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Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom. Presented by Dr. Zachary Goodell, Assoc. Director Center for Teaching Excellence.

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Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

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Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

Presented by

Dr. Zachary Goodell, Assoc. Director

Center for Teaching Excellence

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“…perhaps the most accurate and useful definition of humans is that of “the self-deceiving animal.” Deception, duplicity, sophistry, delusion, and hypocrisy are foundational products of human nature in its “natural,” untutored state. Rather than reducing these tendencies, most schooling and social influences redirect them, rendering them more sophisticated, more artful, and more obscure.”

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Learning Objectives

  • Identify the characteristics of critical thinking that are relevant to your course

  • Identify the conditions that are necessary for integrating critical thinking into one’s teaching

  • Explore the roles and responsibilities for both instructor and student

  • Examine a number of approaches / techniques for promoting critical thinking

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Activity #1What is Critical Thinking?

  • What words / phrases come to mind when you think of critical thinking?

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What is common to most definitions?

  • Going beyond superficial reactions

  • Questioning assumptions

  • Awareness of one’s own biases

  • Utilizing reasoning and logic

  • Evaluating information to reach a conclusion

  • Looking at the big picture

  • Meta-cognition (reflection)

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“Critical Thinking is…self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-correcting thinking.”

Richard Paul and Linda Elder

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First Steps

  • Make sure you add critical thinking as a course goal and a learning objective on your syllabus

  • As a learning objective, “what should students be able to do in order to demonstrate that they can think critically?”

  • Make sure you give them lots of opportunities to do critical thinking during class

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What are the necessary conditions for promoting critical thinking?

  • Successfully integrating critical thinking into one’s course objectives requires a learning-centered approach to course design

    • Make student (and instructor) thinking visible

    • More small group discussions (students talk for 80-90% of class time)

    • Expectations need to be high, clear, consistent and conveyed frequently

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What are the necessary conditions for promoting critical thinking?

  • Disaggregate the dimensions of CT that matter to you and your discipline.

  • Create activities that target each dimension early and often

  • Later activities can begin to reintegrate these dimensions (i.e. case studies)

  • Make sure your assessments mirror your activities

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The role of the Instructor

  • In general, your role will shift from “the sage on the stage” to “the guide on the side”

    • Less of a content expert and more of a facilitator

  • More specific roles include:

    • the Benign Disruptor

    • The Practical Skeptic

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Assessing Cognitive Development

  • Minute Paper

    • “The best class I ever had was …” (why)

    • “I tend to learn best when ….” (why)

  • CPS / PowerPoint

    • Identify an area in your discipline where students are likely to have misconceptions (common sense) and force them to make a decision on limited info.

  • Concept Maps

    • Issue perspectives assumptions pros/cons

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Activity #2The Perry Game

  • Each statement represents one student

  • Try to group the students into “like-minded” categories

  • Once you have them grouped try to label each category

  • Explain what the underlying relationship is between the students in each category and the instructor

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Developmental Foundations of Critical Thinking (Perry)

  • Dualism/received knowledge- facts are right or wrong

  • Multiplicity/subjective knowledge-everyone’s opinion is valid

  • Relativism/procedural knowledge-truth is based on frame of reference

  • Commitment inrelativism/constructed knowledge-answers are built / modified by the individual

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If you have Dualists…

  • Your role becomes the “Benign Disruptor!”

    • The goal is to help them learn about/or develop alternative perspectives by adding complexity, ambiguity, doubt etc.

    • The method that most faculty use for this is small groups, or peer-to-peer instruction

    • The Challenge: Getting them to do these activities with some degree of effort

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If you have Multiplists…

  • Your role becomes the “Practical Skeptic!”

    • Your goal is to have your students develop reasoning skills

      • Justify your answer…

      • I am not convinced…

    • Your method is again, small group discussions—verbalization and logic with occasion professional feedback

    • Your challenge: getting them to reason and evaluate on the basis of contextual criteria and not absolute criteria

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If you have Relativists…

  • Practice, practice, practice…

    • Your goal is to help them refine their reasoning skills…help them develop an attitude of inquiry

    • The method is the same…small groups with occasional professional feedback

    • The challenge: keep their interest level up with new and/or unique cases

    • They can also serve as models for others

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What’s wrong with Perry’s Scheme?

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A few words of caution…

  • Be careful not to label your students. We are all dualists in one context or another

    • Computers?

    • Cars?

    • The opposite sex?

  • Never ignore / neglect the affective component to learning (especially for dualists)

  • Don’t mask what you are trying to do

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Critical Reading

Borges and I

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary.

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Critical Reading

I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me.

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Critical Reading

It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.

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Critical Reading

Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar.

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Critical Reading

Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

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Critical Reading

I do not know which of us has written this page.

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Reading a text together requires reading…

  • Visually and Focally

  • With (a) guiding question(s)

    • about evidence

    • about what the author/narrator is achieving

    • What is the author’s motivation

  • With consideration of others’ readings

  • For discovery

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Critical Reading II

  • Hand out a sheet of paper with a list of your favorite fallacies of logic and review

  • Break students up into small groups and give each group a script from an actual speech(es)

  • Have them identify as many fallacies of logic as they can with examples

  • Have them report out and look for consistencies

  • Have them critique their own work

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Critical ThinkingExpose / Correct Misconceptions

  • Ask a question in the declarative form and provide a limited answer set (true / false)

  • Doing so forces students to rely limited info (e.g. assumptions, biases, feelings, etc.)

  • Ask additional questions to add complexity—this should generate some cognitive dissonance / ambiguity

  • Ask additional questions and give students practice at asking “the right questions” in order to learn more about the context of the original question

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Your Turn…

  • Identify a common misconception with which your students consistently struggle

  • Author a declarative statement about that misconception and force them to take one side or the other

  • Develop questions that add context and complexity

  • Help them understand by providing the additional information they need

  • Practice, practice, practice

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Activity #4Make your own CT activity

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Learning-Centered Approaches to Promoting Critical Thinking

  • The Socratic Method

  • The Case Method

  • POGIL – Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

  • Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

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WWW Resources on Critical Thinking

  • Assorted Links to Resources for Teaching Reasoning and Critical Thinking

  • The Perry Game

  • Models of Cognitive Development

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  • Kloss, Robert J. A Nudge is Best: Helping Students Through the Perry Scheme of Intellectual Development

  • Perry, W. G. 1968. Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme

  • Browne, M. Neil & Stuart M. Keeley. 1998. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking

  • Bransford, John D. et al.2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and school

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