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Business, Professional Groups, and Government

Professional Development Workshops

Introduction

No matter what we do, we cannot escape our thinking. Whether we are working through a complex problem on the job, communicating with our spouses, trying to reason with our children, or even attempting to relax on our day off, our thinking is always functioning with us, determining how we see the world and our place within it. Whether we recognize it or not, whether it is ours or someone else's, thinking is the most significant determinant of the quality of our lives. It is our thinking that determines the extent to which we can reason well through complex problems. It is our thinking that determines the extent to which we think through the implications of the decisions we make. It is our thinking that determines whether we can identify the assumptions we are making, and whether we should question them. Thinking is so much a part of the human experience that it is virtually impossible to imagine humans separate from their thinking. In other words, because we continually think, we take for granted the phenomenon of our "thinking." Not only do we take our own thinking for granted, but we also tend to assume that the thinking we do works well for us. We do not generally question our thinking. Rather, we tend to live with the notion that our thinking is fine, "thank you very much." Often, this is even true when the quality of our lives is poor.

A central purpose of the workshops outlined below is to clarify what is meant by the concept of critical thinking, and to develop practical ways to infuse critical thought into our professional work individually and institutionally.  

Leadership Seminars at Your Business
We suggest that you take a long-term approach to change. We can work with you on a plan that is right for your organization or department, but you need to start somewhere, and the best place to start is with a sequence of two-day seminars.

Here is a sequence we suggest for leaders and managers in business and government, with each being a two-day seminar:

  1. Recognizing the Importance of Critical Thinking in Human Organizations
    This seminar focuses on introducing the foundations of critical thinking, including how to take your thinking apart, how to assess its quality, and how to apply critical-thinking concepts and principles to your work on a daily basis.
  2. Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Make Better Decisions 
    This seminar focuses on deepening your understanding of the concepts and principles of critical thinking and applying them to decision-making at work.
  3. Understanding the Barriers to Critical Thinking
    This seminar focuses on the natural workings of the human mind that impede our ability, as humans, to reason at the highest level of quality.
  4. Learning the Art of Analysis
    This seminar expands on the elements of reasoning that were introduced in the first seminar. You will be in engaged in many activities focused on analyzing reasoning - your own and tha tof others - in numerous everyday work situations.
  5. Learning the Art of Assessing Thought
    This seminar expands on the introduction of intellectual standards for thinking which were introduced in the first seminar. You will learn how to apply these standards to your thought and work at all levels. You will also learn to apply these standards to the reasoning of others.

 



Listen to an interview with Dr. Richard Paul, on the Mark Deo program, about critical thinking and small-business decision making.

(Please go to minute 22.46 to begin Dr. Paul's interview.)  
Click here to listen to the MP3.




The Objectives of Our Seminars

Our primary objective in all seminars and training is two-fold and practical:

1) To introduce leaders and managers in business and government to the basic principles of critical thinking, so that they become clear about what critical thinking is and is not.


2) To help participants discover ways and means for using critical thinking as a set of tools - tools for thinking deeply through questions, issues, and problems (both immediate and long-term) faced in everyday work and life.

The Mechanics of Our Seminars
Our professional development seminars are organized on the basis that one learns critical thinking by engaging in it. Participants will therefore be engaged in a variety of activities in which they will, in effect, be thinking critically about their own thinking. They will use that analysis to disentangle the problems and issues they face in their work and personal lives (each of which affects the other, and therefore is relevant to the functioning of your organization). In other words, we will design a sequence of tasks that facilitate participants’ reasoning through what critical thinking is, and about how to use it to better think through complex problems and decisions.


Some Key Concepts Covered in Our Seminars
For you to learn how to reason well through complex problems and questions at work, you will need to learn to appreciate the full logic of what you are focused on. Every business, every job, and every task involves:

  • Goals and objectives, which define what we are after.
  • Questions and problems, which define what we must answer or solve.
  • Information and data, which we need to answer our questions and solve our problems.
  • Modes of interpreting or judging information, which we need to reach conclusions.
  • Concepts and ideas, which we need to organize and make sense of the information we have.
  • Key assumptions, which we use as starting points in our thinking.
  • Point of view, which enables us to see things in a certain light or perspective.

For you to function well in your work, you need to be able to do second-order thinking - i.e., you need to become skilled in thinking about thinking while thinking. You need to assess your thinking (and that of others) using basic intellectual standards such as clarity, accuracy, relevance, precision, logic, and significance. In other words, you will need to learn to do the following:

  • Identify goals and purposes.
  • Gather relevant information.
  • Formulate questions clearly and precisely.
  • Determine (and evaluate) the assumptions you are making.
  • Think through the implications of the decisions you make.
  • Make logical, accurate inferences and interpretations.
  • Clearly articulate the concepts or ideas guiding your thinking.
  • Consider alternate ways of looking at situations.


These are some of the key concepts we focus on in our seminars. We introduce you to the fundamental components of critical thinking, and ways to apply those foundations to the problems you face in your work. In all professional development seminars, we present critical-thinking skills, insights, and values integral to sound and effective thinking. We focus, therefore, on helping you understand the work you do as involving systems of logical relationships: organized sets of concepts, principles, and understandings you must master in order to think well on the job.


We teach you how to understand thoughts, feelings, and desires as interrelated functions of the mind operating in dynamic relationships to one another. When you understand these relationships, you understand that desires and emotions emerge from thoughts, just as thoughts are influenced by our desires and emotions. When you experience negative emotions, you will be able to identify and modify the thinking that is governing those emotions, and through that act, modify the emotions themselves. Critical thinking enables you to solve emotional as well as cognitive problems.

Basic Objectives of Foundational Seminars in Critical Thinking

  1. Understanding the pervasive role of thinking in human life.
  2. Understanding the importance of developing higher-order thinking to replace lower-order thinking, in order to reason well through complex issues on the job.
  3. Understanding critical thinking as the key to high-quality thinking within any domain of thought or work.
  4. Understanding how to analyze thinking by focusing on its parts or elements, and how to apply understanding of these elements to workplace decisions and problems.
  5. Understanding the importance of universal intellectual standards in thinking, and how to apply these standards to workplace decisions and the process of thinking through problems.
  6. Understanding the fundamental barriers to critical-thinking development.
  7. Understanding the relationships between thinking, emotions, and desires.
  8. Seeing the development of critical thinking as unfolding in stages, and involving commitment on the part of the learner.
  9. Understanding the role of assessment in thinking.
  10. Using the categorization of questions as a tool for learning.
  11. Beginning to understand how to ask high-quality questions.


The above division of topics is not absolute. These objectives overlap. 

Time and Costs
Click here to request more information about our Profesisonal Development and Inservice programs.

If you have trouble with the link above, email Rachael Collins at collins@criticalthinking.org for more details, and to discuss costs of professional-development workshops and seminars, or call the Foundation at 1-800-833-3645.

For a deeper understanding of critical thinking and its application to business issues and decisions, consider the book Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life.




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