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Critical Thinking - Online Courses 

Reg Register for Our Spring Courses Which Begin January 25th, 2016 

Important Dates:

  • First day of instruction: January 25th, 2016
  • Last day to drop with full registration refund: February 10th, 2016
  • Last day to drop with prorated registration fees: March 2nd, 2016 
  • Last day of instruction: May 26th, 2016 

How to Infuse Critical Thinking Into Instruction (CT 700)

For instructors interested in developing their understanding of critical thinking and their ability to bring it into the  foundations of instruction. This course is for teachers and faculty actively teaching during the semester. Academic credit is also available through Sonoma State University. 

This course  introduces a substantive conception of critical thinking and how to infuse this concept throughout your instruction. It fosters understanding of how to teach critical thinking skills to students through any subject or discipline, and at any level level of instruction. In this course, you will be introduced to the elements of reasoning, universal intellectual standards, and intellectual traits through readings, discussions, and practical application activities. You will redesign lessons and strategies using the concepts and principles of critical thinking. You will practice strategies for Socratic discussions. You will help students learn to consciously use critical thinking concepts and strategies in learning, and in their lives. You will redesign and teach lessons you develop for your own classes - and receive credit for doing so! 

As an outcome of this course, you will develop skills in:

  • Using the Elements of Reasoning and Intellectual Standards to create critical thinking lessons in your subject area. 
  • Designing instruction that fosters explicit critical thinking. 
  • Using the Elements of Reasoning and Intellectual Standards to think through intellectual, academic, personal, social, and political problems. 
  • Providing your students with the intellectual tools they need to engage in fairminded critical reasoning. 
  • Designing and conducting Socratic discussions using the concepts of critical thinking. 
  • Helping students learn to think within the key concepts in subjects and disciplines. 



CT 701: How to Infuse Critical Thinking Into Instruction [Part II]

This course builds upon understandings learned in CT700, and hence CT700 is a prerequisite for this course. Our approach to critical thinking is designed to transform teaching and learning at all levels; it is based on the concepts and principles embedded in a substantive conception of critical thinking. The purpose of the course is to help instructors continue to internalize the intellectual tools they need if they are to foster intellectual skills, abilities, and characteristics in student thought.  

In this course we emphasize the importance of fostering a substantive conception of critical thinking. Such a conception not only highlights the qualities of the educated person, but also implies the proper design of the educational process. There are essential, minimal conditions for cultivating educated minds. These entail modes of instruction that foster development of the standards, abilities, and traits of the educated person. 

As an outcome of this course, you will develop skills in:

  • Developing effective strategies for fostering fairminded critical thinking in instruction.
  • Leading more advanced Socratic dialog.
  • Deepening your understanding of the foundations of critical thinking. 
  • Understanding of the relationship between critical thinking and your own instruction
  • Beginning to outline a Thinker's Guide to Critical Thinking within your field of study (showing proficiency in understanding the relationship between critical thinking and your field of study).
  • Understanding more deeply the concepts of close reading and substantive writing, in order to better foster these understandings in student thought. 
  • Placing the concept of fairminded critical thinking at the heart of teaching and learning, including an explicit emphasis on the development of Intellectual Virtues. 
  • Understanding the roles played by native human pathologies of thought in impeding intellectual development. 
  • Redesigning lessons with critical thinking at the heart of teaching and learning process.
  • Designing instructional assessment processes that dovetail with fostering critical thinking at every moment in teaching and learning. 


Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life (CT 800)

Whatever you are doing right now is determined by the way you are thinking. Whatever you feel - all your emotions - are determined by your thinking. Whatever you want - all your desires - are determined by your thinking. If your thinking is unrealistic, it will lead you to many disappointments. If your thinking is overly pessimistic, it will deny you due recognition of the many things in which you should properly rejoice. 

Since few people realize the powerful role that thinking plays in their lives, few gain significant command of it. Most people are in many ways victims of their thinking; that is, they are  hurt  rather than  helped  by it. Most people are their own worst enemies. Their thinking is a continual source of problems, preventing them from recognizing opportunities, keeping them from exerting energy where it will do the most good, poisoning relationships, and leading them down blind alleys. 

