DAY ONE (choose one)
Some Ways to Design Instruction Using Critical Thinking as the Driving Force ... Richard Paul
In this session Richard Paul will guide participants through a process in which they select a body of content and a set of CT instructional strategies relevant to teaching the content. Participants will work with a partner reflecting upon and talking their way through the process. Beginning with reading and reflection, participants will explain to their working partner what choices they have made and why. Richard Paul will model the process to facilitate the decision-making of the participants. Upon completion of the session, participants will better understand how CT can be used as the driving force of teaching and learning. Critical reading, critical writing, critical speaking, and critical listening will be important modalities in the design process. Reciprocal teaching will also be important in the process.
For Administrators: the Foundations of Critical Thinking
and How They Can Be Infused Across the Curriculum ... 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 introduces the foundations of critical thinking, relates those foundations to instruction, and presents a professional development model that can provide the vehicle for deep change across the institution. It will utilize Dr. Elder's article on professional development that has been published in TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION.
Practical Methods for Fostering Critical Thinking in Secondary Instruction ... Enoch Hale
Bringing critical thinking into the high school classroom entails understanding the concepts and principles embedded in critical thinking and then applying those concepts throughout the curriculum. It means developing powerful strategies that emerge when we begin to understand critical thinking. In this session we will focus on strategies for engaging the intellect at the high school level. These strategies 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 (but necessary) work of learning.
Understanding the Relationship Between Critical Thinking
and Socratic Questioning ... Gerald Nosich
Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don't know, and to follow out logical implications of thought. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.
Teachers, students, or indeed anyone interested in probing thinking at a deep level can and should construct Socratic questions and engage in Socratic dialogue. When we use Socratic questioning in teaching, our purpose may be to probe student thinking, to determine the extent of their knowledge on a given topic, issue or subject, to model Socratic questioning for them, or to help them analyze a concept or line of reasoning. In the final analysis, we want students to learn the discipline of Socratic questioning, so that they begin to use it in reasoning through complex issues, in understanding and assessing the thinking of others, and in following-out the implications of what they, and others think.
The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking because the art of questioning is important to excellence of thought. Both critical thinking and Socratic questioning share a common end. Critical thinking provides the conceptual tools for understanding how the mind functions (in its pursuit of meaning and truth); and Socratic questioning employs those tools in framing questions essential to the pursuit of meaning and truth.
This session will focus on the mechanics of Socratic dialogue, on the conceptual tools critical thinking brings to Socratic dialogue, and on the importance of questioning in cultivating the disciplined mind. The session will be highly interactive as participants practice Socratic question using the foundations of critical thinking.
The Art of Analyzing Transcripts of Interviews of Higher Education Faculty (at a research university) Regarding Their Conception of Critical Thinking (and how they attempt to teach for it). This is an advanced session for returning registrants ... Rush Cosgrove
Just as there is no such thing as THE history of critical thinking, but only of A history of critical thinking; so there is no such thing as THE assessment of programs for critical thinking across the disciplines at the college and University level. All evaluations of programs for the improvement of instruction are driven by an agenda, an orientation, a point of view. How the agenda is defined will impact our point of view. Our point of view, in turn, will impact the concepts we use as well as the assumptions we make, not to mention how we interpret any information we select and examine. In this session we will work with transcripts of interviews of university faculty regarding their conception of critical thinking (and how they teach for it). Participants in this session will work in teams to analyze and assess faculty interview transcripts. The presenter will then share his analysis of the same interview transcripts and similarities and differences between the session participants and the researcher will be critically analyzed and commented on. This experience will then be used as a foundation for a discussion of the problem of analyzing and assessing faculty accounts of their own teaching and their assessment of their effectiveness in teaching for critical thinking across the curriculum. The data to be analyzed will be taken primarily from research conducted at the University of Oxford and Lampton School in England (by D. R. Cosgrove, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge). Both oral records and printed transcripts will be used. This session presupposes understanding of the foundations of critical thinking — the elements of reasoning, intellectual standards and intellectual traits. If you are new to the conference, please choose one of the other three sessions for day one.
