A recent study conducted by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa of more than 2,300 undergraduates found that 45 percent of college students do not show improvement in critical thinking skills.
The study covered in their book “Academically Adrift,” which was published in January, gathered results of the Collegiate Learning Assessments from 24 unidentified schools Fall 2005 and Spring 2007. The CLAs measure a student’s critical thinking, analytic reasoning, problem solving and written communication, according to the test’s institutional report.
The results troubled the university’s administration and a reconstruction of Kent Core classes is in the works. Administrators are working to ensure that students at Kent State don’t become academically adrift. The university is shifting to assessments based more on writing and expressing.
Over the past year, the university has been administering CLAs to collect data about what specific areas of critical thinking faculty need to focus on. By doing this, the university administrators hope to better prepare students through experience.
It is important to enforce critical thinking skills in students. How often in our future careers will we be asked to take a test? It’s much more likely that we will be asked to solve problems, write proposals and analyze. For example, at a business meeting your boss might ask you to come up with a proposal to solve a company issue. You’ll probably never be given a quiz on it though.
Motivation is an issue. You can change the curriculum as much as you want, but some students will just do the minimum to get by. Moving towards more expressive forms of assessments is a step in the right direction. It forces students to think rather than just remembering facts for a test.