“The Delphi Report”
Dr. Peter A. Facione,
APA Delphi Principal Investigator
The Complete American Philosophical Association Delphi Research Report
is available as ERIC Doc. No.: ED 315 423
Executive Summary ©) 1990, 1998 Peter A Facione and Insight Assessment. All rights Reserved.
The 1988-90 APA Delphi Research Project was funded in part by California State University, Fullerton
Critical Thinking: A Statement of
Expert Consensus for Purposes of
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CRITICAL THINKING: A STATEMENT OF EXPERT CONSENSUS
FOR PURPOSES OF EDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND INSTRUCTION
Including all Tables, Findings and Recommendations
Peter A. Facione
Delphi Project Principal Investigator
I -- The Critical Thinking Movement and CT Assessment
The eighties witnessed a growing accord that the heart of education lies exactly where traditional
advocates of a liberal education always said it was -- in the processes of inquiry, learning and thinking
rather than in the accumulation of disjointed skills and senescent information. By the decade's end the
movement to infuse the K-12 and post-secondary curricula with critical thinking (CT) had gained
This success also raised vexing questions: What exactly are those skills and dispositions which
characterize CT? What are some effective ways to teach CT? And how can CT, particularly if it becomes
a campus-wide, district-wide or statewide requirement, be assessed? When asked by the individual
professor or teacher seeking to introduce CT into her own classroom, such questions are difficult enough.
But they take on social, fiscal, and political dimensions when asked by campus curriculum committees,
school district offices, boards of education, and the educational testing and publishing industries.
Given the central role played by philosophers in articulating the value, both individual and social,
of CT, in analyzing the concept of CT, in designing college level academic programs in CT, and in
assisting with efforts to introduce CT into the K-12 curriculum, it is little wonder that the American
Philosophical Association, through its Committee on Pre-College Philosophy, took great interest in the CT
movement and its impact on the profession. In December of 1987 that committee asked this investigator
to make a systematic inquiry into the current state of CT and CT assessment.
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CONSENSUS STATEMENT REGARDING CRITICAL
THINKING AND THE IDEAL CRITICAL THINKER
We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which
results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation
of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual
considerations upon which that judgment is based. CT is essential as a tool of
inquiry. As such, CT is a liberating force in education and a powerful resource in
one's personal and civic life. While not synonymous with good thinking, CT is a
pervasive and self-rectifying human phenomenon. The ideal critical thinker is
habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-
minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making
judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters,
diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria,
focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the
subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical
thinkers means working toward this ideal. It combines developing CT skills with
nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which
are the basis of a rational and democratic society.
As Table 1 suggests, a key result of inquiry is the articulation by a panel of CT experts of a
conceptualization of CT it terms of two dimensions: cognitive skills and affective dispositions. Section II of
this report describes the Delphi research methodology. Section III addresses the skill dimension of CT,
and Section IV the dispositional dimension of CT. Fifteen recommendations pertaining to CT instruction
and assessment are presented.
II -- Research Methodology and Purpose
This research employed the powerful qualitative research methodology known as the Delphi
Method. The Delphi Method requires the formation of an interactive panel of experts. These persons
must be willing to share their expertise and work toward a consensus resolution of matters of opinion. In
all forty-six persons, widely recognized by their professional colleagues to have special experience and
expertise in CT instruction, assessment or theory, made the commitment to participate in this Delphi
project. (See Table 7.)
Beginning in Feb. 1988 and ending in November 1989, the Delphi panel participated in six rounds
of questions which called for thoughtful and detailed responses. The panelists worked toward consensus
by sharing their reasoned opinions and being willing to reconsider them in the light of the comments,
objections and arguments offered by other experts. To circumvent undue influence arising from any
given expert's professional status, each round of questions was initiated by the project director and all
responses were coordinated through that person. The project director circulated to the entire panel direct
quotations and synthesized responses, with the names of their authors removed. However, the panelists
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themselves, through the thoughtfulness and persuasiveness of their written responses, shaped the line of
inquiry. (See Table 2.)
Roughly half the panelists were affiliated with Philosophy (52%), the others were with Education
(22%), the Social Sciences (20%), or the Physical Sciences (6%). Participation in this research project
does not imply that a person agrees with all the findings. Where consensus is reported a minority of
panelists hold divergent views. Where near unanimity is reported some panelists may not be in full
accord with how the specifics are expressed. One expert asked to be excluded from supporting the
findings, even though listed as a participant.
Round 1 (Feb. 11, 1988) and Round 2 (Mar. 14, 1988) initiated the Delphi process.
In both rounds panelists were invited to nominate other CT experts to join in this
research project. The experts reached consensus on the working assumption that
"the concept of CT could be made operational to the extent that important parts of
CT could be assessed validly and reliably." The experts agreed to begin their
analysis of CT by "identifying the core elements of CT which might reasonably be
expected at the freshman and sophomore general education college level." The
rationale for this decision was that the college level theoretical construct of CT
could reasonably be used to guide what might be said about CT at the K-12 level.
Also the panelists noted that most of the participating experts had greater
experience at the college level than in K-12 education.
Round 3 (May 4, 1988) was an open-ended invitation for experts to write their own
list of the operations which they conceived of as central to CT. The first synthesis
of this input was presented for expert review in Round 4 (Sept. 23, 1988). This
synthesis focused on the skill dimension of CT. Round 4 invited responses
regarding each skill and sub-skill identified, a proposed [and ultimately rejected]
input/output model of CT operations, a list of closely related cognitive operations
which might or might not be distinguished from CT, a general statement regarding
what a skill is and how one is taught, and a list of caveats and cautions regarding
CT instruction and assessment.
Round 5A (Feb. 28, 1989) reviewed the definitions and classification of CT
cognitive skills in the light of expert responses to Round 4. Round 5B (also Feb.