DAY TWO — MORNING (choose one)
What Can Research Really Tell Us About the Human Mind? ... Linda Elder
In current times, science is given exalted status. And so it should be, when we are dealing with scientific questions. But when we want to better understand the complexities in the human mind, the translation from brain to mind may not be as simple or as apparent as is often implied or assumed. The human mind has a biological (and thus scientific) component certainly. We are, after all, biological creatures. But we are much more. Many forces influence human thought and action, including sociological forces, psychological forces, economic, religious, and political forces, to name a few. Further, because of the fundamental role that language plays in human thought and action, it is far more difficult to study people (from a chemical or biological perspective) than to study most other living creatures (that do not use the complex language we use). Yet this is precisely what we are facing — an explosive number of "scientific" studies, focused primarily on brain chemistry, that purport to explain, obviously, some part of human behavior.
On the other hand, many studies are conducted in the social disciplines that shed important light on human behavior. Think, for example, of the Milgram studies that illuminate the fact that humans will often obey authority figures even when it means harming innocent people. Think also of the Stanford prison experiment which shows how people will readily dominate other people, humiliate and torture them, when placed in positions of authority. A host of studies have been conducted in cognitive psychology in recent years that illuminate the fact that people don't learn concepts very well through lecture. Consider a study conducted recently by the University of Maryland which found that after undergraduates heard a physics lecture by a well-regarded professor, almost none could specifically answer the question: "What was the lecture you just heard about?"
This session will explore a number of scientific studies being illuminated in popular literature, as well as some studies in the social disciplines, that purport to make sense of some important part of human behavior. These studies will be examined using the tools of critical thinking. At the heart of this process will be these questions: To what extent does a given study illuminate the human thoughts, feelings, motivations or behavior it purports to illuminate? Might there be other reasonable explanations for this phenomenon? Are there any potential conceptual problems with the methodology of the experiment or the conclusions of the experimenter(s)?
Overcoming Bad Habits of Teaching and Learning ... Gerald Nosich
Humans are creatures of habit. Good habits lead to success. Bad habits lead to failure. Institutional bad habits lead to institutional failure. The teaching profession at every level is plagued by bad habits:
- The habit of covering too much content.
- The habit of talking too much.
- The habit of giving students answers to questions they have never asked.
- The habit of covering many more concepts than students can digest.
- The habit of thinking that knowledge can be acquired by "parroting" what teachers say.
- The habit of teaching concepts unconnected with other concepts.
- The habit of teaching as if understanding came from memorizing bits and pieces of fragmented information.
- The habit of teaching concepts isolated from real life contexts.
- This session will target these, and other, bad habits, and focus on the good habits that should replace them.
Advanced Session: Analyzing Readings Using the Elements of Thought ... Enoch Hale
Skilled reading is rare among students. Highly skilled reading is even more rare. Yet reading at an advanced level is essential to educating the mind. Many faculty and students use an analytic approach to reading focused on taking apart the thinking of the author (the elements of thought). But it takes skilled practice to use this approach effectively. In this session, participants will analyze several readings, focusing on the elements of reasoning embedded in the work, and compare their analysis with that of others in the session. Basic intellectual standards will be applied to the analysis. In other words, first, participants will read a short written piece. They will then analyze the written piece (write out the logic of it). Finally, they will share their analysis and assess one another's work using intellectual standards such as clarity, accuracy and logic. This session is designed for returning participants who have basic command of the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards.
Two Conflicting Theories of Knowledge, Learning, and Literacy:
The Didactic and the Critical ... Richard Paul
Most instructional practice in most academic institutions around the world still presupposes a didactic theory of knowledge, learning, and literacy, one that is ill suited to the development of critical minds and literate persons. In this session participants will be exposed to 21 contrasting assumptions that delineate the differences between those who teach from a didactic point of view and those who teach from a critical thinking point of view. Participants will increase the depth of their insight into the significance of those two incompatible ways to teach. Reciprocal teaching will be used throughout the sessions, that is, working in shifting pairs, participants will increase their knowledge by teaching each other what they are learning as they are learning it.
DAY TWO — AFTERNOON (choose one)
Why We Are All Pathological Thinkers and What Can Be Done About It ... Linda Elder
The human mind is at once rational and irrational, reasonable and unreasonable. We naturally see the world from a narrow egocentric perspective. We are also highly vulnerable to influence from group traditions, mores, taboos and customs. We are naturally selfish, self-deceiving, prejudiced, biased. We naturally distort reality to fit our vision of it. We naturally distort information to keep from seeing what we would rather avoid. We naturally seek more for ourselves and our group than is rightfully ours. We naturally act without due regard to the rights and needs of others.
