Volume 30, Issue 3, Fall 2015
Are We Asking the Right Questions about Critical Thinking Assessment?
A Response to Hatcher
This is a response essay to Donald Hatcher’s (2015), “Critical Thinking Instruction: A Realistic Evaluation: The Dream vs. Reality.” Hatcher argues that critical thinking (CT) instruction seriously falls short of the ideal of honestly evaluating alternative evidence and arguments. This failure is apparent, he argues, when one surveys student performance on a variety of CT assessment tests. Hatcher reviews the current CT assessment data, which includes an extensive pool of results collected from Baker University where Hatcher oversaw a sophisticated and well-funded CT program for about two decades. Hatcher also argues that evidence from the philosophical and psychological literatures on disagreement and judgment suggests even CT experts fail to model the ideal and that CT has suffered from an unrealistic conception of rationality and human decision-making. I reply by arguing that, by putting the CT assessment data in a different context and asking an alternative set of questions, one can justifiably derive a more positive evaluation of the future of CT instruction in light of the CT ideal. Instead of focusing on whether students are achieving the CT ideal by the time of the post-test, instructors should ask whether they are making the kind of progress that there is good reason to expect. I close by challenging the soundness of the proposed implications of Hatcher’s arguments.