28, 1989) proposed statements regarding the dispositional dimension of CT and
about its possible normative connotations. Round 5C (Mar. 10, 1989) asked for
specific recommendations regarding CT instruction and assessment, and offered a
revision of the general statement on teaching and assessing a cognitive skill.
Round 5 included several quotations culled from the panelists' earlier responses
and invited comments and reactions.
The experts' comments regarding the various quotations included in each round
added greatly to the project director's understanding of the experts' overall views.
From these and the responses to specific Round 5A, 5B and 5C questions, the
project director assembled a draft report of all Delphi findings, including
recommendations. Round 6, (Sept. 25, 1989) circulated that draft and gave the CT
experts the opportunity to express their views or make comments for inclusion in
the final report, which went through its last revisions in Nov. 1989.
The experts articulated an ideal. It may be that no person is fully adept at all the skills and sub-
skills the experts found to be central to CT. It may be that no person has fully cultivated all the affective
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dispositions which characterize a good critical thinker. It may be that humans compartmentalize their
lives in ways that CT is more active and evident in some areas than in others. This gives no more reason
to abandon the effort to infuse CT into the educational system than that knowing no friendship is perfect
gives one reason to despair of having friends. The experts' purpose in putting the ideal before the
education community is that it should serve as a rich and worthy goal guiding CT assessment and
curriculum development at all educational levels.
III -- The Cognitive Skill Dimension of Critical Thinking
FINDING: As indicated in Table 1, the experts find good critical thinking to include
both a skill dimension and a dispositional dimension. The experts find CT to
include cognitive skills in (1) interpretation, (2) analysis, (3) evaluation, (4)
inference, (5) explanation and (6) self-regulation. Each of these six is at the core of
CT. Associated with each are criteria by which its execution can be meaningfully
evaluated. However, no attempt is made here to specify those criteria since ample
criteriological discussions exist in the literature.
RECOMMENDATION 1: All CT instruction should aim at developing good critical
thinkers -- persons who can integrate successful execution of various skills in the
CT enhanced classroom with the confidence, inclination and good judgment to use
these powerful tools in their other studies and in their everyday lives. Persons
who have proficiency in CT skills but fail to use them appropriately are most
unlikely to be regarded as good critical thinkers.
RECOMMENDATION 2: Those who seek to infuse CT into the educational system
to be guided by a holistic conceptualization of what it means to be a good critical
thinker. That some aspects of CT, particularly features within its skill dimension,
are more readily targeted by existing educational assessment strategies should
not distort the conceptualization of CT nor truncate full-blown CT instruction.
The experts characterize certain cognitive skills as central or core CT skills. The experts are
not, however, saying that a person must be proficient at every skill to be perceived as having CT ability.
The experts to be virtually unanimous (N>95%) on including analysis, evaluation, and inference as
central to CT. Strong consensus (N>87%) exists that interpretation, explanation and self-regulation
are also central to CT.
FINDING: There is consensus that one might improve one's own CT in several
ways. The experts agree that one could critically examine and evaluate one's own
reasoning processes. One could learn how to think more objectively and logically.
One could expand one's repertoire of those more specialized procedures and
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criteria used in different areas of human thought and inquiry. One could increase
one's base of information and life experience.
The experts do not regard CT as a body of knowledge to be delivered to students as one more
school subject along with others. Like reading and writing, CT has applications in all areas of life and
learning. Also as with reading and writing, CT instruction can occur in programs rich with discipline-
specific content or in programs which rely on the events in everyday life as the basis for developing one's
FINDING: One implication the experts draw from their analysis of CT skills is this:
"while CT skills themselves transcend specific subjects or disciplines, exercising
them successfully in certain contexts demands domain-specific knowledge, some
of which may concern specific methods and techniques used to make reasonable
judgments in those specific contexts."
Although the identification and analysis of CT skills transcend, in significant ways, specific
subjects or disciplines, learning and applying these skills in many contexts requires domain-specific
knowledge. This domain-specific knowledge includes understanding methodological principles and
competence to engage in norm-regulated practices that are at the core of reasonable judgments in those
specific-contexts. The explicit mention of "evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or
contextual" considerations in connection with explanation reinforces this point. Too much of value is lost
if CT is conceived of simply as a list of logical operations and domain-specific knowledge is conceived of
simply as an aggregation of information. Inquiry into the nexus of reasonable judgment and actual
application can produce new appreciations of the necessity of robust concepts of both CT and domain-
specific knowledge in education.
RECOMMENDATION 3: Since becoming adept at CT involves learning to use CT
skills effectively in many different contexts, the experts insist that "one cannot
overemphasize the value of a solid liberal education to supplement the honing of
one's CT skills and the cultivating of one's CT dispositions."
CT skills can usefully be grouped and sub-classified in a number of legitimate ways. Hence, the sub-
classification which resulted from this Delphi research should not be interpreted as necessarily excluding
all others. Indeed, while declaring themselves to be in agreement with this sub-classification, various
participating experts have also published their own sub-classifications. While characterizing each skill
and sub-skill is important, creating arbitrary differentiations simply to force each and every sub-skill to
become conceptually discrete from all the others is neither necessary nor useful. In practical contexts the
execution of some skills or sub-skills may presuppose others.
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Many of the CT skills and sub-skills identified are valuable, if not vital, for other important
activities, such as communicating effectively. Also CT skills can be applied in concert with other technical
or interpersonal skills to any number of specific concerns such as programming computers, defending
clients, developing a winning sales strategy, managing an office, or helping a friend figure out what might
be wrong with his car. In part this is what the experts mean by characterizing these CT skills as
pervasive and purposeful.
Not every useful cognitive process should be thought of as CT. Not every valuable thinking skill
is CT skill. CT is one among a family of closely related forms of higher-order thinking, along with, for
example, problem-solving, decision making, and creative thinking. The complex relationships among the
forms of higher-order thinking have yet to be examined satisfactorily.