In short, humans are naturally egocentric and sociocentric. At the same time, we are capable of developing as reasonable persons. But to do so requires commitment and some fundamental understandings about the pathological side of the human mind. It this session we will focus on some of these painful truths about the mind. We will explore egocentric and sociocentric thought (with primary emphasis on egocentricity) as intrinsic mental phenomena that get in the way of the cultivation of critical societies, as barriers to critical thought. We will also explore strategies for overcoming these tendencies.
Cultivating the Intellect Through Close Reading and Substantive Writing ... Enoch Hale
Educated persons are skilled at and routinely engage in close reading and substantive writing. When reading, they seek to learn from texts; they generate questions as they read and seek answers to those questions by reading widely and skillfully. In short, they seek to become better educated through reading. They do this through the process of intellectually interacting with the texts they read, as they read. They come to understand what they read by paraphrasing, elaborating, exemplifying, and illustrating what they read. They make connections as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read.
Substantive writing, in turn, consists in focusing on a subject worth writing about and then saying something worth saying about it. It enhances our reading. Whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should write to take ownership of the texts we read. Furthermore, just as we must write to gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas of a subject, so also must we write to begin to think within the subject as a whole and to make connections between ideas within and beyond the subject. Quite remarkably, many of our students have never read a text closely, nor written in a substantive way. Instead, they have developed the habit of skirting by with superficial and impressionistic reading, writing, and listening. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in close reading and substantive writing as major strategies for learning content.
Teaching Students to Think Within the Logic of a Discipline ... Gerald Nosich
One of the main goals of instruction is to help the student internalize the most basic concepts in the subject and to learn to think through questions in everyday life using those concepts. Critical thinking in biology is biological thinking. Critical thinking in anatomy is anatomical thinking. Critical thinking in literature is thinking the way a knowledgeable, sensitive, reasonable reader thinks about literature. A discipline is more than a body of information. It is a distinctive way (or set of ways) of looking at the world and thinking through a set of questions about it. It is systematic and has a logic of its own. In this session, participants will think through the logic of a discipline of their choosing. They will also focus on teaching the logic of their discipline so students internalize the way of thinking inherent in the subject as a life-long acquisition.
The Higher and Lower Politics of Critical Thinking ... Richard Paul
| "There appear to be some powerful mythologies circulating that academics are free of partisanship, untouched by conflicts of interest and personal grievance. There may be some noble souls who are faultless in these areas, but in my experience that is not universally the case." |
Judy Swindells, Professor of English
Politics and power are an intrinsic part of academic life. However, educators can respond in a "higher" or "lower" way to the (usually vexing) realities of politics. Responding in a higher way, or in other words, taking the high ground, enables educators to make a good faith commitment to the ideal of critical thinking without ignoring the frustrating realities of politics. Those who take the high ground recognize the gap between the ideal and the real. They recognize that some people will more readily see the importance of critical thinking. They understand that some will resist. They therefore design a long-term staff development process that:
- (For those who resist change) offers an escape hatch strategy that leaves resisters to themselves (as long as their mode of resisting does not actively undermine those motivated to work for substantive change),
- (For slow movers) provides a gradualist set of strategies that enables those motivated to move at a slow pace to do so. (Often slow movers face significant obstacles that render accelerated change In their context exceedingly difficult).,
- (For those ready for sweeping substantive change) provides a fast track that enables fast movers to work under favorable conditions at an accelerated pace (politically and academically),
In this session participants will be given (and will themselves generate) examples of the higher and lower ways of dealing with political realities when critical thinking programs are implemented on campus. Participants will also exemplify escape hatch, gradualist, and crash course orientations. Accordingly, participants will gain some practical insights into the art of cultivating substantive change essential to transforming higher-order institutions (from didactically- to critically-centered communities). Participants will see how the ideals of education can be served by knowledge of practical strategies grounded in a realistic conception of the obstacles that typically prevent or de-rail significant change. Through this knowledge you will be primed to take the high ground---to your benefit and to the benefit of those who work with you.
Concurrent sessions - TBA
If you would like to send a proposal for a concurrent session, please contact Foundation for Critical Thinking Fellow, Dr. Enoch Hale, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Concurrent sessions are one hour in length. Most sessions are conducted by faculty and administrators who have been working with critical thinking concepts and principles for several years - either in bringing critical thinking into the individual classroom or across the curriculum.
