eCoaching Tip 27 A Guide for Analyzing Critical Thinking

November 4 2006 (Lightly revised July 6, 2012)

E-Coaching Tip 27: A Guide for Analyzing Critical Thinking

An earlier tip (Tip 26) suggested strategies for creating discussion posts that invite reflection and responses to other’s ideas.  In particular this tip encouraged the use of open-ended questions and problems.  It also encouraged providing choices that learners could customize their learning.

Let’s assume that you have been very successful and have developed a number of wonderfully effective discussion activities. Students are responding thoughtfully and expansively.

Now you realize that your current rubric for evaluating the discussion posts might not be as robust as you would like it to be. This tip provides ideas and resources on how to develop or refine a rubric that encourages the development of critical thinking skills.

A guide to support critical thinking

Critical thinking is a highly desirable transferable skill and is often cited as one of the top priority end goals of higher education programs and courses. As with most skills, it takes time and coaching to develop.  Also, as with most skills, we are in need of more focused strategies and tools for developing this skill.

The guide described in this tip, the Guide to Rating Critical and Integrative Thinking, is the result of a multiyear research project at Washington State University. Many of the project materials are available at

The guide identifies seven (7) dimensions of critical thinking, and provides examples for evaluating a learner’s progress in developing each of these seven dimensions of critical thinking skills. The guide provides examples of “emerging” and “mastered” dimensions of critical thinking. These examples are a rich resource of examples and models that you can use in developing rubrics for your students.

The Critical Thinking Guide

Here are the seven dimensions of critical thinking identified and described in the study.  A learner who is a critical thinker can do the following:

  1. Identify, summarize the problem, question, or issue
  2. Identify and present their own hypothesis,perspective and positionas it is important to the analysis of the issue
  3. Identify and consider other salient perspectives and positionsthat are important to the analysis
  4. Identify and assess the key assumptions
  5. Identify and assess the quality of supporting data/evidenceand provide additional data/evidence related to the issue
  6. Identify and consider the influence of the context * on the issue
  7. Identify and assess conclusions, implications and consequences.

Examples of Criteria for  “Emerging” and “Mastering” Critical Thinking Dimensions

As mentioned above, the project work provides “emerging” and “mastering” criteria for measuring a student’s progress on each of these seven dimensions.

Here are the “emerging” and “mastering” examples for Criteria 4, Identifying and assessing the key assumptions. Be sure to use the reference (Kelly-Rileyet all, pp. 9-10) to see the full set of examples for the seven dimensions.

·       Criteria 4 Identifying and assessing the key assumptions – Examples

  • “Emerging” Critical Thinking – Does not identify the assumptions and ethical issues that underlie the issue, or does so *superficially
  • “Mastering” Critical Thinking- Identifies and questions the validity of the assumptions and addresses the ethical dimensions that underlie the issue

Examples of Critical Thinking Rubrics Based on these Criteria

Here are some links to rubrics developed with this set of seven dimensions of critical thinking. First of all, you may want to see examples from the faculty at Washington State University. Here is the link to the table of contents.  There are rubrics from these content faculty: Art, Education,  Physics,Crops and Soils

Another rubric using these seven criteria – General Education Critical Thinking Rubric– is in use at Northeastern Illinois University. This rubric provides four levels of development for each of the seven criteria.  For example, here are the four levels for Criteria 1 – Identify, summarize the problem, question, or issue

  1. No/Limited Proficiency-Fails to identify, summarize, or explain the main problem or question. Represents the issues inaccurately or inappropriately.
  2. Some Proficiency- Identifies main issues but does not summarize or explain them clearly or sufficiently
  3. Proficiency-Successfully identifies and summarizes the main issues, but does not explain why/how they are problems or create questions
  4. High Proficiency-Clearly identifies main issues and successfully explains why/how they are problems or questions; and identifies embedded or implicit issues, addressing their relationships to each other.

These critical thinking skills for learners and are independent of any particular discipline or course of study. You can use some or all of these criteria and examples to develop rubrics and instructions for assignments.


In conclusion, I would be remiss not to mention a center dedicated to critical thinking that I hope you will also explore. It is the Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique ( is another excellent resource. This site is supported by a cross-disciplinary group that promotes excellence in thinking and provides resources to help educators improve their instruction in critical thinking. A reference that is a good starting point is the article by Richard Paul and Linda Elder on the analysis and assessment of thinking.


Kelly-Riley, D., Brown, G., Condon, B., & Law, R. (2001). Washington State University Critical Thinking Project. Retrieved July 10 2012 from

Northeastern Illinois University (2006) General Education Critical Thinking Rubric. Retrieved July 10 2012 from

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2008).The analysis and assessment of thinking. Retrieved July 11 2012 from

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by