problem solving

Identify potential consequences of decisions


Tolerant of different views and sensitive to own biases

Important Critical Thinking Skills WCTL

While there is no official standard list of the skills that make up critical thinking, here is the list of core characteristics that we like best!


Recognizing a problem and describing it without bias​

Distinguishing the main idea from a text​

Constructing a tentative categorization or organization structure​

Clarifying the meaning of a sign, chart, or graph

Identifying similarities and differences between two approaches to a solution

Isolating the main claim made in an editorial or statement and tracing it back to the supporting reasons for that claim

Judging an author or speaker’s credibility​

Determining whether the evidence at hand supports the conclusion being drawn

Recognizing whether an argument’s conclusion follows with certainty or confidence from its premises

Identifying the implications of the position someone is advocating

Predicting what will happen next in a given situation

Developing a workable plan to gather information to resolve an uncertainty


Constructing a chart or graph to organize your findings​

Stating research results and describing the required methods and criteria

Citing the evidence that led you to accept or reject another person’s position on an issue


Checking for understanding of an author or speaker without injecting your own views and ideas

Reminding yourself to separate personal opinions and assumptions from those of the author of a text

Reconsidering your interpretation in view of new analyses or facts or errors discovered in your work

Facione, P. A. (1998). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. Millbrae. California Academic Press. Haziran, 13, 2009. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/download/71022740/what_why98.pdf

Facione, P. A., Gittens, C. A., Facione, N. C. (2016). Cultivating a critical thinking mindset. Academia. Edu. Weekly Digest, 28. Retrieved from http://go.roguecc.edu/sites/go.roguecc.edu/files/users/MWeast/Cultivating+A+Positive+Critical+Thinking+Mindset_0.pdf

The Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2019). Defining critical thinking. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

Vaughn, L. (2015). The power of critical thinking: Effective reasoning about ordinary and extraordinary claims (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Walker Center for Teaching and Learning


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