Critical Thinking Exercises in the Classroom are Helpful but not Sufficient for Improving Critical Thinking Test Scores

Heather L Coates


A Review of:
Wallace, E. D., & Jefferson, R. N. (2013). Developing Critical Thinking Skills For Information Seeking Success. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 19(3): 246-255.

Objective – To determine whether a series of workbook exercises contributed to improved critical thinking test scores.

Design – Post-test design with a quasi-experimental control group.

Setting – Military college in the United States of America.

Subjects – 76 undergraduates enrolled in a required freshman orientation seminar.

Methods – Approximately one third of the enrolled participants (n=26) were provided with a copy of the book Critical Thinking: Building the Basics. A subset of exercises was completed independently over three to four class sessions during the first three weeks of the semester. The control group (n=50) did not receive any critical skills thinking instruction. The iCritical Thinking Skills Test, an online exam provided by Educational Testing Service (ETS), was administered to both groups during a class session. The exam consists of 7 types of tasks: define, access, evaluate, manage, integrate, create, communicate, evaluated using 14 tasks based on real-world scenarios.

Main Results – Approximately 20% (15) of all students passed the test, 9 from the intervention group and 6 from the control group. Significant differences were detected between the groups on the Integrate and Manage subtests. The range for individual subtests and total scores was wide. Scores for two of the seven subtests, Create and Evaluate, showed the greatest amount of variability; the Communicate subtest scores had the least.

Conclusion – Limitations of the study include potential motivational differences between the groups. Students who completed workbook exercises appeared to be motivated to do well on the test, while those who did not seemed less motivated. The effectiveness of exercises in developing critical thinking skills in this study will persuade administrators to consider using such exercises in the classroom.


information literacy; critical thinking skills; assessment

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