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Fall Workshop: Assessing and Reporting

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Overview: Continuous Improvement

I view the CTW Initiative as a distributed research project that uses students' critical thinking as evidence to support continuous improvement in each degree major. Basically, I think each degree major needs to ask of itself the following questions,

  1. what levels and kinds of critical thinking are exhibited in our students' work?
  2. what is our major doing to foster critical thinking?
  3. what can we do to improve the curriculum and our instructional practices so that our students will begin to exhibit greater capacities for critical thinking?
That said, the CTW initiative is a collective effort and my thoughts are just a conversation starter.


The purpose of this workshop is to think in a systematic way about the questions we want our research to answer, the data we want to collect, and the way we want to report our findings to the GSU community and beyond. Whatever we decide to do, we need to be able to start reporting by the end of next semester so that when Fall 09 arrives, we will know what we are doing. We can and should make changes to the process forever after, but we need to start somewhere. While each degree major has the authority to design and practice CTW in its own way, it will be very helpful to everyone involved if there is at least some uniformity of presentation. Hence the content management part of the CTW website.

Specifying our research questions

Below are some questions a major might want to answer regarding its CTW initiative. The annual report template is designed around these questions. The template focuses on curricular success as indicated by student work, not on student achievment or faculty performance per se.

    What questions do you want your degree major's CTW initiative to answer?
  1. Which Critical Thinking (CT) outcomes are relevant to your major?
  2. Which CT outcomes do your students excel at and which do they struggle with?
  3. Which CT outcomes do the assignments focus on?
  4. How well do the CTW assignments foster CT in general or for specific CT outcomes?
  5. How well do the CTW assignments help the students learn the subject by making them think critically through writing about it?
  6. How well do the CTW assignments "measure" CT either in general or for specific outcomes?
  7. How much does their CT improve (in a course, from first to last course?)
  8. Are there other questions?
    What data will answer these questions?
  1. Do you need rubric score distributions? (Remember SACS does not accept grades as assessment)
  2. Sample assignments with meta commentary about what each is designed to do
  3. Samples of student work representing range of student ability
    What do you want to do with what you learn -- what are your goals for your major, for your students?
  1. Change design of assignments?
  2. Focus on different CT outcomes?
  3. Increase overall student ability for specific CT outcomes?
  4. Design supplemental instruction for struggling students?
  5. Revise the curriculum?

Identifying specific CT outcomes for observation

If we are going to answer any combination of these questions we need a concrete understanding about what critical thinking tasks we believe our students should be developing, and how the assignments they are being asked to do foster their ability to think in these ways. Hence the inventory of critical thinking outcome statements. I'd like for us to spend the next 15 minutes talking about the inventory and making personal lists consisting of 10 outcomes you think your majors should be working with and on.

Considering the current sample assignments in light of these outcomes