Manipulating Critical Thinking Skills in Test Taking

By Fahim, Mansoor; Pezeshki, Maryam | International Journal of Education, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Manipulating Critical Thinking Skills in Test Taking


Fahim, Mansoor, Pezeshki, Maryam, International Journal of Education


Abstract

Critical thinking ability is a difficult concept to define. It involves reasoning and active consideration of what is received rather than a forthright acceptance of the ideas. It has been argued that when the focus of testing is the examination itself, the critical thinking ability of the learners cannot be boosted. However, different types and formats of tests can engage the learners in an active critical thinking when they are appropriately prepared. In this paper some of these tests used in the literature and the way they engage the learners in critical thinking activities are explained. The paper concludes that different tests of language can be manipulated so that they can engage the learners in critical thinking activities. Implications for teachers and test developers are also provided.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, The RACE Model, Test Taking

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

(Martin Luther King, Jr. as cited in Facione, 2011)

1. Introduction

Critical thinking is a difficult concept to define and, more importantly, to use. Different scholars have given different kinds of definitions for critical thinking (for example, Dantas-Whitney, 2002; Facione, 2011; Lau, 2009) and have enumerated the processes used to think logically and critically (Nugent and Vitale, 2008). It involves reasoning and a deep consideration of what we receive rather than a forthright acceptance of different ideas.

Furthermore, critical thinking can be used in different fields of study. Language testing, in particular, can benefit from critical thinking activities by involving the learners in a process of Recognizing the questions given to them while they Ask themselves about the information given in the test and then Critically analyze different responses and Eliminate those that are inappropriate. Although the RACE model has been used in nursing examinations by Nugent and Vitale (2008) to help involve the learners in a critical examination of the tests they took, no one has yet manipulated such a model for language specific tests. This paper is an attempt to explicate the model and its potential use for tests of language.

2. Critical Thinking

Everyone might know what critical thinking means but when asked to define it, they may not be sure how to give a precise definition. Critical thinking can be simply put in contrast to illogical or irrational ways of thinking (Facione, 2011). However, it cannot be equated with argumentative types of thinking or making criticisms (Lau, 2009). Critical thinking further involves reflective types of thinking; that is, thinking about the activities we do (Dantas-Whitney, 2002). The first definition may be that given by Dewey (1909, as cited in Fisher, 2001), father of the new tradition in critical thinking, who first called this notion "reflective thinking" and defined it precisely as an "active, persistent, careful consideration of a belief or supposed form of knowledge in the lights of grounds which support it and the further conclusions to which it tends" (p. 9). So instead of the simple act of receiving information and then readily accepting it, critical thinking involves an "active" process of thinking and analyzing what we receive (Fisher, 2001). In spite of this harbinger definition in the field, the most widely used definition is that given by Ennis who defined critical thinking as "reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do" (Norris and Ennis, 1989 in Fisher 2001). Critical thinking involves "purposeful, goal-directed" thinking in a process of making decisions based on evidence rather than guessing in a scientific problem-solving process (Nugent and Vitale, 2008). It involves logical reasoning, an ability to separate facts from opinions, examining things before accepting them, and asking oneself questions all the time (Wood, 2002). Furthermore, the process of formal reasoning in itself includes some processes. …

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