CONSENSUS LIST OF CT COGNITIVE SKILLS AND SUB-SKILLS
1. Interpretation Categorization
2. Analysis Examining Ideas
3. Evaluation Assessing Claims
4. Inference Querying Evidence
5. Explanation Stating Results
6. Self-Regulation Self-examination
The Delphi experts find remarkable consensus on the descriptions of each of the skills and sub-
skills. (See Table 4.) The examples associated with each sub-skill are intended as clarifications. Some
readers might see in them suggestions of possible instructional or assessment strategies. Others might
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see in them the tools to initiate staff development conversations about the curricular implications.
However, the panel's consensus has to do with the skill and sub-skill descriptions, and does not
necessarily extend to the examples.
CORE CT SKILLS AND SUB-SKILLS
1. INTERPRETATION: To comprehend and express the meaning or significance of
a wide variety of experiences, situations, data, events, judgments, conventions,
beliefs, rules, procedures or criteria.
* to apprehend or appropriately formulate categories, distinctions, or frameworks
for understanding, describing or characterizing information.
* to describe experiences, situations, beliefs, events, etc. so that they take on
comprehensible meanings in terms of appropriate categorizations, distinctions, or
For example: to recognize a problem and define its character without prejudice to inquiry;
to determine a useful way of sorting and sub-classifying information; to make an
understandable report of what one experienced in a given situation; to classify data,
findings or opinions using a given classification schema.
1.2 DECODING SIGNIFICANCE:
* to detect, attend to, and describe the informational content, affective purport,
directive functions, intentions, motives, purposes, social significance, values, views,
rules, procedures, criteria, or inferential relationships expressed in convention-based
communication systems, such as in language, social behaviors, drawings, numbers,
graphs, tables, charts, signs and symbols.
For example: to detect and describe a person's purposes in asking a given question; to appreciate the
significance of a particular facial expression or gesture used in a given social situation; to discern the use of
irony or rhetorical questions in debate; to interpret the data displayed or presented using a particular form of
1.3 CLARIFYING MEANING:
* to paraphrase or make explicit, through stipulation, description, analogy or
figurative expression, the contextual, conventional or intended meanings of words, ideas,
concepts, statements, behaviors, drawings, numbers, signs, charts, graphs, symbols,
rules, events or ceremonies.
* to use stipulation, description, analogy or figurative expression to remove
confusing, unintended vagueness or ambiguity, or to design a reasonable procedure for
For example: to restate what a person said using different words or expressions while preserving that person's
intended meanings; to find an example which helps explain something to someone; to develop a distinction
which makes clear a conceptual difference or removes a troublesome ambiguity.
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2. ANALYSIS: To identify the intended and actual inferential relationships among
statements, questions, concepts, descriptions or other forms of representation
intended to express beliefs, judgments, experiences, reasons, information, or
2.1 EXAMINING IDEAS:
* to determine the role various expressions play or are intended to play in the context of
argument, reasoning or persuasion.
* to define terms.
* to compare or contrast ideas, concepts, or statements.
* to identify issues or problems and determine their component parts, and also to identify
the conceptual relationships of those parts to each other and to the whole.
For example: to identify a phrase intended to trigger a sympathetic emotional response which might induce
an audience to agree with an opinion; to examine closely related proposals regarding a given problem and
to determine their points of similarity and divergence; given a complicated assignment, to determine how it
might be broken up into smaller, more manageable tasks; to define an abstract concept.
2.2 DETECTING ARGUMENTS:
* given a set of statements, descriptions, questions or graphic representations, to
determine whether or not the set expresses, or is intended to express, a reason or
reasons in support of or contesting some claim, opinion or point of view.
For example, given a paragraph, determine whether a standard reading of that paragraph in the context
of how and where it is published, would suggest that it presents a claim as well as a reason or reasons in
support of that claim; given a passage from a newspaper editorial, determine if the author of that passage
intended it as an expression of reasons for or against a given claim or opinion; given a commercial
announcement, identify any claims being advanced along with the reasons presented in their support.
2.3 ANALYZING ARGUMENTS:
* given the expression of a reason or reasons intended to support or contest some claim,
opinion or point of view, to identify and differentiate: (a) the intended main conclusion, (b)
the premises and reasons advanced in support of the main conclusion, (c) further premises
and reasons advanced as backup or support for those premises and reasons intended as
supporting the main conclusion, (d) additional unexpressed elements of that reasoning, such
as intermediary conclusions, unstated assumptions or presuppositions, (e) the overall
structure of the argument or intended chain of reasoning, and (f) any items contained in the
body of expressions being examined which are not intended to be taken as part of the
reasoning being expressed or its intended background.
For example: given a brief argument, paragraph-sized argument, or a position paper on a controversial
social issue, to identify the author's chief claim, the reasons and premises the author advances on behalf
of that claim, the background information used to support those reasons or premises, and crucial
assumptions implicit in the author's reasoning; given several reasons or chains of reasons in support of a
particular claim, to develop a graphic representation which usefully characterizes the inferential flow of
3. EVALUATION: To assess the credibility of statements or other representations
which are accounts or descriptions of a person's perception, experience, situation,
judgment, belief, or opinion; and to assess the logical strength of the actual or
intend inferential relationships among statements, descriptions, questions or other
forms of representation.
3.1 ASSESSING CLAIMS:
* to recognize the factors relevant to assessing the degree of credibility to ascribe to a
source of information or opinion.
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* to assess the contextual relevance of questions, information, principles, rules or
* to assess the acceptability, the level of confidence to place in the probability or truth of
any given representation of an experience, situation, judgment, belief or opinion.
For example: to recognize the factors which make a person a credible witness regarding a given event
or credible authority on a given topic; to determine if a given principle of conduct is applicable to
deciding what to do in a given situation; to determine if a given claim is likely to be true or false based
on what one knows or can reasonably find out.
