by Thomas F. Nelson Laird, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research
Highlights of the CCTDI:
- Straightforward 75-question survey; relatively inexpensive to administer; takes about 20 minutes to complete; questionnaire can be completed by paper and pencil or online.
- Survey addresses the "dispositional" dimension of critical thinking—as opposed to the "skills" dimension, which is evaluated in the Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST). Survey assesses how students feel they approach these seven qualities: truth-seeking, open-mindedness, analytical tendencies, systematic tendencies, critical thinking self-confidence, inquisitiveness, and cognitive maturity.
Uses of the CCTDI:
- As a one-time test to gain understanding of how students view themselves as critical thinkers. Students’ strengths toward critical thinking are noted and areas for improvement identified.
- As a pre- and post-test of a particular curricular or co-curricular experience in order to study how a student’s attitude toward critical thinking develops in relation to that experience.
- Can be combined with demographic surveys to examine the relationship between student attitudes toward critical thinking and student characteristics (such as socioeconomic status or major).
Jill Cellars Rogers
Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts
at Wabash College
The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results that are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit.
– American Philosophical Association, The Delphi Report 
Experts from several fields agree that a critical thinker must possess both a set of thinking skills and the habits of mind necessary to use those skills. The California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI) is a survey instrument designed to measure whether a person habitually exhibits the mindset of an ideal critical thinker. (A companion survey, the California Critical Thinking Skills Test, measures actual critical thinking skills.) The CCTDI, a 75-item questionnaire designed by Peter and Noreen Facione, is available through Insight Assessment (formerly the California Academic Press). The survey is designed for use with students in postsecondary settings (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) and with adults outside of educational environments. The CCTDI is used for student assessment as well as program evaluation, professional development, and training.
The following review provides a summary of several aspects of the CCTDI, including how it is used, how much it costs, what it measures, how it can be used for the purposes of student assessment, and why someone would use it when assessing liberal arts education.
Administration and Cost
The CCTDI must be ordered from Insight Assessment. It is a tool that can be used with groups of any size (a class, a department, or an entire campus). It is available in paper form or as a web-based survey. Either version takes 20 minutes or less to complete. A "specimen kit" containing a manual, a copy of the instrument, and a copy of the fill-in answer form is available for purchase ($60). For those seriously considering using the CCTDI, it is advisable to obtain the specimen kit prior to ordering the surveys and answer sheets. The manual describes the survey’s history and properties as well as procedures for its administration.
The paper version of test/tool booklets (six-page documents that contain directions and the 75 statements about which students will rate their level of agreement/disagreement) and answer forms (scannable forms on which students fill in bubbles corresponding to their responses) must be ordered. At this writing, answer forms can be ordered in bundles of 25 ($150), 50 ($275), or 100 ($485). Because the booklets are separate from the answer forms, they can be used more than once. For this reason, answer forms can also be ordered on their own in packets of 25 ($110), 50 ($190), and 100 ($335).
Booklets and answer forms are shipped to the purchaser, who determines to whom and how the CCTDI will be administered (e.g., in class, by mail, at orientation). A student filling out the paper form will receive a test/tool booklet and an answer form. Answer forms are then collected from the students and shipped back to Insight Assessment, where they are scanned and scored using a system called CapScore. Insight Assessment then sends the investigator a data file and a report summarizing the survey results.
To use the online version, an order needs to be placed with Insight Assessment. The cost is $6 per student. The software application is made available to the administrator by Insight Assessment and needs to be set up on a computer or group of computers. (For specifics on the application or for a demo version contact Insight Assessment.) The software application administers the CCTDI and compiles students’ responses. The data and reporting of the results are available instantly. The system can also be set up to give each student a critical thinking "dispositions profile" immediately upon completion of the instrument. A computer lab is an ideal setting for administering the online version.
About the CCTDI
In 1990, with sponsorship from the American Philosophical Association, a group of scholars from several disciplines developed a definition of critical thinking that had a skills dimension and a dispositional (i.e., affective and attitudinal) dimension. Building on the scholars' definition regarding the habits of mind of an ideal critical thinker, Peter and Noreen Facione developed and tested the CCTDI as a measure of the dispositional side of critical thinking. In its final form, the CCTDI has 75 items. Each respondent can choose from six responses, ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." Since 1990, the CCTDI have been developed in several languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese. The instrument uses seven sub-scales to capture different aspects of the disposition to think critically: truth-seeking, open-mindedness, critical thinking self-confidence, inquisitiveness, cognitive maturity, and the inclination to analyze and systematize. (For a brief definition of each, visit Insight Assessment.) Examples of survey items are listed below, under the corresponding sub-scale.
Example Items for Each CCTDI Sub-scale
- It’s never easy to decide between competing points of view.
- Being impartial is impossible when I’m discussing my own opinions.
- It concerns me that I might have biases of which I’m not aware.
- It’s important to me to understand what other people think about things.
- It bothers me when people rely on weak arguments to defend good ideas.
