Texas A&M University System Student Learning Outcome–Critical Thinking
The Texas A&M University System delivers a common set/embraces a common view of important outcomes and is accountable for sustained measurement.
For all TAMU System universities, the rationale for assessing student learning outcomes (SLOs) originates primarily from efforts to maintain institutional effectiveness, which is defined as a process of identifying outcomes, assessing the extent to which they are achieved, and providing evidence of improvement based on their analysis.
Upon completion of their degree program, students will be able to demonstrate critical thinking, including the ability to explain issues; find, analyze, and select appropriate evidence; and construct a cogent argument that articulates conclusions and their consequences. Students will be able to utilize, qualitative and quantitative reasoning as a base for problem solving.
All criteria met and results exceed expectations with little room for improvement.
Most criteria met and results indicate mastery of objective with some room for improvement.
Acceptable number of criteria met and results meet expectations with room for improvement.
Some criteria met and results indicate need for improvement.
Few criteria met; results indicate need for significant improvement or no/insufficient results reported to measure performance of objective.
TAMU (incl. TAMUG)
Graduating Senior Survey Data - Graduating students were asked to indicate the extent to which TAMU contributed to their ability to thinking critically (based on a 5-point scale from none to very much) as well as the importance of this outcome to their future success (based on a 5-point scale from not at all important to very important). Critical thinking was comprised of the following dimensions: create original ideas and/or products; solve complex, real world problems; recognize the limitations of inferences and assumptions in science; draw conclusions after weighing evidence, facts, and ideas; interpret quantitative data; and, reason mathematically. During AY 15-16, a total of 4,623 graduating students completed the survey, representing a 44% response rate.
PROFICIENT. Create original ideas and/or products: 67% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these, 62% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success. Solve complex, real world problems: 79% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these, 76% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success. Recognize limitations of inferences and assumptions in science: 59% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these, 49% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success. Draw conclusions after weighing evidence: 82% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these,77% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success. Interpret quantitative data: 76% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these, 69% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success. Reason mathematically: 59% indicated that TAMU had contributed either very much or quite a bit to this ability. Of these, 49% saw this ability to be very important or important to their future success.
Based on the findings, three areas fell below the target (>70% indicate TAMU contributed very much or quite a bit to each ability) - creating original ideas (67%), recognizing the limitations of inferences and assumptions in science (59%), and reason mathematically (59%). With respect to perceived importance of critical thinking among graduating students, there is a general recognition of the importance of the ability to think critical to their future success, particularly with respect to the ability to solve complex, real world problems, to weigh evidence, and to interpret quantitative data.
Results of the Senior Survey are made available to the deans and designees for their use in identifying noted strengths as well as potential areas for improvement. With respect to critical thinking specifically, colleges such as the College of Liberal Arts and the College Agriculture and Life Sciences are focusing additional attention on the development of critical thinking among there students. The College of Liberal Arts significantly revised the college-wide Critical Thinking Seminars for entering students and honors students, based in part on the finding that their graduating students' responses were slightly lower than the total responses reported here. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has implemented a Critical Thinking Academy, a faculty development initiative focused on refining the use of intentional strategies for teaching critical thinking. Both colleges, along with other colleges such as the College of Science, are implementing more direct measures of critical thinking as of AY16-17 in an effort to examine more closely students' critical thinking ability and to identify potential programmatic changes designed to enhance critical thinking among the graduates.
NOTE: As a result of changes in leadership, the pending SACSCOC 5th Year Interim Report and QEP Impact Report, and state requirements for assessing outcomes related to the mandated core curriculum, TAMU has prioritized the implementation of direct measures of student learning for the identified university and system-level learning outcomes. The results of the Senior Survey, an indirect measure of the identified learning outcomes, will be used in combination with the assessment of student artifacts to assess SLOs such as critical thinking moving forward. COMPARISON WITH 2013: The use of the Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) was suspended following implementation in AY12-13, though has been re-implemented as of AY16-17. As such, there is no direct comparison information available between 2013 and 2016 with respect to the instrument previously reported. However, the Graduating Senior Survey was administered in AY12-13, thus allowing for a comparison of findings. The findings across the two years were consistent within an acceptable margin of error. We will be particularly attentive to reviewing the findings from the Graduating Senior Survey over the next 3-4 years as students engaged in more focused efforts to enhance their critical thinking skills begin to graduate from their respective programs.
TAMU (incl. TAMUG)
Program Assessment Reviews - Annually, programs submit assessment reports that summarize efforts to assess progress made on identified outcomes for each academic program offered at TAMU. In October, 2016, seventy one (71) baccaluareate programs across the institutions reported having used direct measures to assess their students' critical thinking ability. Measures typically included scores on papers submitted using rubrics designed explicitly to assess critical thinking.
PROFICIENT. Approximately 78% of the targets set to demonstrate critical thinking ability were met across the 71 programs using direct measures as a means of assessment for this particular outcome.
Based on these results, it appears that baccalaureate students across colleges and programs are able to demonstrate their critical thinking ability.
In instances where established targets are not met, programs are encouraged to develop specific action plans based on the findings and designed to strengthen the targeted learning outcome (i.e., critical thinking). Examples of Action Plans include: integrating explicit attention to critical thinking skills earlier in the curriculum, providing faculty development opportunities focused on teaching and evaluating critical thinking among undergraduate students, establishing a capstone course focused on refining students' critical thinking skills and ability to apply knowledge to real-world problems.
Given significant changes in program reporting and tracking of outcome assessments, there is no meaningful way of comparing results on this measure from 2013 to 2016. As noted above, the university-wide efforts to implement more uniform direct measures as of the current AY should provide more reliable and focused information.