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2006 International Conference Sessions

26th International Conference on Critical Thinking

The Art of Designing for Deep Learning
In the Long Run

See information on our 2007 Conference


Conference Session Titles (index)

Day One Morning

Day One Afternoon


Day One Evening

Day Two Morning

Day Two Afternoon

Day Three Morning

  • Concurrent Sessions I,II,III - Participants will choose from a number of sessions when they arrive at the conference.

Day Three Afternoon

Day Three Evening

Day Four Morning

* These are introductory and review sessions, highly recommended for participants new to the conference, and useful for those wishing to deepen their understanding of the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards.


Check out the Concurrent Sessions to be held on the 3rd morning.

Session Descriptions

Day One: Morning

Teaching Students to Construct Knowledge…Richard Paul

Students do not gain knowledge until they construct it in their minds. As teachers, we must develop multiple strategies for ensuring that students are continually involved in the construction of knowledge. We must abandon the notion that rote memorization of bits and pieces of the textbook or of lectures can substitute for the forms of construction that lead to understanding and true knowledge. The two goals of this session, then, are: a) to cultivate insight into the principle that genuine knowledge presupposes the active “construction of knowledge” and b) to devise practical teaching strategies that result in students genuinely constructing knowledge.

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Intellectual Virtues: Essential to the Educated Mind…Gerald Nosich

Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world. It is a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, and yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, to stand alone against the crowd. This session focuses on designing instruction that transforms the mind, instruction that fosters the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.

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The Role of Administration in Establishing a Critical Thinking Community…Linda Elder

Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, through any problem or issue. With a substantive concept of critical thinking clearly in mind, we begin to see the pressing need for a staff development program that fosters critical thinking within and across the curriculum. As we come to understand a substantive concept of critical thinking, we are able to follow-out its implications in designing a professional development program. By means of it, we begin to see important implications for every part of the institution –redesigning policies, providing administrative support for critical thinking, rethinking the mission, coordinating and providing faculty workshops in critical thinking, redefining faculty as learners as well as teachers, assessing students, faculty, and the institution as a whole in terms of critical thinking abilities and traits. We realize that robust critical thinking should be the guiding force for all of our educational efforts. This session presents a professional development model that can provide the vehicle for deep change across the curriculum, across the institution.

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Engaging Students in Active and Cooperative Learning …Enoch Hale - Fellow, Center for Critical Thinking

This session is designed for k-12 teachers.

Although bringing critical thinking into the classroom ultimately requires serious, long-term development, you can immediately begin to make important changes in your teaching. Many simple, straightforward, yet powerful strategies can be implemented right away in the classroom to improve the quality of student learning. In this session we focus on a number of such sug­gestions. They are powerful and useful, because each is a way to get students actively engaged in thinking about what they are try­ing to learn. Each represents a shift of responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. These strategies suggest ways to get your students to do the hard work of learning. This session will utilize the Miniature Guide on Active and Cooperative Learning

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Day One: Afternoon


*Analyzing and Assessing Reasoning…Linda Elder

Analysis and evaluation are recognized as crucial skills for all students to master. And for good reason. They are required in learning any signifi­cant body of content in a non-trivial way. Students are commonly asked to analyze poems, mathematical formulas, biological systems, chapters in textbooks, concepts and ideas, essays, novels, and articles—just to name a few. Yet what student can explain what analysis requires? What students have a clear conception of how to think it through? Which of our graduates could complete the sentence: “Whenever I am asked to analyze something, I use the following model:…” This session focuses on the most fundamental concepts in critical thinking – the analysis and assessment of reasoning.

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*Questions that Analyze and Evaluate Thinking…Richard Paul

Asking powerful analytic questions is vital to excellence in thought. When we analyze thinking, we break it down into its component parts. We do this because problems in a “whole” are often a function of problems in one or more of its parts. Success in thinking depends, first of all, on our developing an analytic questioning mind. This involves skill in questioning the structures that define the “parts” of thinking: goals and purposes, problems and issues, information and data, inferences and conclusions, concepts and theories, assumptions and beliefs, implications and consequences, viewpoints and perspectives.

Universal intellectual standards are the standards by which thinking is judged by educated and reasonable persons. Yet most people rarely use these standards explicitly in their thinking. These standards include, but are not limited to, clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, and fairness. Skilled thinkers explicitly question using these standards. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in questioning that assess the strengths and weaknesses in reasoning.

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Transforming the Mind Through Close Reading…Gerald Nosich

Educated persons are skilled at and routinely engage in close reading and substantive writing. Through the ability to read closely, to comprehend and apply what one reads, students can master a subject from books alone, without benefit of lectures or class discussion. Indeed, through well-developed reading abilities, it is possible to become educated through reading alone. Skilled readers do this through intellectually interacting with the author as they read. They actively question as they read. They seek to deeply understand what they read. They make connects as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in close reading.

