HCTA Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment

D. Halpern © SCHUHFRIED GmbH

HCTA is the first test that enables a content-representative assessment of recognition and recall aspects of critical thinking.

Application
Assessment of critical thinking skills for respondents aged 15 years and older.

Theoretical background
The development of critical thinking skills is listed as the most important outcome of education and the most prized ability for high-level success in the workforce (Stanovich, 2009). Stanovich describes the ability to think critically as "what intelligence tests miss." He makes strong arguments as to why the assessment of critical thinking, which he describes as rational thinking, is more useful than information gained from standardized intelligence tests. But, what does it mean to “think critically”? Experts have generally reached consensus in describing a critical thinker as someone who will attempt and achieve a desired outcome by thinking rationally and in defining critical thinking skills as goal-directed, reasoned efforts (Ennis, 1993; Halpern, 2003). Critical thinking entails self-reflection, self-awareness, and cognitive management, abilities that require guidance and development (Kuhn, 2005). Practicing critical thought requires metacognition, which can be described generally as “thinking about one’s thinking," but more specifically in educational contexts, as the ability to self-regulate in order to apply context-appropriate learning strategies (Svinicki, 1999). Different authors use different terms and vary in the breadth of their definition, but overall there is considerable agreement about the importance of and the sorts of skills that are included under a critical thinking rubric.
The definition of "critical thinking" used for construction of the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment characterizes critical thinking as those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. They are purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed. Critical thinking is the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions. Critical thinkers use these skills appropriately, without prompting, and usually with conscious intent, in a variety of settings. That is, they are predisposed to think critically. When we think critically, we are evaluating the outcomes of our thought processes--how good a decision is or how well a problem is solved. Critical thinking also involves evaluating the thinking process--the reasoning that went into the conclusion we've arrived at or the kinds of factors considered in making a decision. Therefore, critical thinking has to be regarded as a hierarchical multidimen-sional construct comprising the facets verbal reasoning, argument analysis skills, skills in thinking as hypothesis testing, using likelihood and uncertainty, and decision making/problem solving skills (Halpern, 1994; 1998; 2003).

Administration
Both test forms of HCTA consist of 25 scenarios of everyday events. No specialized domain-specific knowledge is needed. In test form S1, the scenarios are presented together with questions that use a constructed response format. Upon completion of the constructed response question, the respondent is asked to respond to a series of multiple choice questions pertaining to the same scenario. Test form S2 only contains the multiple choice questions to provide a quick screening of the critical thinking ability of the respondents.

Test forms
Two different test forms are available:
S1: Standard version, which requires constructed response and multiple –choice answers
S2: Multiple-choice short version.

Scoring
The two test forms differ with regard to the variables obtained. Test form S2 comprises responses to recognition variables; test form S1 enables the calculation of recogni-tion and free recall measures of critical thinking. The calculation of the recognition variables is fully automatic; the free recall measures require scoring the respondents’ answers by the test administrator, who is guided by a series of questions for each scenario. Results of an inter-rater reliability study indicated a high level of scoring objectivity of the free recall variables, which is attributable to the use a standardized computerized scoring module that has been developed in a series of usability examinations.

Reliability
Internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha) lies between α=0.85 and α=0.97.

Validity
The HCTA is content valid because it was derived from commonly accepted definitions of critical thinking. HCTA has been administered to several hundred adults in multiple countries. Each administration has been validated using a variety of techniques, which are described in the manual. The results of these analyses jointly argue for the construct- and criterion validity of the Halpern Critical Thinking As-sessment.

Norms
Norm samples of adults are available for both test forms. The norm sample consisted of 450 adults from the United States ranging in age from 18 to 72 (mean age = 32) with a range of educational backgrounds.

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