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Critical Thinking. COS 4870 Bruce K. Barnard. Review. Snowball Fight!. Review. Critical thinking is an active process … Critical thinking is a skill we can develop in ourselves and promote in others … We can use critical thinking in all of our roles Parent Supervisor Employee Citizen.

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Critical thinking l.jpg

Critical Thinking

COS 4870

Bruce K. Barnard

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  • Snowball Fight!

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  • Critical thinking is an active process …

  • Critical thinking is a skill we can develop in ourselves and promote in others …

  • We can use critical thinking in all of our roles

    • Parent

    • Supervisor

    • Employee

    • Citizen

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  • Critical thinking involves metathinking.

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  • Emancipatory Learning

    • “learners becoming aware of the forces that brought them to their current situation and taking some action to change some aspect of the situation.

  • Dialectical Thinking

    • “understanding and resolving contradictions … looks for and recognizes contradiction as a stimulus to development”

  • Reflective Learning

    • “internally examining and exploring an issue of concern, triggered by an event”

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  • Analyzing arguments

    • Reasons

    • Conclusions

    • Reason – conclusion

    • Side by side

    • Chain of reasoning

    • Joint Reasoning

    • Hypothetical

  • Applying the “therefore” test

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  • Context Matters!

    • Examine your world-view and culture

    • Attempt to adopt alternate frames of reference

    • Think about who is making the argument

    • Put it in historical and cultural context.

    • Analyze your own assumptions

    • Analyze the consequences of assumptions and decisions.

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  • Egocentric Thinking

  • Identifying Sources

    • Get as close to the original source as possible

    • Identifying Sources

    • Credibility of Sources

  • Point of View

    • Positivism vs. Constructivism

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Intellectual Traits

  • Intellectual humility vs. arrogance

  • Intellectual courage vs. cowardice

  • Intellectual empathy vs. narrow-mindedness

  • Intellectual autonomy vs. conformity

  • Intellectual integrity vs. hypocrisy

  • Intellectual perseverance vs. laziness

  • Confidence in reason vs. distrust of reason

  • Fair-mindedness vs. intellectual unfairness

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  • Consider a decision you have made in a workplace or organization setting. A decision that turned out not to be the best decision.

  • Work with your group and generate a list of the common flaws in decision-making. What are the most common mistakes that lead to poor decisions?

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Decision Model

  • Why is this decision necessary?

  • What are the alternatives?

  • What are the possible consequences of each alternative?

  • How likely/unlikely are the possible consequences?

  • Are there ethical or moral considerations

  • Consider each alternative in light of the possible consequences.

Critical Thinking, Fisher (2001)

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Decision Model

  • Let’s talk about lunch tomorrow.

  • Apply the decision model to the question “what should we do about lunch”?

  • Be prepared to present your analysis to the class.

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Decision Model

  • Now follow the same process with a decision you are facing soon.

  • Be prepared to discuss your process with your group.

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Problem Solving Model

  • Figure out your goals, purposes, and needs.

  • Wherever possible take problems one at a time

  • Study the problem

  • Distinguish problems over which you have control and those over which you have no control

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Problem Solving Model

  • What information do you need to solve the problem

  • Analyze the information

  • Determine your options

  • Evaluate your options, advantages and disadvantages

  • Adopt a strategy – follow through on it

  • Monitor the implications of your actions

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Essential Moral Virtues, Paul (1995)

    • Humility

      • Awareness of the limits of our moral knowledge

      • Understand how native egocentrism can lead to self-deception

      • Sensitivity to bias and prejudice in our own viewpoint

      • Acknowledge the limits of our understanding

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Courage

    • Willingness to face and assess moral/ethical ideas or viewpoints to which we are unfamiliar

    • Recognition that some things we consider dangerous or absurd can be rationally justified, while some things espoused by those around us are false and misleading.

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Empathy

    • Recognize our egocentric tendency to identify truth from long held beliefs and immediate perceptions.

    • Be aware of the need to attempt to put ourselves in the world of another in order to genuinely understand them

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Integrity

    • Be true to our own moral/ethical beliefs

    • Hold ourselves to the same rigors of evidence to which we hold those with conflicting views

    • To be honest when there is a discrepancy in our own thoughts or actions

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Perseverance

    • Willingness to pursue insights and truths in spite of obstacles and difficulties

    • Adherence to moral principle in spite of the opposition of others

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Moral/Ethical Thinking

  • Fairmindedness

    • Willingness to entertain all moral viewpoints and assess them without reference to our own feelings or vested interests

    • Application of moral principles without concern for our own advantage, or the advantage of our group.