3.2 ASSESSING ARGUMENTS:
* to judge whether the assumed acceptability of the premises of a given argument justify one's
accepting as true (deductively certain), or very probably true (inductively justified), the expressed
conclusion of that argument.
* to anticipate or to raise questions or objections, and to assess whether these point to significant
weakness in the argument being evaluated.
* to determine whether an argument relies on false or doubtful assumptions or presuppositions and
then to determine how crucially these affect its strength.
* to judge between reasonable and fallacious inferences;
* to judge the probative strength of an argument's premises and assumptions with a view toward
determining the acceptability of the argument.
* to determine and judge the probative strength of an argument's intended or unintended
consequences with a view toward judging the acceptability of the argument;
* to determine the extent to which possible additional information might strengthen or weaken an
For example: given an argument to judge if its conclusion follows either with certainty or with a high level
of confidence from its premises; to check for identifiable formal and informal fallacies; given an
objection to an argument to evaluate the logical force of that objection; to evaluate the quality and
applicability of analogical arguments; to judge the logical strength of arguments based on hypothetical
situations or causal reasoning; to judge if a given argument is relevant or applicable or has implications
for the situation at hand; to determine how possible new data might lead logically to the further
confirmation or disconfirmation of a given opinion.
4. INFERENCE: To identify and secure elements needed to draw reasonable
conclusions; to form conjectures and hypotheses; to consider relevant information
and to educe the consequences flowing from data, statements, principles, evidence,
judgments, beliefs, opinions, concepts, descriptions, questions, or other forms of
4.1 QUERYING EVIDENCE:
* in particular, to recognize premises which require support and to formulate a strategy
for seeking and gathering information which might supply that support.
* in general, to judge that information relevant to deciding the acceptability, plausibility or
relative merits of a given alternative, question, issue, theory, hypothesis, or statement is
required, and to determine plausible investigatory strategies for acquiring that
For example: when attempting to develop a persuasive argument in support of one's opinion, to judge
what background information it would be useful to have and to develop a plan which will yield a clear
answer as to whether or not such information is available; after judging that certain missing information
would be germane in determining if a given opinion is more or less reasonable than a competing
opinion, to plan a search which will reveal if that information is available.
4.2 CONJECTURING ALTERNATIVES:
* to formulate multiple alternatives for resolving a problem, to postulate a series of
suppositions regarding a question, to project alternative hypotheses regarding an event, to
develop a variety of different plans to achieve some goal.
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* to draw out presuppositions and project the range of possible consequences of
decisions, positions, policies, theories, or beliefs.
For example: given a problem with technical, ethical or budgetary ramifications, to develop a set of
options for addressing and resolving that problem; given a set of priorities with which one may or may
not agree, to project the difficulties and the benefits which are likely to result if those priorities are
adopted in decision making.
4.3 DRAWING CONCLUSIONS:
* to apply appropriate modes of inference in determining what position, opinion or point of
view one should take on a given matter or issue.
* given a set of statements, descriptions, questions or other forms of representation, to
educe, with the proper level of logical strength, their inferential relationships and the
consequences or the presuppositions which they support, warrant, imply or entail.
* to employ successfully various sub-species of reasoning, as for example to reason
analogically, arithmetically, dialectically, scientifically, etc.
* to determine which of several possible conclusions is most strongly warranted or
supported by the evidence at hand, or which should be rejected or regarded as less
plausible by the information given.
For example: to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques in order
to confirm or disconfirm an empirical hypothesis; given a controversial issue to examine informed
opinions, consider various opposing views and the reasons advanced for them, gather relevant
information, and formulate one's own considered opinion regarding that issue; to deduce a theorem from
axioms using prescribed rules of inference.
5. EXPLANATION: To state the results of one's reasoning; to justify that reasoning
in terms of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological and contextual
considerations upon which one's results were based; and to present one's
reasoning in the form of cogent arguments.
5.1 STATING RESULTS:
* to produce accurate statements, descriptions or representations of the results of one's
reasoning activities so as to analyze, evaluate, infer from, or monitor those results.
For example: to state one's reasons for holding a given view; to write down for one's own future use one's current
thinking about an important or complex matter; to state one's research findings; to convey one's analysis and
judgment regarding a work of art; to state one's considered opinion on a matter of practical urgency.
5.2 JUSTIFYING PROCEDURES:
* to present the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological and contextual
considerations which one used in forming one's interpretations, analyses, evaluation or
inferences, so that one might accurately record, evaluate, describe or justify those
processes to one's self or to others, or so as to remedy perceived deficiencies in the
general way one executes those processes.
For example: to keep a log of the steps followed in working through a long or difficult problem or
scientific procedure; to explain one's choice of a particular statistical test for purposes of data analysis;
to state the standards one used in evaluating a piece of literature; to explain how one understands a
key concept when conceptual clarity is crucial for further progress on a given problem; to show that the
prerequisites for the use of a given technical methodology have been satisfied; to report the strategy
used in attempting to make a decision in a reasonable way; to design a graphic display which
represents the quantitative or spatial information used as evidence.
5.3 PRESENTING ARGUMENTS:
* to give reasons for accepting some claim.
* to meet objections to the method, conceptualizations, evidence, criteria or contextual
appropriateness of inferential, analytical or evaluative judgments.
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For example: to write a paper in which one argues for a given position or policy; to anticipate and to
respond to reasonable criticisms one might expect to be raised against one's political views; to identify
and express evidence and counter-evidence intended as a dialectical contribution to one's own or
another person's thinking on a matter of deep personal concern.
6: SELF-REGULATION: Self-consciously to monitor one's cognitive activities, the
elements used in those activities, and the results educed, particularly by applying
skills in analysis and evaluation to one's own inferential judgments with a view
toward questioning, confirming, validating, or correcting either one's reasoning
or one's results.