DAY FOUR — MORNING (choose one)
Helping Students Learn to Think Within the Key Concepts in Subjects and Disciplines ... Gerald Nosich
Concepts are ideas we use in thinking. They enable us to group things in our experience in different categories, classes, or divisions. They are the basis of the labels we give 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 our decisions depend on how we conceptualize things. All subjects or disciplines are defined by their foundational concepts. Cell versus mitochondria is an example. Cell is a much more fundamental and powerful concept in biology than is mitochondria. Students who achieve a deep understanding of the concept of a cell will be able to think though and gain insight into a very large number of topics in biology. It will give them a powerful entrance into thinking biologically. Not only that, but a good grasp of the concept cell will enable students to think critically about a range of topics they will encounter outside the course. By contrast, a student who achieves a good grasp of the concept mitochondria will not, thereby, gain insight into nearly as large a range of other biology topics.
When students master foundational 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 your discipline? Can you explain their role in thinking within your discipline? How can you help students take command of these concepts? These are some of the questions that will be explored in this session.
Teach So That Students Think Through the Content Using Intellectual Traits ... Richard Paul
We want students to think through the content so that not only is the thinking of the system laid bare, but also so that the mind of the student is simultaneously transformed from uncriticality to criticality, and from weak-sense criticality to strong-sense criticality. This session will focus on some guiding principles, including:
- I know better what I know about X when I can empathize with those who do not know or believe X, when I can give voice to those who think differently and acquire their insights.
- I know better what I know when I can think through, for myself, the logic of what I believe.
- I know better what I know when I know the extent to which I apply what I am learning in my life.
- I know better what I know when I recognize the extent to which I hold contradictory beliefs, and when I work to remove those contradictions (in a fair-minded way).
- I gain more, and deeper, knowledge when I work my way through difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations in the process of learning.
These and other principles will be used in this session to exemplify how to teach so as to encourage student development of critical thinking traits.
Bringing it Home: Critical Thinking at the Institutional Level ... Patty Payette and Rush Cosgrove
This session will focus on helping administrators, teachers and other leaders begin to design a long-term critical thinking professional development program at their home institution, department or school. During this session, the facilitators will share insights (both experiential and research-based) from one institution (the University of Louisville) currently in the 5th year of a 10-year plan to improve teaching for critical thinking across the disciplines.
The session will focus on the guiding principles useful in designing effective professional development programs around critical thinking at any institution and at any level. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and apply these principles to their own unique contexts and draft a plan of action to take significant steps toward a critical thinking program at their home institution. The session will be jointly led by Rush Cosgrove (PhD candidate in educational research, University of Cambridge) and Patty Payette, Ph.D. (executive director of the critical thinking faculty development initiative at the University of Louisville).
Four Forms of Sociocentric Thought and the Harm They Cause ... Linda Elder
If we want to cultivate critical thinking, in ourselves or in others, we need to understand the barriers to critical thinking. Some of the most powerful barriers come from intrinsic habits of the human mind. One of these, sociocentric thought, is the focus of this session.
Almost everything we think or do, we have been taught to think or do by the social groups that have shaped us. Living a human life entails membership in a variety of human groups. This typically includes groups such as nation, culture, profession, religion, family, and peer group. We find ourselves participating in groups before we are aware of ourselves as living beings. We find ourselves in groups in virtually every setting in which we function as persons. What is more, every group to which we belong has some social definition of itself and some usually unspoken "rules" that guide the behavior of all members. Each group to which we belong imposes some level of conformity on us as a condition of acceptance. This includes a set of beliefs, behaviors, and taboos.
This session will focus on the following primary forms of sociocentric thought as found in Linda Elder's book, The Emancipated Mind: Overcoming Sociocentric Thought (in press): 1) groupishness or group selfishness, 2) group validation, 3) group control, and 4) group conformity.
The problem of sociocentric thinking in human life will be discussed, along with its implications for living a rational life, and for teaching and learning.
Identifying Resources That Foster Critical Thinking ... Enoch Hale
There are a plethora of resources that focus on instructional redesign, many of which tout an emphasis on critical thinking. But we need critical thinking abilities to be able to determine which instructional resources are actually based in critical thinking concepts and principles. In other words, we need to think critically to identify whether and to what extent critical thinking is implicit in instructional materials. We need critical thinking abilities to determine which teaching strategies will work best with our students, which need to be modified for use with our students, and which probably won't work. We can find these strategies in intellectual resources - those people, books, articles, etc. that stimulate our thinking and take us to higher levels of thought. Our ability to appropriately assess and utilize these resources reflects the extent to which we think critically about them. In this session, participants will be introduced to a variety of resources and will determine which would be most useful in their work with students. But our main goal will be to deepen our understanding of critical thinking by applying it in the context of assessing and considering how we might use intellectual resources.