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  • Activity

    • RULES

      • Stay on Topic The topic of the discussion is how can we make ourselves, and each other better critical thinkers using Paul’s description of moral/ethical thinking

      • Before interjecting a thought or idea you MUST summarize the last speakers statement to their satisfaction.

      • Reach for new meanings

      • Challenge yourself

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Critical Thinking in the Workplace

  • T chart exercise

    • Take out a piece of paper.

    • Write assumptions on one side and consequences on the other.

    • Now think of a disagreement you have had with a co-worker or supervisor. What assumptions did you make? What were the consequences. What other assumptions might you have made. What would the consequences have been.

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Critical Thinking in the Workplace

  • What are the forces at play that make it difficult for us to identify and clarify our assumptions.

  • Can we design organizations that “learn” like this as part of their design

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  • POSITION POWER – derived from office

    • Depends upon downward delegation from one’s own supervisors

    • Not merely because one has a certain position/title

    • Related to trust and confidence one engenders among superiors

    • Often a matter of the rewards and sanctions one’s superiors allow one to distribute

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  • PERSONAL POWER – derived from personal qualities or characteristics.

    • Derived from below

    • Extent to which subordinates respect, value you, experience rapport with you

    • “charisma” or personal power is not inherent in you as a person. It flows to you from relationship with followers

    • It is thus fluid and dynamic - like position power

    • Can be earned and can be taken away

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Which is better?????


  • Machiavelli - better to be feared (but not hated)

  • Ultimately, supervisors need both forms of power

    • Influence UP with personal power

    • Influence DOWN with positional power

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  • Coercive – perceived ability to sanction, punish

  • Connection – perceived association with influential person or persons in the organization

  • Reward – perceived ability to provide things people want to have

  • Legitimate – perception that it’s appropriate for you to make this decision or take this action because of position, title, role

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Power Bases, con’t.

  • Referent – perceived attractiveness of interacting with you as the leader/supervisor

  • Information – perceived access to or possession of information that is useful to them.

  • Expert – perception that you have relevant expertise, education, experience

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  • Developed by Hersey & Blanchard

  • A Contingency Theory

  • Leaders adjust their behavior to fit the maturity level of followers.

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  • Job maturity – the amount of task-relevant knowledge, experience, skill, and ability that the follower possesses.

  • Psychological maturity – the follower’s self-confidence, commitment, motivation and self-respect relative to the task at hand.

  • MATURITY IS TASK SPECIFIC!!!! There is no universal maturity level.

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SLT Prescriptions For Most Appropriate Behaviors Based On Follower Maturity

Participating (Lo T, Hi R)

Selling (Hi T, Hi R)


Delegating (Lo T, Lo R)

Telling (Hi T, Lo R)

Task behaviors

Follower maturity

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Situational Leadership

  • So what does all of this have to do with critical thinking?

  • Activity

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Workplace Issues

  • Group Think

  • Conflict

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Problem Solving Questions

  • Six Types of Socratic Questions

    • Clarification

    • Probing Assumptions

    • Probing Reasons and Evidence

    • Exploring viewpoints and perspectives

    • Define implications and consequences

    • Metaquestions

Paul and Elder (2006)

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Problem Solving Questions

  • Which is it?

    • What are the consequences of that assumption?

    • Why do you think we are asking this question?

    • Can you give me an example?

    • How does that relate to this topic?

    • Can we verify or refute that assumption?

    • Is there another way to look at it?

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Problem Solving Questions

  • To participate effectively in Socratic Questioning we must:

    • Listen carefully to what others say

    • Take what they say seriously

    • Look for reasons and evidence

    • Recognize and reflect on assumptions

    • Discover implications and consequences

    • Seek analogies, examples, and objections

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Problem Solving Questions

  • To participate effectively in Socratic Questioning we must:

    • Distinguish what we know from what we believe

    • Enter empathetically into another’s point of view

    • Be aware of inconsistencies, vagueness and other problems in thinking

    • Look beneath the surface

    • Maintain a healthy skepticism

    • Be willing to helpfully play the devil’s advocate

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The logic of …

  • Use the examples in your handout

  • As a group, choose a subject

  • Discuss and prepare a “logic of” grid. Be prepared to present your ideas to the class.

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Analyzing the Logic of an Article

  • The main purpose of the article is ______

  • The key question that the author is addressing is ______________

  • The most important information in the article is _______________

  • The main inferences/conclusions in the article are _________________

  • The key concepts are _______________

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Analyzing the Logic of an Article

  • The main assumptions are __________

  • If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are _________

  • If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are ________

  • The main point of view of the author is _______________

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Assignments for Next Week

  • Case Studies

  • Presentations

  • Review for Final Exam