Kelly-Riley, Diane. “Washington State University Critical Thinking Project: Improving Student Learning Outcomes through Faculty Practice.” Assessment Update 15.4 (2003): 5+.
Kelly-Riley reports on a program at her university that aims to improve the critical thinking of their students. The program centers around the development of a critical thinking rubric that can be adapted into individual classes. She notes that spelling out expectations has seemed to improve student performances, writing, “Many faculty indicate that they feel as if they are cheating if they give students an articulated set of course expectations. For students from diverse cultures, from outside mainstream academic culture, and especially for at-risk students, this indirectness presents a significant obstacle. Having a clear set of expectations provides these students with a map to navigate the course and a common language for dialogue with the instructor” (7). Rubrics and otherwise making explicit expectations for assignments often improve student writing. As instructors, we are so immersed in academic culture that we can forget it is a culture like any other, and newcomers such as students must have assistance in learning our customs. You can’t assume they’ve been prepared by high school or previous college classes, and know every skill needed for an assignment. Giving students a guide to what constitutes a successful performance on a paper or other assignment may help them complete it in a manner that you find satisfactory. If you’d like to read the article, it is available through the library’s “Journal Finder” tool.