Development and validation of an instrument to measure undergraduate chemistry students’ critical thinking skills†
The importance of developing and assessing student critical thinking at university can be seen through its inclusion as a graduate attribute for universities and from research highlighting the value employers, educators and students place on demonstrating critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills are seldom explicitly assessed at universities. Commercial critical thinking assessments, which are often generic in context, are available. However, literature suggests that assessments that use a context relevant to the students more accurately reflect their critical thinking skills. This paper describes the development and evaluation of a chemistry critical thinking test (the Danczak–Overton–Thompson Chemistry Critical Thinking Test or DOT test), set in a chemistry context, and designed to be administered to undergraduate chemistry students at any level of study. Development and evaluation occurred over three versions of the DOT test through a variety of quantitative and qualitative reliability and validity testing phases. The studies suggest that the final version of the DOT test has good internal reliability, strong test–retest reliability, moderate convergent validity relative to a commercially available test and is independent of previous academic achievement and university of study. Criterion validity testing revealed that third year students performed statistically significantly better on the DOT test relative to first year students, and postgraduates and academics performed statistically significantly better than third year students. The statistical and qualitative analysis indicates that the DOT test is a suitable instrument for the chemistry education community to use to measure the development of undergraduate chemistry students’ critical thinking skills.