* to reflect on one's own reasoning and verify both the results produced and the correct
application and execution of the cognitive skills involved.
* to make an objective and thoughtful meta-cognitive self-assessment of one's opinions
and reasons for holding them.
* to judge the extent to which one's thinking is influenced by deficiencies in one's
knowledge, or by stereotypes, prejudices, emotions or any other factors which constrain
one's objectivity or rationality.
* to reflect on one's motivations, values, attitudes and interests with a view toward
determining that one has endeavored to be unbiased, fair-minded, thorough, objective,
respectful of the truth, reasonable, and rational in coming to one's analyses,
interpretations, evaluations, inferences, or expressions.
For example: to examine one's views on a controversial issue with sensitivity to the possible influences
of one's personal bias or self-interest; to review one's methodology or calculations with a view to
detecting mistaken applications or inadvertent errors; to reread sources to assure that one has not
overlooked important information; to identify and review the acceptability of the facts, opinions or
assumptions one relied on in coming to a given point of view; to identify and review one's reasons and
reasoning processes in coming to a given conclusion.
* where self-examination reveals errors or deficiencies, to design reasonable procedures
to remedy or correct, if possible, those mistakes and their causes.
For example: given a methodological mistake or factual deficiency in one's work, to revise that work so
as to correct the problem and then to determine if the revisions warrant changes in any position,
findings, or opinions based thereon.
IV -- The Dispositional Dimension of Critical Thinking
As is evident, particularly in the descriptions of self-examination and self-correction, there are
dispositional components to critical thinking. Indeed each cognitive skill, if it is to be exercised
appropriately, can be correlated with the cognitive disposition to do so. In each case a person who is
proficient in a given skill can be said to have the aptitude to execute that skill, even if at a given moment
the person is not using the skill. But there was a great deal more many experts wished say in regard to
the personal traits, habits of mind, attitudes or affective dispositions which seem to characterize good
FINDING: Although the language here is metaphorical, one would find the
panelists to be in general accord with the view that there is a critical spirit, a
probing inquisitiveness, a keenness of mind, a zealous dedication to reason, and a
hunger or eagerness for reliable information which good critical thinkers possess
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but weak critical thinkers do not seem to have. As water strengthens a thirsty
plant, the affective dispositions are necessary for the CT skills identified to take
root and to flourish in students.
RECOMMENDATION 4: Modeling that critical spirit, awakening and nurturing
those attitudes in students, exciting those inclinations and attempting to determine
objectively if they have become genuinely integrated with the high quality
execution of CT skills are, for the majority of panelists, important instructional
goals and legitimate targets for educational assessment. However, the experts
harbor no illusions about the ease of designing appropriate instructional programs
or assessment tools.
Procedural, Laudatory and Normative Uses of the Term "CT"
The experts are in consensus regarding the list of affective dispositions which characterize good
critical thinkers. (See Table 5.) However, whether or not these affective dispositions are part of the
meaning of "CT" in the way that the cognitive skills are, was an issue which divided the experts from the
first. It became evident that various experts mean different things when they used the term "CT" in
reference to its possible dispositional components.
The deepest division is between the nearly two-thirds majority who hold that the term "CT"
includes in its meaning a reference to certain affective dispositions and the roughly one-third minority who
hold that "CT" refers only to cognitive skills and dispositions, but not to affective dispositions. The
majority (61%) maintain that the affective dispositions constitute part of the meaning of "CT." They argue
that these dispositions flow from, and are implied by, the very concept of CT, much as the cognitive
dispositions are. These experts argue that being adept at CT skills but habitually not using them
appropriately disqualifies one from being called a critical thinker at all. Thus, in addition to using "CT" in
its procedural sense, these panelists also use "CT" in its laudatory sense. They find it sensible to say,
"This person is a critical thinker, but this other person is so mentally lazy, close-minded, unwilling to check
the facts and unmoved by reasonable arguments that we simply cannot call him a critical thinker."
The laudatory use of "CT" can suggest approval of how well a person applies her CT skills or it
can convey praise for the person because the person has the proper affective dispositions. While the
two-thirds majority was eloquent regarding the importance of finding ways to instill affective dispositions in
students, in the final analysis they were unable to persuade the other third of their expert colleagues to
view these dispositions as essential to the concept of CT. The majority was, however, persuasive in
bringing about virtual unanimity regarding using the affective dispositions to describe the paradigm critical
The minority (30%) insist on using "CT" in a strict procedural sense, that is as referring only to a
certain judgmental process. They distinguish sharply between what is true of critical thinking from what
is true of good critical thinkers. Their primary concern is with the CT skills. They argue that good critical
thinkers are people who have those skills and certain valuable habits as well. If they are good critical
thinkers, then they use their CT skills appropriately because good critical thinkers also have some or all of
the affective dispositions listed in Table 5. But those dispositions are not what is meant by "CT." They
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argue that one would not want to say a sophist is not a critical thinker simply because the sophist uses
CT skills for deceptive or self-interested ends. The sophist, they would maintain, is a critical thinker -- but
not an good one (in an ethical sense). The strict proceduralists do not find it sensible deny that a person
is a critical thinker simply because the person, while skilled in CT, fails to check the credibility of sources,
gives up too soon when asked to work a challenging problem, lacks confidence in using reason to
approach everyday problems, or ignores painful facts. These experts hold that such a person, because
of his CT skills, should be called a critical thinker -- but not a good one, (in terms of his effective use of
As suggested above, there are two senses of the term "good" which might be operating when one
uses the phrase "good critical thinker." One sense applies to the thinker's effectiveness and responds to
the question, "How well is this person using CT?" The second sense applies to the thinker's morality and
responds to the question, "Is this person's use of CT ethical?" The sense of "good" the experts intended
FINDING: It is an inappropriate use of the term to deny that someone is engaged in
CT on the grounds that one disapproves ethically of what the person is doing.
