CAE Study Shows Targeted Instruction for Undergraduate Business School Students Positively Impacts Their Critical Thinking Performance

NEW YORK, May 11, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Council for Aid to Education, Inc. (CAE), a leader in designing innovative performance tasks for measurement and instruction of higher order skills, today released results of a study that examined higher education students’ critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills. The results indicate that targeted instruction for undergraduate business school students positively impacted their performance as measured by CAE’s performance-based Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+).

Presented last month by CAE Chief Academic Officer Doris Zahner, Ph.D., at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting in Chicago, the study investigated the impact of instruction on the higher order skills that are most in demand by employers and predictive of academic and career success.

Using CAE’s performance-based assessments, Dr. Zahner and her colleagues investigated the level of critical thinking, problem solving, and written communication demonstrated by students entering and exiting higher education; how entering students perceived the importance of critical thinking skills for their academic and career success; and how the addition of critical thinking instruction impacted students’ critical thinking performance.

“Students, faculty, administrators, and employers agree on the importance of critical thinking skills, yet they are seldom intentionally taught, measured on objective assessments, or reported on student transcripts,” said Dr. Zahner. “This study suggests that targeted critical thinking education works and does so without creating additional burdens on students or faculty. We are excited to continue studying this vitally important topic.”

The study investigated more than 1,000 undergraduate business school students’ attitudes toward critical thinking skills and their performance on a critical thinking assessment given at the start of the semester. After the baseline assessment, these students were given targeted critical thinking instruction embedded in the curriculum. They completed a survey on their experiences and the importance of critical thinking skills for their academic and career success at the end of the semester.

  • 95% reported that critical thinking skills were important for a career in business
  • 92% felt that employers value these skills

At the same institution, a cohort of exiting students received critical thinking instruction within their coursework. These students performed statistically significantly higher on CLA+ than the control group when controlling for effort and engagement.

“In response to employer concerns about graduate employability1 and the growing interest in domain-agnostic skills, higher education institutions are redesigning their curriculum and teaching practices,” said Dr. Zahner. “Based on our research, targeted critical thinking instruction should be included in the redesign. We are encouraged to see universities taking steps to ensure students enter the workforce fortified with these skills.”

To learn more about this study, CAE’s other research, or CAE’s performance-based assessments and critical thinking instruction, please visit

1(AAC&U, 2021; Capital, 2016; Hart Research Associates, 2013; Rios et al., 2020; World Economic Forum, 2016)

About CAE
As a nonprofit whose mission is to help improve the academic and career outcomes of secondary and higher education students, CAE is the leader in designing innovative performance tasks for measurement and instruction of higher order skills and within subject areas.

Over the past 20 years, CAE has helped over 825,000 students globally understand and improve their proficiency in critical thinking, problem solving and effective written communication. Supported by best practices in assessment development, administration and psychometrics, CAE's performance-based assessments include the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+) and College and Career Readiness Assessment (CCRA+). To learn more, please visit and connect with us on LinkedIn and YouTube.


Contact Data