Develop Rubric to Assess Skills in a College-Wide Application

This specific project examined two skills in particular: Critical thinking and written communication. Certain elements of education are always overtly taught. You can’t speak generally about a country’s history and expect students to infer specific dates. However, other key skills (such as critical thinking) are often considered to be a byproduct of a postsecondary education whether they are mentioned specifically or not. The common thinking has been that throughout the course of a university or college program, students would learn to communicate, manage information, work as a team and think critically. 

Researchers at Humber College have uncovered a different perspective: Students appear to show more improvement in transferable skills when the teaching of them is made more explicit.

This project was carried out over the course of four academic semesters and involved 650 students from three different schools at Humber College. Critical thinking and written communication were examined in three different classroom environments: courses where skills were taught explicitly as part of the course content; vocational courses that embed them implicitly; and a course dedicated explicitly to critical thinking.

In addition to discovering that students fared best when critical thinking and written communication are taught explicitly, the authors of this study also suggest that a consistent approach is important and that teaching these skills over an extended period can be crucial. They also suggest that positioning these types of courses strategically throughout a program of study could be helpful, and that increased faculty training and repeated use of the assessment instrument (in this case a scorecard) they developed will help make the instrument both more valid and more relevant to students.​

Materials and Outcomes

Throughout the course of this project, updates and final reports will be posted here.​​​​​

Assessing Learning Outcomes: Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking and Written Communication Skills

Humber College examines the effectiveness of a new skills-assessment tool Students’ critical thinking and written communications skills show the most improvement when they are explicitly taught, according to a new study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) that examines the effectiveness of a new skills-assessment tool developed at Humber College. While the […]