What "CT" means, why it is of value, and the ethics of its use are best regarded as
three distinct concerns.
Dispositions of the Good Critical Thinker
FINDING: To the experts, a good critical thinker, the paradigm case, is habitually
disposed to engage in, and to encourage others to engage in, critical judgment.
She is able to make such judgments in a wide range of contexts and for a wide
variety of purposes. Although perhaps not always uppermost in mind, the rational
justification for cultivating those affective dispositions which characterize the
paradigm critical thinker are soundly grounded in CT's personal and civic value.
CT is known to contribute to the fair-minded analysis and resolution of questions.
CT is a powerful tool in the search for knowledge. CT can help people overcome
the blind, sophistic, or irrational defense of intellectually defective or biased
opinions. CT promotes rational autonomy, intellectual freedom and the objective,
reasoned and evidence-based investigation of a very wide range of personal and
social issues and concerns.
The majority (61%) regard the dispositions listed in Table 5 as part of the conceptualization of CT.
The consensus (83%) is that good critical thinkers can be characterized as exhibiting these dispositions.
AFFECTIVE DISPOSITIONS OF CRITICAL THINKING
APPROACHES TO LIFE AND LIVING IN GENERAL:
* inquisitiveness with regard to a wide range of issues,
* concern to become and remain generally well-informed,
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* alertness to opportunities to use CT,
* trust in the processes of reasoned inquiry,
* self-confidence in one's own ability to reason,
* open-mindedness regarding divergent world views,
* flexibility in considering alternatives and opinions,
* understanding of the opinions of other people,
* fair-mindedness in appraising reasoning,
* honesty in facing one's own biases, prejudices,
stereotypes, egocentric or sociocentric tendencies,
* prudence in suspending, making or altering judgments,
* willingness to reconsider and revise views where honest
reflection suggests that change is warranted.
APPROACHES TO SPECIFIC ISSUES, QUESTIONS OR PROBLEMS:
* clarity in stating the question or concern,
* orderliness in working with complexity,
* diligence in seeking relevant information,
* reasonableness in selecting and applying criteria,
* care in focusing attention on the concern at hand,
* persistence though difficulties are encountered,
* precision to the degree permitted by the subject and
RECOMMENDATION 5: Just as with the cognitive dimension of CT, when
conceiving of the education or assessment of critical thinkers, it is important to
consider ways of developing materials, pedagogies, and assessment tools that are
effective and equitable in their focus on these affective dispositions. The
cultivation of these dispositions is particularly important to insure the use of CT
skills outside the narrow instructional setting. Persons who have developed these
affective dispositions are much more likely to apply their CT skills appropriately in
both their personal life and their civic life than are those who have mastered the
skills but are not disposed to use them.
In setting forth the concept of the paradigm critical thinker, the Delphi experts intend to express a
goal toward which all might strive. These virtues require a measure of maturity and personal
development not commonly found in college sophomores or twelfth graders. Yet to delay embarking on
the practices and disciplines which will lead to these virtues would be an even more profound mistake.
RECOMMENDATION 6: From early childhood people should be taught, for
example, to reason, to seek relevant facts, to consider options, and to understand
the views of others. It is neither impractical nor unreasonable to demand that the
educational system teach young people the habits of mind which characterize the
good critical thinker, reinforce those practices, and move students well down the
path toward their attainment.
Several pedagogical and assessment implications follow from the dispositional dimension of CT,
implications which might not be apparent if educators focused only on the skill dimension of CT. The
education of good critical thinkers is more than training students to execute a set of cognitive skills. For
example, in terms of pedagogy, modeling how to evaluate critically that information which students would
normally accept uncritically and encouraging them to do the same can do wonders for developing their
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confidence in their CT ability. With this confidence students are much more likely to try thinking for
themselves. Just as instruction should not focus on skills only, assessment which focus on skills only
may give a misleading or incomplete picture of someone's strengths as a critical thinker.
The CT Goal
RECOMMENDATION 7: Because CT helps students with a wide range of
educational, personal and civic concerns in a rational way, the academic goal of
CT instruction, regardless of the educational level, should be furthering students
in the development of their CT cognitive skills and affective dispositions.
Either to transform CT into one subject field among others, or to narrow the range of CT
applications strictly to domain-specific subject content, would be to truncate its utility, misapprehend its
nature and diminish its value. Within the overall curriculum the goal of learning CT can be clearly
distinguished from the goal of learning domain-specific content. While these two goals can be
distinguished, the experts do not deny one of the best ways to learn CT is within a subject context.
RECOMMENDATION 8: Direct instruction in CT and assessment of CT should be
an explicit parts of any course granted approval for purposes of satisfying CT
requirements, whether that course is a CT course per se or a course in a given
subject field. The primary academic criterion in the evaluation of a proposed
instructional program for purposes of achieving the CT goal should be whether the
program will further the development of students' CT skills and dispositions.
CONSENSUS STATEMENT ON TEACHING AND ASSESSING CT SKILLS
A CT skill, like any skill, is the ability to engage in an activity, process or
procedure. In general, having a skill includes being able to do the right thing at the
right time. So, being skilled at CT involves knowing, perhaps implicitly or without
the ability to articulate this knowledge, both a set of procedures and when to apply
those procedures. Being skilled also involves having some degree of proficiency
in executing those procedures and being willing to do so when appropriate.
