Measuring and Improving Higher Education Students’ Critical-Thinking and Written-Communication Skills

By Doris Zahner, Tess Dawber, and Olivia Cortellini, Council for Aid to Education

Paper presented on April 14, 2023 11:20 am CDT at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association

This paper presents two studies, both of which examined higher education students’ critical-thinking skills. Study 1 investigated students’ attitudes toward critical-thinking skills and performance on a critical-thinking assessment. In this study, entering students from an undergraduate business school participated in a critical-thinking assessment and subsequently completed a survey on the importance of critical-thinking skills for their academic and career success.

Findings revealed that students valued critical-thinking skills and demonstrated adequate mastery, but they did not find value in certain skill-development offerings. Study 2 evaluated the efficacy of targeted critical-thinking instruction for exiting students at the same university. Students who received the targeted instruction achieved higher average exam scores than their peers who did not receive instruction.