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Thinking Critically, Seventh Edition
John Chaffee et al.
Evaluation Criteria for Tom Randall’s Halloween Party
The Test of Critical Thinking Abilities

The Test of Critical Thinking Abilities, developed by John Chaffee, is designed to provide a comprehensive evaluation of student thinking and language abilities. Using a court case format arising from a fatal student drinking incident, students are challenged to gather and weigh evidence; ask relevant questions, construct informed beliefs, evaluate expert testimony and summation arguments; reach a reasoned verdict, and then view the entire case from a problem-solving perspective.

Since the test provides all relevant information needed to think through and respond to the questions, it can be used at any point in the course to assess the quality of students’ thinking and language. The test is modular in design, enabling teachers to select various sections to administer in combinations appropriate to their instructional needs. Effective scoring of the test should take into account both the quantity and the quality of student responses.

The test portion appears on the student section of this web site.

An articulation of the evaluation/performance criteria for the various sections of the test is provided here.

A. Gathering and Weighing the Evidence


1. What factors support the accuracy of the testimony of each witness?

2. What factors raise questions regarding the accuracy of the testimony of each witness?

To what extent does the student display an understanding of the testimony of each witness in terms of

—the main ideas being expressed

—the reasons and evidence that support the main ideas

To what extent is the student able to identify in the testimony of each witness

—the differences between facts, inferences, and judgments

—the interests, purposes, background, or professional expertise of the witnesses relevant to the information they are providing

To what extent does the student display the ability to evaluate and compare/contrast the testimony of each witness in terms of

—accuracy

—consistency

—completeness

—subjective bias/slanting reflecting the influence of personal interests, purposes, background, or professional expertise

B. Asking Important Questions


1. What questions should be asked to elicit additional relevant information?

To what extent is the student able to identify appropriate questions at various cognitive levels to explore the issues posed by the testimony (fact, interpretation, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, application)?

C. Constructing Knowledge


1. Do you believe that Thomas Randall was aware that Kelly Greene was a minor and that she was drinking alcohol in violation of the law? Explain the reasons for your conclusion.

2. Do you believe that Mr. Randall personally served Ms. Greene alcohol? Do you believe that he encouraged or cajoled her to drink alcohol? Explain the reasons for your conclusion.

3. Do you believe that Mr. Randall was aware that Ms. Greene was intoxicated when she left his party? Did he know that she would be driving home?

To what extent is the student able to

—identify the key issues and the relevant evidence provided by the witnesses

—evaluate contrasting and conflicting testimony

—synthesize the testimony into well-informed conclusions supported by sound reasons

D. Evaluating Expert Testimony


1. Summarize the first psychologist’s analysis of Mr. Randall’s and Ms. Greene’s behavior and the reasons that support her interpretation.

2. Summarize the second psychologist’s analysis of Mr. Randall’s and Ms. Greene’s behavior and the reasons that support his interpretation.

3. Based on your analysis of this testimony, explain your analysis of Mr. Randall’s and Ms. Greene’s behavior and explain the reasons that led to your conclusion.

Same evaluation/performance criteria as A1 and A2.

To what extent does the student understand the forms of inductive reasoning illustrated by the expert testimony?

To what extent is the student able to analyze the reasoning presented and evaluate its relevance and plausibility?

Empirical generalizations: Is the sample known? Sufficient? Representative? Causal reasoning: scientific method, controlled experiments.

E. Evaluating Summation Arguments


1. Identify the key arguments used in each summation and describe the reasons and conclusions for each.

2. Evaluate the truth of the reasons presented in the arguments and assess the extent to which the conclusions follow logically from the reasons.

3. Identify any irrelevant, invalid, or illogical arguments presented and explain why you think they are weak, invalid, or illogical.

To what extent is the student able to

—recognize arguments and understand their function and structure (reasons, conclusion)?

—evaluate arguments in terms of truth, validity, and soundness?

—recognize forms of common fallacies?

F. Deliberating the Issues


1. Explain how the prosecution summation defines the concept of freedom (in terms of its general properties/characteristics) and illustrate the concept with an example not included in the summation.

2. Explain how the defense summation defines the concept of freedom and illustrate this definition with an example not included in the summation.

To what extent does the student understand the concepts presented by others, defining their general properties and illustrating them with examples?

3. Describe your own concept of freedom and illustrate it with an example from your own experience. To what extent is the student able to form his or her own concepts and illustrate them with examples from his or her own experience?

4. Explain how your concept of freedom relates to your conclusion regarding whether the defendant in the previous court case should be found innocent or guilty of the charges. To what extent is the student able to apply concepts he/she has developed to a complex issue in order to clarify his/her understanding?

G. Reaching a Verdict


1. Based on your analysis of the evidence and arguments presented in this case, indicate what you think the verdict ought to be and explain your reasons for reaching this conclusion.

To what extent is the student able to analyze complex issues by

—identifying the issue clearly?

—describing multiple interpretations of the issue?

—identifying and evaluating evidence and arguments to support various interpretations?

—articulating an informed, well-reasoned conclusion that draws on the views of others but that still represents the student’s own independent analysis/synthesis?

H. Solving Problems


1. Explain, clearly and specifically, the reasons you think this problem exists and what you believe is the essence or heart of the problem.

2. Identify three realistic alternatives for solving this problem. Evaluate each alternative in terms of its advantages and disadvantages, and explain what further information would be required to determine each alternative’s effectiveness.

3. Select what you believe to be your most promising alternative and explain the steps you would take to implement it.

To what extent is the student able to analyze a complex, open-ended problem in an organized way, addressing the following questions:

—What is the problem? (knowledge; results; definition)

—What are the alternatives? (boundaries; alternatives)

—What are the advantages/disadvantages of each alternative? (information)

—What is the solution? (alternatives; plan of action)

 


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