Reflecting on and improving one's CT skills involves judging when one is or is not
performing well, or as well as possible, and considering ways of improving one's
performance. Learning CT involves acquiring the ability to make such self-
Skills, particularly CT cognitive skills, can be taught in a variety of ways, such as
by making the procedures explicit, describing how they are to be applied and
executed, explaining and modeling their correct use, and justifying their
application. Teaching cognitive skills also involves exposing learners to situations
where there are good reasons to exercise the desired procedures, judging their
performance, and providing the learners with constructive feedback regarding
both their proficiency and ways to improve it. Instruction might start with
situations that are artificially simple, but should culminate in situations that are
realistically complex. Particularly in the case of CT, the learners must contribute a
solid measure of personal effort, attention, practice, desire, and, as they learn how,
self-monitoring. Teaching skills involves motivating learners to achieve higher
levels of proficiency and, particularly in the case of CT, independence. It also
involves coaching learners on how they can achieve those goals.
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In theory there are several ways persons can be judged to be more or less
proficient in a given CT skill or at the integrated use of related CT skills. One way
is to observe a person over time performing those activities, processes or
procedures generally regarded as presupposing that skill for proper execution.
One then makes a judgment regarding the degree to which the person possesses
the general skill in question. A second way is to compare the outcomes (if any)
that result from executing a given skill against some set of criteria. A third way is
to query persons and receive their descriptions of the procedures and judgments
they are using as they exercise that skill, would use if they were to perform that
skill, or did use when they performed that skill. A fourth way is to compare the
outcomes (if any) that result from performing another task against some set of
criteria, where the performance of that other task has been shown to correlate
strongly with exercising the skill of interest. However, that such correlations exist
between any other task and CT, or any of its sub- skills, has yet to be established
in the research literature.
Each of the four ways of CT assessment has limitations as well as strengths. No
matter which ways are used, it is important to ensure that the assessment
conditions foster an attitude in which the subjects are disposed to use their skills
as well as they can, and are not constrained or inhibited from doing so. In our view
it is highly advantageous to gather evidence regarding CT performance in many
situations, using several assessment methods, so as to compile a composite
picture of the subject and to cross check the results of any one way of
The CT Curriculum
Given that CT has, in many cases, become a college general education requirement, secondary
schools can be expected to begin to develop college preparatory CT programs. However, the value of
CT extends well beyond its importance as a university-level inquiry tool. CT is vitally important in the
personal and civic life of all members of society. A significant percentage of the citizenry will not graduate
from high school, or if they graduate, will not have the benefit of post-secondary education.
RECOMMENDATION 9: Thus, CT instruction should not be reserved only for those
who plan to attend college. Nor should it be deferred until college, since it is not
likely to be effective if it were.
RECOMMENDATION 10: Explicit attention to the fostering of CT skills and
dispositions should be made an instructional goal at all levels of the K-12
curriculum. The cultivation of CT dispositions and an insistence on giving and
evaluating reasons, should be an integral part of elementary school education. In
middle schools and high schools, instruction on various aspects and applications
of CT should be integrated into all subject area instruction. Specific courses in CT
and an advanced placement examination program in CT for college bound
students should be developed. Although for good reasons at the post- secondary
level CT programs are generally associated with departments of philosophy, no
academic unit should be restricted in principle from participating in an institution's
CT program, provided that the overall institutional program in CT equips students
to apply CT to a broad range of educational, personal and civic subjects, issues
There is growing evidence of the successes, both scientific and economic, of those industrialized
democracies which emphasize demanding academic assessment and set firm educational standards for
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career and professional advancement. Assessment that counts is unquestionably a key factor in
promoting academic achievement
. RECOMMENDATION 11: Thus, minimum CT proficiency expectations should be set
for each educational level, including promotion in grade, high school graduation,
college entrance, and graduate school admission.
The CT Assessment
The development of valid and reliable assessment strategies from which teachers can draw
reasonable inferences about students' CT, in contrast to their domain-specific knowledge or other
academic abilities (such as reading or writing), is essential. CT assessment strategies, whether for use in
the individual classroom or for broader purposes, must not simply reward arriving at correct answers.
They must, however, recognize achieving correct answers by way of good CT. The challenge of CT
assessment is not to let what is easily measured restrict our sense of the fullness of CT. It would be
shameful if those assessment instruments which focus only on CT skills drove our CT curricular design
and caused the dispositional components of good CT to be neglected.
RECOMMENDATION 12: In evaluating the acceptability of a CT assessment
strategy or instrument one should consider content validity, construct validity,
reliability, and fairness.
(1) Content Validity: The strategy or instrument should be based on an appropriate
conceptualization of CT and a clear understanding of which aspects of CT the assessment targets. Each
task or question should be evaluated to insure that correctly responding to that item is not a matter of rote
learning or information recall. Whether for the classroom or for broader educational purposes, CT
assessment should include strategies for targeting CT's dispositional dimension as well as its cognitive
(2) Construct Validity: In acceptable CT assessment each task or question should have been
evaluated to insure that students who answer correctly do so on the basis of good CT and that
inadequate or wrong responses are the result of weak or inadequate CT. Entire strategies or specific
items on which good CT leads to wrong answers, or poor CT to right answers, should not be used.
(3) Reliability: In acceptable CT assessment each task or question should have been evaluated
to insure that good critical thinkers generally do better on that item than weak critical thinkers. If different
persons are involved in evaluating the results, for example grading essays or judging presentations, the
evaluations of the different judges should be cross-checked to assure that their findings are reliable, that
is, generally consistent with one another. However, it is an open question whether the levels of
achievement associated with the different CT sub-skills and affective dispositions are positively
correlated. Empirical research on how the sub-skills correlate with each other and with various
dispositions has yet to be undertaken. Thus, at this time, due caution should be exercised regarding how
to interpret technical measures of test-form reliability in the case of paper and pencil CT assessment
(4) Fairness: CT assessment should not unfairly disadvantage or advantage groups of students
on the grounds of reading ability, domain-specific knowledge [broadly understood as including the
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evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, contextual considerations, or familiarity with
technical vocabulary], gender or age related life experience, ethnicity or socioeconomic status,
differences in social norms, or differences in cultural assumptions. CT assessment locates CT tasks and
questions in some assumed context, either subject-specific, everyday life, or fictional. Thus,
guaranteeing that all students, regardless of their individual backgrounds, will come to the CT
assessment on a perfectly equal basis in terms background knowledge, reading ability, life experiences,
etc. is impossible. However, examining the assessment strategy or instrument to be sure that these
factors do not unfairly influence the results is prudent and reasonable. Although one cannot eliminate the
influence of these variables, one may be able to neutralize or control for their affects.
