The Five Colleges of Ohio Creative and Critical Thinking Project is focused on developing tools to assess two fundamental and related outcomes of a liberal arts education: creativity and critical thinking. This project builds upon the results of two “First-Step” workshops, which were funded by a Teagle-funded pilot grant in 2005-06. Using primary trait analysis (PTA), this collaboration foregrounds the belief that tools designed to assess student learning in these areas will allow us to measure the distinctive educational gains that a liberal arts education provides. Consequently, we will better position ourselves to enhance and develop courses and curricula intended to foster our core values. We intend, through focused efforts, to produce well-designed and validated rubrics that educators can use in a variety of contexts to assess creativity and critical thinking outcomes.
Creative Thinking – Liberal arts colleges pride themselves on producing creative thinkers, those who can draw on the breadth and depth of their curricular experiences to solve problems and produce innovative solutions. As David Kearns states in his introduction to Dennis Doyle’s Reclaiming the Legacy: In Defense of Liberal Education, “We are reminded that the real challenge of today’s economy is not in making things but in producing creative ideas. Today, the race goes not just to the swift, but to the inventive, the resourceful, the curious.”
Critical Thinking – A fundamental learning objective uniformly embraced by faculty of our institutions, critical thinking is, like creative thinking, a quality for which effective assessment measures have so far been lacking, although we have long reinforced the means by which strong liberal arts education fosters analysis, interpretation, explanation, and evaluation.
An additional and important component to developing assessment tools for both creativity and critical thinking involves understanding the connections between these skills. Then, too, we need to better understand our “academic definitions” of the representative traits as well as how students define these terms. Students’ pre-conceptions about creativity and critical thinking inform their work during their academic careers. How does their understanding of creativity and critical thinking change as they progress through a liberal arts education? Do they perceive them as mutually exclusive, do they come to integrate them? It is in the combination of creative and critical thinking that we see the greatest impact of a liberal arts education, and the central question of this project lies in determining whether we develop creative AND critical thinkers.