Assessing Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Setting: Urban
- School Type: Charter
- Targeted Grades: K-8
- Number of Participating Students: 501-1,000
- Number of Participating Teachers: 51-200
- Curriculum Areas: Literacy, Math, Science, Social Studies, Intra- and/or Interpersonal Skills and Dispositions
- Two Rivers Public Charter School
- Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity
The Project: Two Rivers nurtures students to be active participants in their own education. Students and teachers regularly review data (assessments and student work) to gauge progress on core content as well as deeper learning skills. Staff make adjustments to the instructional focus based on this data. Students participate in 10-week project-based learning expeditions that build the skills of critical thinking and problem solving. However, the school has not had a robust system for measuring growth in this area. None exists.
- If we administer hour-long, discipline-agnostic, validated and reliable formative assessments (performance tasks) across grade bands, then we can effectively gauge the transfer of critical thinking skills outside the context of expeditions.
- If students are given this new data and rubrics, then they will be better equipped to speak specifically about their mastery (or deficits) of critical thinking skills separate from their mastery of standards.
- If staff are engaged in task design, administration, and scoring of tasks, then they will better appreciate the level of classroom rigor required for student skill mastery.
The Learning: There is a startling lack of assessments that give meaningful information to students about their growth in cognitive areas beyond the core content named in standards. Specifically, the project team has found that students have a weak grasp of their own development in the domain of critical thinking and how those skills can be transferred to other contexts. The assessment rubrics and tasks developed through this project will give educators a much-needed tool for quantifying and qualifying these essential areas.