The fairness criterion applies both to discipline-neutral and discipline-specific CT assessment.
Within curricular programs discipline-specific CT assessment is encouraged, since it is possible for one to
be fair in one's presumptions regarding subject-specific criteria, methodologies, concepts, evidence,
information and terminology. The challenge of such assessment is to factor out the discipline content in
order to access the strength or weakness of the CT. It is worth noting that discipline-neutral CT
assessment makes similar assumptions regarding the everyday contexts which form its topic content.
RECOMMENDATION 13: CT assessment should occur frequently, and it should be
used diagnostically as well as summatively. Different kinds of instruments should
be employed, depending on which aspect of CT is being targeted and where
students are in their learning -- the introductory stage, the practice stage, the
integration stage or the generalized transfer stage. Although the veteran CT
instructor is able to assess students continuously, CT assessment should be
made explicit to reinforce its worth in the eyes of the students, their families, and
the public. It should be made explicit to support the goals of educators seeking to
improve the curriculum. And it should be made explicit to properly inform
educational policy formation.
The CT Instructor
RECOMMENDATION 14: Teaching CT is most effective if the instructor models CT
dispositions and the proper use of CT skills in the very process of instruction.
Regardless of the subject area, students should be encouraged to be curious, to
raise objections, ask questions, point out difficulties in the instructor's position.
These objections and questions should be clarified, interpreted, and examined
objectively. Students should be given reasons for doing things a certain way,
rather than being dogmatically told how to do them. Instruction should bridge the
gap between the subject and the student's own experience. In the case of CT
instruction, the topics of discussion should not be restricted to factual matters or
academic subjects, but should include issues which have normative, moral, ethical
or public policy dimensions.
The ideal CT instructor will integrate instruction in CT in a variety of subject areas. She will teach specific
CT skills directly using these subjects as content for the application of those skills. She will help students
elaborate, transfer and generalize these skills to a variety of contexts. She will create a classroom and
school environment which is supportive of CT. She will model CT in her teaching and her interactions
with colleagues. She will provide her students with thought-provoking subjects to learn about, and
projects to undertake. She will engage students in social activities requiring them to reflect on, articulate,
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share and discuss justifications, explanations and contrasts in how they executed various CT tasks. She
will evaluate each student's progress, achievement or proficiency in CT continuously.
RECOMMENDATION 15: For CT to infuse the K-12 and college curriculum, teacher
"training" should give way to teacher "education." If teachers are to model CT, so
must those who have an instructional role in teacher preparation or staff
development. In all instruction, and particularly in CT instruction, both faculty and
leaders of faculty development should model CT. They should foster the students'
confidence in their own powers of reason, rather than dependency on rote
learning. They should nurture in students open-mindedness, attention to
alternatives, and as much precision of thought as the subject and circumstances
PARTICIPATING CRITICAL THINKING EXPERTS
Jonathan Adler Philosophy Brooklyn College
David Annis Philosophy Ball State University
Arnold Arons Physics University of Washington
James Bell Psychology Howard Community College,
Barry K. Beyer Education George Mason University
Charles Blatz Philosophy University of Toledo
Rob Brady Philosophy Stetson University
Neil Browne Economics Bowling Green State
Rex Clemmenson CT Assessment American College Testing
Arthur L. Costa Education Sacramento State University
Stan Dundon Philosophy Cal. Polytechnic University,
Robert H. Ennis Education University of Illinois
James B. Freeman Philosophy Hunter College, CUNY
Jack Furlong Freshman Studies Transylvania University
Eugene Garver Critical Thinking Saint John's University
H. Scott Hestevold Philosophy University of Alabama
David Hitchcock Philosophy McMaster University
John Hoaglund Philosophy Christopher Newport College
Kenneth Howe Education University of Colorado
Ralph H. Johnson Philosophy University of Windsor
Stuart Keeley Psychology Bowling Green State
Anthony Lawson Zoology Arizona State University
Matthew Lipman Philosophy Montclair State College
David S. Martin Education Gallaudet University
John Martin Philosophy University of Cincinnati
Gary Matthews Philosophy U. Massachusetts, Amherst
Stuart Miller Psychology Towsen State University
Brooke Noel Moore Philosophy CSU Chico
Wayne Neukberger Assmt. and Eval Oregon Dept.t of Education
Stephen Norris Education Memorial U. of Newfoundland
Richard Parker Philosophy CSU, Chico
Richard D. Parry Philosophy Agnes Scott College
Richard Paul Philosophy Sonoma State University
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Philip Pecorino Social Sciences Queensborough Comm.
William Rapaport Computer Science SUNY Buffalo
Pasqual Schievella Council of Critical Analysis, Port Jefferson, NY
Zack Seech Behavioral Science Palomar College
Anita Silvers Philosophy San Francisco State University
Richard Stiggins Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland
Robert J. Swartz Philosophy U. Massachusetts, Boston
Steven Tigner Philosophy University of Toledo
Carol Tucker CT Assessment ETS, Princeton, NJ
Perry Weddle Philosophy Sacramento State University
Robert Wengert Philosophy University of Illinois
Mark Weinstein Institute for CT Montclair State College
Peter Winogard Education University of Kentucky
END of the Executive Summary
The complete Delphi report, including appendices, comes to 80 pages. It is entitled Critical
Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and
Instruction, is published by the California Academic Press, dba Insight Assessment.
It is available in ERIC as Doc. No. ED 315 423, principal investigator, Peter A. Facione.