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General Education Learning Outcomes @ PVCC: Our Critical Thinking Framework

Value of General Education

In this era when college is so costly, students are rightly concerned about completing college quickly and efficiently. The imperative to be work-force ready is at the forefront of our thinking. However, it’s important to note employers are not only looking for employees with the skills in their discipline. They also seek employees who behave ethically, think critically, innovate, communicate effectively, and work well in diverse groups. A general education prepares students to acquire these very skills.

Here are some additional benefits of a general education:

  • People switch careers multiple times over the course of their lives, therefore, a career-based education is insufficient in our current environment.
  • It gives students the freedom to explore previously unconsidered career options.
  • It endows students with the critical thinking skills necessary to become good citizens, employees, parents, partners, and friends.
  • It teaches cultural capital: the fluency to navigate both formal and informal academic and social systems.

Critical Thinking Guide


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Paula Crossman
PVCC Library
18401 North 32nd St
Phoenix, AZ 85032
E-Bldg - #E171

Paradise Valley Community College's Commitment to General Education

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Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) aspires to be the higher learning organization of choice by creating engaging lifelong educational relationships that inspire and support all learners to increase their capacity for personal growth and positive social change.

PVCC aspires to be a learning-centered college. A learning-centered college ensures that:

  • Learning outcomes that create substantive change in learners are identified and made explicit. These outcomes drive course, program, and curriculum development as well as delivery of student, academic, and administrative support services.
  • Learning outcomes are assessed for the purpose of demonstrating that learning occurred and to expand and improve learning.
  • Learning opportunities are accessible to learners and offered in a variety of formats and options.
  • A culture of student success exists: student success outcomes emphasize active and engaged learning, connecting to the college environment, goal setting, successful navigation of college processes, and relationship building with faculty, staff, students and peers. These outcomes are made explicit to students.

Our Critical Thinking Framework

For more than a decade, the PVCC assessment program has invested heavily and been deeply involved in inquiry related to critical thinking. We have and continue to review critical thinking literature and assessment methodologies, conduct research to measure students’ critical thinking abilities, engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and foster a community of practice centered on critical thinking and assessment of learning. After evaluating various definitions of critical thinking and analyzing different approaches to teaching and learning critical thinking, we came to the logical conclusion that the Paul-Elder framework was the most suitable and comprehensive model for critical thinking at PVCC.

The framework was developed by Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Their framework is thoroughly explained in academic publications, often cited by scholars in critical thinking literature, and applied at both community colleges and universities for use across the disciplines. The framework consists of the Elements of Thought , which can be used to construct or deconstruct reasoning; the Intellectual Standards , which are applied to assess and improve thinking; and the Intellectual Traits that thinkers can aspire to embody over time (Paul & Elder, 2012). 

Paul and Elder (2012) define critical thinking as:
A unique kind of purposeful thinking in any subject area or topic whether academic or personal, in which the thinker systematically and habitually displays intellectual traits such as intellectual perseverance, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, and fairmindedness takes charge of the construction of thinking with awareness of its elements, such as questions at issue, information, concepts, inferences, assumptions, implications and point of view imposing criteria and intellectual standards on the thinking such as clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and fairness continually improving the quality of thinking making it more clear, accurate, precise; with greater depth and breadth, more logical; more relevant and significant, and more fair (p. xxxi).

The Paul-Elder Framework is exceptional because of the emphasis on fairmindedness, which guides learners and educators to use critical and creative thinking in unbiased and equitable ways. This crucial part of the framework is consistent with the college’s mission to “educate the whole person” and foster positive social change. The application of the framework college wide and infusion of the Intellectual Standards in the General Education Learning Outcomes and Rubrics allows PVCC to place fairminded critical thinking at the heart of everything we do .