VOLUME 19 #3

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Assessment study finds gains in critical thinking

students using graphing calculator
Photo by Evan Krape
With opportunities for students to conduct research and solve real-world problems, UD helps build critical-thinking skills.

ON THE GREEN | Freshmen enter the University with reading, writing and critical thinking skills that are at the level of sophomores and juniors at comparable research-level universities, according to the results of the 2010 Educational Proficiency Profile.

The profile is an SAT-like standardized test developed by the Educational Testing Service to measure competencies in core areas of general education skills.

To confirm the results and measure the “value added” by a UD education, the University’s Office of Educational

Assessment (OEA) designed a comparative study for more than 100 freshmen and seniors and found substantial gains across critical thinking measures. This study, which examined actual work done by students in their courses to assess writing and critical thinking skills, provided a more nuanced method to understand gains in skills, says OEA director Kathy Pusecker.


“By using developmental rubrics, we can measure greater gains than a standardized test,” she says. “What’s more, we can break down the criteria for something as big and nebulous as ‘critical thinking’ and answer questions like: Where are our students doing well? In what areas do they still need improvement?”

OEA found gains ranging from 50-78 percent in such critical thinking areas as analysis, conclusions and design.

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