Developing a rubric to assess critical thinking in a multidisciplinary context in higher education

Sadia Muzaffar Bhutta, Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Karachi
Sahreen Chauhan, Aga Khan University
Syeda K. Ali, Aga Khan University
Raisa Gul, Aga Khan University
Shanaz Hussein Cassum SC, Aga Khan University
Tashmin Khamis, Aga Khan University


Critical thinking (CT) is a generic attribute that is greatly valued across academic disciplines in higher education, and around the globe. It is also defined as one of the graduate attributes of higher education for the sample private university where this research was conducted, as it is perceived that CT helps the graduate to become ‘engaged citizens’ in the twenty-first century. Despite the well-documented importance of CT, its assessment remains a challenge. This study addresses this challenge through the systematic development and field-testing of a rubric for assessing critical thinking in a multidisciplinary context in higher education. A multidisciplinary group of faculty (i.e. education, nursing, medicine) from the sample university partnered with a policy research group in Canada to translate this plan into action. The development of the assessment tool followed a multi-step process including: (i) identification of the main elements of CT; (ii) choice of a rubric format; (iii) adaptation of the currently available relevant rubrics; and, (iv) field testing and establishment of the reliability of the rubric. The process resulted in the development of a holistic template, the Assessment of Critical Thinking (ACT) rubric. Two versions of the rubric have been field tested on a sample (n=59) of students drawn from different entities of the sample university. The data collected was subjected to psychometric analysis which yielded satisfactory results. This was a modest attempt to develop an assessment tool to guide multidisciplinary faculty members in teaching and assessing CT by assisting them to make decisions about the level of their students’ CT skills through a combination of numerical scores and qualitative description. It may also empower them to make self-initiated, conscious efforts to improve their classroom practice with reference to CT. The ACT rubric provides an anchoring point to start working on the daunting yet doable task of developing and fine-tuning both the assessment measures of CT and interventions to promote CT based on the assessment findings. Future research may not only provide robust evidence of the reliability and validity of the ACT rubric for a larger and varied sample but also help in making informed decisions to enhance teaching and learning of CT across entities of the sample university.