Assessing Critical Thinking and Civic Thinking (CT)2

Assessing Critical Thinking and Civic Thinking (CT)2

"Civic engagement is the action that is taken to impact the community; civic thinking is what prepares students to participate in civic action" (Ehrlich, 2000).

Promoting critical thinking and citizenship are two of Wagner's institutional goals. Critical Thinking for Civic Thinking (CT)2 assesses critical thinking in the context of civic engagement by asking students to critically examine an issue and describe a civic action plan to deal with that issue involving the larger community. Courses in the First-Year Program (FYP) and Senior Learning Communities (SLCs) that represented all division of the College were selected to participate in CT2, and all students in those courses were given the following assignment. Faculty members graded the assignment as five percent or more of the overall course grade.

  • Choose a controversial topic or social problem that you have studied recently.  Critically evaluate at least two different sides or viewpoints of the issue.  Next, consider a solution for solving the controversy or problem considering the impact on the local community, all the way up to a global level.  For example, you may look at your solution within the perspectives of your town, region, state, the nation and/or the world.

Separate from the grades assigned by the course professor, members of the Committee on Learning Assessment read and rated the responses using rubrics for critical thinking and civic thinking. Analysis of those ratings showed the following results:

  • Improvement in civic thinking is correlated positively with improvement in critical thinking.
  • Improvement in critical thinking, however, is not correlated with improvement in civic thinking.

Discussion of the results focused on the need for critical thinking to be done in context. That is, as students are thinking in more complex ways about civic engagement or action, then they can demonstrate the related critical thinking in more complex ways.

For more details about this study see the poster presented at the HEDS Annual Meeting in June, 2013.

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