This course will introduce you to the tools the best thinkers use and will exemplify the activities and practice you can use to begin emulating them. Here are some of the qualities of the best thinkers:

  • The best thinkers think about their thinking.   They do not take thinking for granted. They do not trust to fate to make them good in thinking. They  notice their thinking. They  reflect  on their thinking. They act upon their thinking. 
  • The best thinkers are highly purposeful.   They do not simply act. They know why they act. They know what they are about. They have clear goals and clear priorities. They continually check their activities for alignment with their goals. 
  • The best thinkers have intellectual “tools” that they use to raise the quality of their thinking.   They know how to express their thinking clearly. They know how to check it for accuracy and precision. They know how to keep focused on a question and make sure that it is relevant to their goals and purposes. They know how to think beneath the surface and how to expand their thinking to include insights from multiple perspectives. They know how to think logically about and significantly.
  • The best thinkers distinguish their thoughts from their feelings and desires.   They know that wanting something to be so does not make it so. They know that one can be unjustifiably angry, afraid, or insecure. They do not let unexamined emotions determine their decisions. They have “discovered” their minds, and they examine the way their minds operate as a result. They take deliberate charge of those operations.
  • The best thinkers routinely take thinking apart.   They “analyze” thinking. They do not trust the mind to analyze itself automatically. They realize that analyzing thinking is an art one must consciously learn. They realize that it takes knowledge of the parts of thinking, and practice in exercising control over them.
  • The best thinkers routinely evaluate thinking, determining its strengths and weaknesses.   They do not trust the mind to evaluate itself automatically. They realize that the automatic ways in which the mind evaluates itself are inherently flawed. They realize that evaluating thinking is an art one must consciously learn. They realize that it takes knowledge of the universal standards for thinking, and practice in exercising control over them.     

This course, as a whole, will introduce you to the tools of mind that will help you reason well through the problems and issues you face - whether in the classroom, in your personal life, or in your professional life. If you take these ideas seriously, and practice using them, you can take command of the thinking that ultimately will command the quality of your life. 

As an outcome of this course, you will: 

  • Demonstrate understanding of the importance of fairminded critical thinking in the cultivation of fairminded critical societies.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the parts of thinking, or 'Elements of Thought,' and how these parts work together in reasoning. 
  • Demonstrate understanding of universal Intellectual Standards and their importance in human reasoning. 
  • Demonstrate understanding of the barriers to critical thinking development, and of the ability to intervene in thinking to improve it. 
  • Articulate and exemplify the primary concepts in critical thinking, and how they can be used as tools for understanding and improving human reasoning. 
  • Articulate understanding of the problem of media bias and propaganda as a barrier to critical thought in human societies. 
  • Demonstrate understanding of ethical reasoning, and show comprehension of the differences between ethics and other modes of thought - including religion, social ideologies, politics, and law. 
  • Demonstrate abilities in close reading and substantive writing.


Frequently Asked Course Questions... How do the critical thinking online courses work?

Our online courses are run through Prior to the beginning of the course, we email each registrant with the URL of the course and his or her respective login information. Assignments, feedback, and so forth can all be viewed through this online portal.

Who teaches the courses?

Each course is taught by an instructor educated in the Paul-Elder conception of critical thinking and under the direction of the Foundation's Senior Fellows. Currently, the course instructor is Dr. Paul Bankes:

Dr. Paul Bankes is Executive Director of Elementary Education for the Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado. For more than 10 years, Dr. Bankes has played an important leadership role in fostering the Paulian conception of critical thinking in instruction across his district. As a principal, he led the implementation of this critical thinking approach to achieve state recognized levels of achievement in three different Title I schools - a high school, a middle school and an elementary school. He helped author the reasoning portion of the Colorado Academic Standards that are based on the Paul-Elder framework.  In addition to his administrative experience, Dr. Bankes has taught courses at the college level in critical thinking and served as an elementary teacher.

Dr. Bankes can be reached at

Is there academic credit available for the course?

The course does have academic credit available through Sonoma State University:

  • 3 units Philosophy credit 
  • 4.5 CEUs of Nursing credit. 
What are the course costs, and what do they cover?

Registration fees include costs for tuition, all course materials, and academic credit (should you wish to pursue it). The registration fee is $942 without credit. Add $195 if you are taking the course for Philosophy credits, or $100 if you are taking it for Nursing CEU's.

Will I receive a certificate of completion?

A certificate of completion can be provided upon request.

How will I receive my materials for the class?

The course materials will be available online in a digital format.