UMSL succeeds at teaching critical-thinking skills to its students

Millennium Student Center

UMSL had the 18th best value-added score in The Wall Street Journal’s recent analysis of public colleges and universities’ success instilling critical-thinking skills in their students. (Photo by August Jennewein)

A recent analysis by The Wall Street Journal pointed to struggles many American colleges and universities have honing critical-thinking skills in their students.

But the University of Missouri–St. Louis was one of the institutions seen to be bucking that troubling trend.

The Journal collected results of the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus test of critical-thinking skills from a sampling of the roughly 200 public colleges and universities that administered the test to freshmen and seniors between 2013 and 2016.

Douglas Belkin, The Journal’s higher education reporter, wrote: “The CLA+ measures critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing because it demands students manipulate information and data in real-world circumstances that require different abilities. It has been lauded by a federal commission that studied higher education in the U.S.”

After reviewing data supplied by the institutions – data that otherwise is not made available to the public – The Journal assigned each one a value-added score. That score factored the change between the average test scores of the school’s freshmen and seniors with consideration to how the school’s improvement compared to similar colleges and universities, as calculated by the Council for Aid to Education.

UMSL received a value-added score of 0.34, which ranked 18th overall in the analysis.

“The University of Missouri–St. Louis has focused consistently on student success in the classroom and the community, including preparing students with the important skills they will need in the workforce and as engaged citizens,” UMSL Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Kristin Sobolik told The Journal. “We are therefore not surprised that UMSL’s CLA+ scores rank us in the top third of institutions completing the exam and that our effect size more than doubled, reflecting an upward trend.”

Sobolik noted that no test, including the CLA+, can adequately measure the value added by earning a college degree.

“UMSL’s commitment to community involvement and civic engagement in and out of the classroom provides our students with opportunities and experiences that are hard to measure in an exam,” she told the paper. “UMSL takes great pride in welcoming students into our rich community and integrating high-impact learning experiences like Service Learning, in which they develop and demonstrate critical thinking, problem-solving and written communication within a real context.

“We take this responsibility very seriously; hence our slogan ‘Serious Education. Serious Value.’”

The UMSL Experience

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