- Others look to me to decide when the problem is solved.
- People say I rush into decisions too quickly.
- If I have to work on a problem, I can put other things out of my mind.
- Critical thinking Self-confidence
- I’m proud that I can think with great precision.
- My peers call on me to make judgments because I decide things fairly.
- Studying new things all my life would be wonderful.
- Learn everything you can, you never know when it could come in handy.
- Cognitive Maturity
- Reading is something I avoid, if possible.
- Powerful people determine the right answer.
The CCTDI total score is the sum of the scores for each of the seven sub-scales. The total score indicates whether a person is generally disposed to think critically—whether the individual habitually exhibits the characteristics of an ideal critical thinker. The total score ranges from 70 to 420. Students who score less than 210 are defined as negatively disposed toward critical thinking, students with scores between 210 and 280 are defined as ambivalently disposed, and students with scores above 280 are defined as positively disposed. [4,6] The score range for each of the seven sub-scales is from 10–40, and students can be considered negatively (scores less than 30), ambivalently (scores between 30 and 40), or positively (scores greater than 40) disposed to each of the characteristics.
The CCTDI has been tested by its developers and by several independent researchers. [2, 4, 6, 7, 9] Among those who have examined the instrument, there is general agreement that the survey validly and reliably measures the disposition toward critical thinking and is therefore appropriate for inclusion in research and assessment. In contrast to some of the findings of the survey developers, several researchers have identified concerns about the appropriate number of sub-scales and some of the statistical properties of particular sub-scales. [2, 7, 9] Further work is needed to review these concerns, though the issues raised do not appear to be serious, and using the seven sub-scales defined by the instrument’s authors still appears to be appropriate.
How the CCTDI Can Be Used in Assessment
The CCTDI can be used at a single point in time to gain an understanding of how students view themselves as critical thinkers. This information can be useful in determining whether individual students or groups of students have the dispositions deemed necessary for a class, at the end of a program, or for entry into a particular professional setting. For example, in the field of nursing, which has recommended CCTDI scores , it may be useful to know a student's disposition toward critical thinking upon entry into a program or prior to his or her entry into a clinical setting. Scores can be used to identify strengths and areas for improvement. (A person's predisposition and motivation to think critically is interrelated with actual critical thinking ability; both work together to create a critical thinker. Therefore, institutions interested in assessing critical thinking characteristics of their students might choose to consider using both the CCTDI for attitude and the CCTST for ability.)
In addition, the instrument can be used to test how an experience or set of experiences influence students’ dispositions toward critical thinking. Positive changes in individual predisposition to critical thinking linked to curricular programs have been demonstrated. Students can be tested in their first year of college and again at the end of their senior year to determine how the entire collegiate experience affected their dispositions to think critically.  One can also test the effects of specific collegiate programs, courses, or experiences. For this purpose, it is important to measure carefully different student characteristics and differences in what students have done at college in addition to the experiences under study. In one of my own studies , I looked at the effects of students’ experiences with diversity on several outcomes, including the disposition toward critical thinking, as measured by the CCTDI.
The CCTDI is useful because it is a relatively short survey that captures a meaningful concept (the disposition to think critically) with clear connections to valued educational outcomes. It is adaptable to different settings and can be administered to any size group. For these reasons, it can play a valuable role in the assessment of a liberal arts education. However, because it measures a single outcome, the CCTDI is most helpful when combined with information gathered from other instruments and methods. It is a valuable tool to keep in one’s assessment "toolkit."
- American Philosophical Association. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. The Delphi Report Executive Summary: Research findings and recommendations prepared for the committee on pre-college philosophy. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED315423)
- Bondy, K. N., Koenigseder, L. A., Ishee, J. H., & Williams, B. G. (2001). Psychometric properties of the California critical thinking tests. Journal of Nursing Measurement, 9, 309–328.
- Facione, N. C. & Facione, P. A. (1997). Critical thinking assessment in nursing education programs: An aggregate data analysis. Millbrae, CA: The California Academic Press.
- Facione, P. A., Facione, N. C., & Giancarlo, C. A. (1998). The California critical thinking disposition inventory test manual (Revised). Millbrae, CA: The California Academic Press.
- Facione, P. A., Sánchez, C. A., Facione, N. C., & Gainen, J. (1995). The disposition toward critical thinking. The Journal of General Education, 44, 1–25.
- Giancarlo, C. A. & Facione, P. A. (2001). A look across four years at the disposition toward critical thinking among undergraduate students. The Journal of General Education, 50, 29–55.
- Kakai, H. (2003). Re-examining the factor structure of the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 96, 435–438.
- Nelson Laird, T. F. (2005). College students’ experiences with diversity and their effects on academic self-confidence, social agency, and disposition toward critical thinking. Research in Higher Education, 46, 365–387.
- Walsh, C. M. & Hardy, R. C. (1997). Factor structure stability of the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory across sex and various students’ majors. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 85, 1211–1228.