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Critical Thinking Competency 2005-2006



Critical thinking is the process of analyzing, evaluating, and constructing arguments based on their merits. Critical thinking has its basis in intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions.


One of the University of Virginia’s most important goals is "fostering in students the habits of mind and character required to develop a generous receptivity to new ideas, from whatever source [and] a disposition for applying the most rigorous criticism to all ideas and institutions, whether old or new." Critical thinking is central to the University’s mission, and our graduates should demonstrate excellent critical thinking skills in their communications.

Student Learning Outcomes

Undergraduate students graduating from the University of Virginia should be able to:

  1. Carefully interpret, analyze, and evaluate evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc.
  2. Construct well-supported, clearly articulated, and sustained arguments.
  3. Justify conclusions based on well-supported arguments.


The following standards have been established:

  • 40% of undergraduates are expected to be highly competent (score of 4)
  • 85% competent (score of 3 and above)
  • 95% minimally competent (score of 2 and above).


The University will use one standard/rubric for all the undergraduate schools, but each assessment will be conducted at the school level. Sufficient sample sizes will be utilized to ensure that the results can be reported by school, and the individual assessments will be conducted by school faculty. Because each undergraduate school is responsible for designing its own curriculum, this method will allow schools to make the best use of the assessment results. School results will be aggregated to form an overall result for the University.

For each school, and for each major within a school, school deans and department chairs will identify upper-level courses in the major, such as seminars and capstone courses, which require papers and expect critical thinking to be demonstrated for those assignments. Within each school’s list of courses, a sample of courses will be selected, from which electronic versions of papers will be collected for the assessment. The courses in the assessment sample would be chosen, and if necessary weighted by discipline, to ensure that a majority of graduating fourth-years are represented within each school.

Using a skills-based, descriptive scoring rubric, faculty evaluators from each school will score papers. The individual skills will be assigned a score from 4 (highly competent) to 1 (not competent); an overall score for each student will be calculated by summing and averaging the scores for each individual skill. Each paper will be scored twice and a third time if the first two overall scores differ by more than one point; final scores will be the average of the overall individual scores. Results will be reported and evaluated for the six undergraduate schools as well as aggregated for the University as a whole.