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Infusing Critical Thinking into Elementary Instruction…Suzanne Borman and Joel Levine, Alliant International University

This session will provide teachers with strategies for fostering critical thinking at the elementary level. Special emphasis will be placed on the analysis and assessment of thinking - with the goal of helping students learn to take thinking apart, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and then improve it where necessary. To accomplish this, Dr. Borman and Dr. Levine will focus on three main topics: (1) how teachers can use the tools of critical thinking to improve thinking within content areas; (2) their work over the past three school years carrying out a critical thinking project at Potrero Elementary School at the U.S./Mexican border. This project aimed at integrating fair-minded critical thinking throughout the curriculum and within student relationships; and (3) applying the Elements of Reasoning and Universal Intellectual Standards to classroom lessons. This session will include suggestions for designing lessons to foster critical thinking, instructional resources that can be used or adapted to foster critical thinking, and discussion of a comprehensive Critical Thinking Test that was designed and implemented to measure students’ critical thinking abilities at the elementary level. Participants will be engaged in applying the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards within content areas – including math, Language Arts, and Social Studies – through playing the role of student and then designing lessons.

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Day Two: Morning

Developing the Questioning Mind…Linda Elder

It is not possible to be a good thinker and a poor questioner. Questions define tasks, express problems, and delineate issues. They drive thinking forward. Answers, on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates further questions does thought continue as inquiry. A mind with no questions is a mind that is not intellectually alive. No questions (asked) equals no understanding (achieved). Superficial questions equal superficial understanding, unclear questions equal unclear understanding. If your mind is not actively generating questions, you are not engaged in substantive learning. So the question is raised, “How can we teach so that students generate questions?” In this session we shall focus on practical strategies for generating questioning minds---at the same time, of course, that students learn the content that is at the heart of the curriculum.

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Evaluating Educational Fads Through Critical Thinking…Richard Paul

This session is designed for k-12 teachers and administrators.

The history of schooling is also the history of educational panaceas, the comings and goings of quick-fixes for deep-seated educational problems. This old problem is not being reduced. Rather, it is dramatically on the increase. This results in intensifying fragmentation of energy and effort in the schools - together with a significant waste of time and money. Many teachers become increasingly cynical and jaded.

It is time to recognize that education will never be improved by simplistic educational fads. Fads by their nature are fated to self-destruction. Teachers and administrators need to understand the problem of educational fads so that they can effectively distinguish substantive efforts at educational reform from superficial ones.

All educational trends or fads have their roots in reasonable ideas. Trends become fads when a reasonable idea is applied unreasonably. All reasonable ideas enhance education when integrated into a substantive concept of education. They fail when imposed upon instruction through a non-substantive, fragmented, conception of education. In this session, we focus on some of the current educational trends or fads in schooling today.

We focus on each trend or fad in three ways. We describe in turn,

  • the essential idea behind the trend or fad ,
  • the proper educational use (when integrated into a substantive concept of education), and
  • the likely misuse (when the idea is unreasonably applied).


It is not our goal to provide a full and complete explication of any particular fad or trend. Our goal is to provide a foundation for determining the proper use of any educational idea for reform.

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Teaching Students to Master Content Through Thinking…Gerald Nosich

A key insight into content (and into thinking) is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes more intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes more intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes more intelligible as one learns to think historically. This is true because all subjects are: generated by thinking, organized by thinking, analyzed by thinking, synthesized by thinking, expressed by thinking, evaluated by thinking, restructured by thinking, maintained by thinking, transformed by thinking, LEARNED by thinking, UNDERSTOOD by thinking, APPLIED by thinking. If you try to take the thinking out of content, you have nothing, literally nothing, remaining. Learning a unique system of meanings is the key to learning any content whatsoever. This session explores the intimate relationship between content and thinking.

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Practical Ideas for Improving Student Learning …Rush Cosgrove - Fellow, Center for Critical Thinking

This session is based in the idea that substantive teaching and learning can occur only when students take ownership of the most basic principles and concepts of the subject. The teaching strategies recommended are rooted in a vision of instruction implied by critical thinking and an analysis of the weaknesses typically found in most traditional didactic lecture/quiz/test formats of instruction. The session will utilize the Miniature Guide on How to Improve Student Learning, which highlights strategies that require students to think actively within the concepts and principles of the subject. An important uniqueness of this session is that it will be facilitated by a student and will highlight a student perspective on teaching and learning.

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Day Two: Afternoon

Fostering Ethical Reasoning…Linda Elder

Ethics is the study of decisions or behavior that benefits or harms persons and creatures. Human behavior can be either praised ethically (if someone acts to benefit the welfare of others) or criticized (when someone acts so as to harm others). Ethics is not to be confused with social convention, law, or religious beliefs. For any action to be unethical, it must deny another person or creature some inalienable right. Social convention and laws, as well as religious beliefs vary enormously along national and cultural lines. But ethical concepts and principles are universal. All educated persons, properly so called, are fundamentally ethical persons because they realize that ethical questions must be answered using ethical concepts and principles. They do not confuse ethics with other modes of reasoning. This session will focus on fostering ethical reasoning abilities in students.

