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Critical and Creative Thinking Assessment through TH!NK

Students work and study in the James B. Hunt Jr. library.

Why critical and creative thinking?

Critical and creative thinking skills are important for every NC State student to develop. As such, they are part of NC State’s General Education Competency Assessment and the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), otherwise known as TH!NK. Since 2014 the Office of Assessment has partnered with Sue Carson, Director of TH!NK and professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, to assess the QEP. 

How are faculty involved in TH!NK?

As part of the assessment, faculty teaching TH!NK courses score an assignment or project from their course using a common critical and creative thinking rubric. This 9-dimension rubric assesses students’ ability to select and identify information, generate alternative ideas, judge the appropriateness of ideas, and communicate, among other critical and creative thinking skills. 

In preparation of this assessment, each fall and spring semester TH!NK faculty participate in a rubric norming session to practice applying the rubric to student work. Staff from the Office of Assessment lead calibration exercises that help to increase consensus among scores. Samantha Rich, Assistant Director of the Office of Assessment, described the rubric norming sessions stating, “Norming sessions help faculty come to a unified understanding of rubric terms and how the rubric should be applied to student work. When we spend time norming, we can have greater confidence knowing that faculty are applying the rubric in the same way, which makes our data more reliable.” Most recently, TH!NK Faculty participated in rubric norming sessions for the fall semester.

How are the critical and creative thinking data used?

After completing norming, faculty will use the rubric to score their own students’ work. The Office of Assessment aggregates rubric scores across the TH!NK program. These dimension-level data provide faculty an idea of the strengths of NC State students’ critical and creative thinking skills. Data may also show opportunities for reinforcing or developing critical and creative thinking skills in courses or programs. 

Students enrolled in TH!NK courses also complete a “reflection on intellectual standards” as part of the assessment of the QEP. The 5-10 minute activity asks students to reflect on their thinking behaviors and on the course content. The Office of Assessment emails the reflection activity to all students enrolled in TH!NK courses. This assessment is open November 11-November 22, 2019. Once the reflection closes, anonymous data are shared back with the course instructor. These data allow faculty to better understand how students perceive assignments and coursework influencing their critical and thinking skills; faculty may alter their assignments or teaching strategies based on these data.

How can I learn more?

Critical and creative thinking are two of NC State’s General Education Competencies. Assessment of the competencies is facilitated through the Office of Assessment. For additional information about assessment of the competencies at NC State, please contact Samantha Rich (