Student Success - Measuring Critical Thinking Using Rubrics

Rubrics as an Assessment Tool for Critical Thinking

Assessments that require students to use information they have learned rather than to regurgitate facts helps students develop critical thinking skills as well as measure their proficiency. Therefore, assessments can become an important part of a curriculum aimed at developing students' critical thinking skills. Such assessments often take the form of essay tests, term papers, research projects, or performance tests. Grading assignments such as these can present a challenge because there is not one correct answer that can be scored quantitatively. Scoring consistency for assignments that have a qualitative element to them can be aided with a rubric specifically designed for the assignment.

What is a Rubric? Rubrics are scoring guidelines, consisting of specific pre-established performance criteria, used in evaluating student work on performance assessments. They consist of a list of factors important to the goal or objective of an assignment and descriptors of each level of performance, to which a number of points is awarded.

SPC's Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking

The Assessment Rubric for Critical Thinking (ARC) is a global rubric template developed for the College to provide a snapshot view of how student learning is being affected by the critical thinking initiative. It is designed to assess a variety of student projects from a critical thinking perspective. For example, students in a composition class may be asked to complete a paper on a specific topic. This ARC rubric template will help evaluate the student’s use of critical thinking skills in the development of the paper as opposed to specifically evaluating the quality of student’s writing skills. The ARC rubric template is designed to be flexible enough to address a number of student project modalities including written and oral communications, and it can be adapted to a broad range of problems within a wide variety of disciplines. View the presentation about the ARC.

Example ARC Scenarios

ARC Administration at SPC

Date Administered Disciplines/Courses Scenario Date of Scoring Workshop Report
Fall 2012 PHI 1600 Ethics If Looks Could Kill November 9, 2012  
Spring 2012 PHI 1600 Ethics Puppy Livestock May 18, 2012  
Fall 2011 PHI 1600 Ethics Success in a Bottle November 18, 2011 Report
Fall 2010 PHI 1600 Ethics Housing for Sex Offenders November 19, 2010 Report
Fall 2009 Business Technologies Network Infrastructure November 20, 2010 Report
Communications Desert
Library Water Conservation
Paralegal Studies Employment
Nursing Case Study TBD  
Summer 2008 (Pilot) College of Education, Early Childhood, Ethics, Student Life Skills July 2008  

The Critical Thinking Assessment Test

The Critical Thinking Assessment Test (CAT) is an instrument used to assess components of critical thinking. Students respond to short answer essay questions derived from real world situations. Scoring is conducted by trained SPC faculty using a detailed scoring guide to assure reliability.

CAT Administration at SPC

Date Administered Disciplines/Courses Date of Scoring Workshop Report
February 2013 Mathematics: MAC 1105 and STA 2023 April 12, 2013 Scoring Workshop Report
February 2012 Mathematics: MAC 1105 and STA 2023 April 20, 2012 Scoring Workshop Report
February 2011 Mathematics: MAC 1105 and STA 2023 June 3, 2011 Scoring Workshop Report

Developing Parallel Learning Activities to the CAT

February 2010 Mathematics: MAC 1105 and STA 2023 April 23, 2010

Scoring Workshop Report


June 2009 Communications, College of Education, Ethics, Paralegal Studies July 10, 2009

Scoring Workshop Report

Report from Tennessee Tech

May & June 2008 Early Childhood Education, Ecology, Ethics, Student Life Skills July 11, 2008 Report


Developing Specialized Rubrics

The QEP Team can assist faculty in developing discipline-specific assessments at their request.

For more information about the ARC, CAT, or other assessment options, please contact us at