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Using Student and Faculty Interviews To Assess the Depth of Student and Faculty Understanding of Critical Thinking….Richard Paul

Many questions have been raised about the best way to assess the depth of student and faculty knowledge of critical thinking. At the Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking, we are familiar with most of the assessment strategies (including tests) that have been traditionally used for that purpose. We are agreed that one of the most powerful ways to assess a person’s knowledge of critical thinking is not through a “test,” but rather through an extended interview protocol. We have used such a protocol in conducting the largest assessment of critical thinking in instruction yet undertaken: an assessment of faculty knowledge of critical thinking at 28 private and 38 public universities. This protocol has been adapted for use in assessing both faculty and student knowledge of critical thinking. Providing students and teachers with sample interviews is an effective way to motivate students and faculty to gain knowledge of critical thinking. In this session, Richard Paul will interview a student. After the interview, the attendees will be invited to direct questions either to the student interviewed or to Richard Paul.

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Transforming the Mind Through Substantive Writing…Gerald Nosich

Substantive writing consists in focusing on topic worth writing about and saying something worth saying about it. But all knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary, secondary, and peripheral ideas. Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving to an outer circle of peripheral ideas. The primary ideas, at the core, explain the secondary and peripheral ideas. Whenever we read to acquire knowledge we must write to take ownership, first, of the primary ideas, for they are a key to understanding all the other ideas. Furthermore, just as we must write to gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas, so also must we write to begin to think within the system as a whole and to make interconnections between ideas. The sooner we begin to think, and therefore write, within a system, the sooner the system becomes meaningful to us. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in substantive writing in content areas.

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Designing High School Social Studies Courses Through Critical Thinking…Enoch Hale - Fellow, Center for Critical Thinking

Social studies courses are those courses that foster understanding of the individuals, groups and institutions that make up human society. They study how humans live together in groups in such a way that their dealings with one another affect their common welfare. The social disciplines focus on gaining and applying knowledge about human relationships and interactions between individuals and their families, religious or ethnic communities, cities, governments, and other social groups.

Social studies courses are an important part of every high school curriculum. In this session, Enoch Hale, former high school teacher and current Fellow of the Center for Critical Thinking, will share his experiences in placing critical thinking at the heart of the social studies curriculum, with emphasis on meeting state standards while also fostering critical thinking skills, abilities, and dispositions.

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Day Three: Morning

Concurrent Sessions I,II,III – Participants will choose from a number of sessions when they arrive at the conference. To see the preliminary concurrent session program, click here

Day Three: Afternoon

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence…Linda Elder

To develop emotional intelligence is to achieve command of the workings of our minds. It is our minds that generate our thought, feelings, and desires. It is our students’ minds that control not only how they study and learn but how they make decisions and conduct their lives. Part of understanding the role of critical thinking is enabling us to understand the relationship between thoughts and emotions. To be in command of one’s emotional life is to have command of the faculties of mind that determine it: thoughts, emotions, and desires working together. Student emotions play an important part in their lives as students. When they bring learned indifference, irrational fears, acquired hostility, and inflexible ideas into the classroom, their learning is limited to the superficial. This session provides a structure for helping students improve the quality of their work and lives.

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Teaching Students Primary Concepts & Ideas… Richard Paul

 All subjects or disciplines are defined by their foundational concepts. When students master concepts at a deep level, they are able to use them to understand and function better within the world. Can you identify the fundamental concepts in every subject you teach or study? Can you explain their role in thinking within your discipline? Can you help students take command of core concepts? These are some of the questions we will explore in this session.

Concepts are tools we use in thinking. They enable us to group things in our experience in different categories, classes, or divisions. They are the labels we apply to things in our minds. They represent the mental map (and meanings) we construct of the world, the map that tells us the way the world is. Through our concepts we define situations, events, relationships, and all other objects of our experience. All of our decisions depend on how we conceptualize the world. Each subject gives us a unique vocabulary of concepts to use in thinking within the field that the discipline represents.

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Critical Thinking Competency Standards: Using Critical Thinking to Assess Student Learning Within a Discipline…Gerald Nosich

Critical thinking competency standards, which are the focus of this session, serve as a resource for teachers, curriculum designers, administrators and accrediting bodies. The use of these competencies across the curriculum will ensure that critical thinking is fostered in the teaching of any subject to all students at every grade level. These competency standards can be found in A Guide for Educators to Critical Thinking Competency Standards: Standards, Principles, Performance Indicators, and Outcomes With a Critical Thinking Master Rubric, which will be provided to all conference participants and will be used throughout this session.

This guide, Critical Thinking Competency Standards, provides a frame.