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Workshop Descriptions


This is a list of our most popular workshop strands. We suggest that institutions begin with a foundational workshop in critical thinking. Any of these strands can be combined to focus on the goals and needs of your institution. Our presenters can discuss workshop possibilities with you, and make recommendations based on your needs. For more information on our Professional Development program, please fill out our short information request form.

Foundational: An Introduction to The Fundamentals of Critical Thinking & the Art of Instruction

This is strongly recommended for those who have not previously taken a foundational workshop in critical thinking. It will introduce the basic components of critical thinking, ways to build those components into the design of what you teach, and ways to make that design effective.

We do not understand critical thinking as something additional to content, but rather as integral to it. We focus, therefore, on teaching students to learn not random bits and pieces of information, but systems, organized networks of concepts, active modes of thinking.

Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of critical thinking, understanding in general why it is essential to the mastery of content and effective day-to-day problem solving

  2. form a basic concept of the affective and cognitive principles & strategies essential to critical teaching

  3. practice using critical thinking in the solution of some everyday problems as well as in the redesign of instructional units.

Program Description

The session begins with a general introduction to critical thinking and to its significance not only to the academic but also to the vocational and personal success of students. This first session closes with questions and answers. It is followed by hands-on sessions during which small group activities are used to illustrate the application of various dimensions of critical thinking strategies to instruction as well as to personal life.

Each session is designed to build on the previous sessions and cultivates increasing knowledge of and skill in critical teaching. Specific topics include: the intellectual standards essential to in-depth, higher-order learning; the basic vocabulary of critical thinking; the micro-skills and macro-abilities of critical thinking; the importance of precision in language usage; how to question students Socratically; how to design assignments, activities, and tests that require critical thinking; and how to assess critical thinking skills and abilities.


Critical Thinking and Socratic Questioning

This will provide for an in-depth introduction into the theory and practice of Socratic questioning. It will include a review of the basic concepts of critical thinking: the elements of thought, the intellectual standards, and critical thinking abilities and traits. It will then relate these foundational concepts, understandings, and skills to the art of Socratic questioning.


Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of the interrelation of doubting, questioning, and learning, and a general understanding of why it is essential to question in order to master content and discipline the mind

  2. form a basic concept of the kinds of questioning strategies that foster the simultaneous development of disciplined thinking and learning

  3. form a basic concept of how to question students so that they, in turn, analytically question what they read, write, think, and believe

  4. Program Description: The session begins with a general introduction into the interrelation of doubting, questioning, and learning and why it is essential to doubt and question in order to master content and discipline the mind.

This first session closes with questions and answers. It is followed by 3 or 7 hands-on sessions (depending upon whether it is a one or two-day session) which focus on small group activities.

The second session focuses on critical reading (with a practice passage supplied by the presenter).

The third session demonstrates how the basic elements of thought (purpose or goal, problem or question at issue, assumptions, data or facts, concepts and theory, implications and consequences, alternative points of view) can each be made the focus of questions.

Each session thereafter is designed to build on the previous sessions and involves

  1. directed practice in Socratic questioning and

  2. the design of assignments, activities, and assessment tools for same. Specific topics include: questioning to discover the structure of thought, questioning to develop the logic of one's own thought, forms of questioning as modes of thinking, assessing thinking through disciplined questioning, the role of questioning in reading and writing, questioning and the disciplining of the mind.

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Critical Thinking and the Process of Assessment

We focus on the process of assessment: how to use it effectively ourselves and how to teach students to use it. We emphasize the general logic of all assessment.

To assess, we need a purpose, an object (something to be assessed), criteria of assessment, facts about our object, and judgments about our object based on the purpose, criteria, and facts. In the workshop we will look at various forms of assessment in use.

Assessment is a process crucial to critical thinking and to successful teaching and learning. Learning to think critically is learning to assess our own thinking and improving our thinking as a result of that assessment. When we teach well, we use assessment for multiple purposes.

Our knowledge of the process of assessment can enable us to better assess classroom design, modes of testing, standardized tests, student performances, the thinking of students, the modeling of thinking, students' learning of content, students' reading, writing, speaking, and listening, and students' assessment of their own work. All of these dimensions of assessment will be covered in this workshop.

Participants will learn how to make better assessment decisions. The result will be higher quality assessment both in our teaching and in student learning.

I. Introduction to Assessment

Participants are introduced to the fundamental logic of all assessment: its contrast with subjective preference, its basis in assessment goals, the requirement of objective facts, relevant criteria, valid reasoning, and a fair application of criteria to data. A checklist for all assessment is developed.

II. Critical Thinking Tests & The Improvement of Instruction

The common features, advantages, and disadvantages of available critical thinking tests are presented and discussed. A case is made for the use of an essay test (such as that available from the International Center for the Assessment of Thinking) suitable to intradisciplinary as well as interdisciplinary testing of critical thinking. The speaker demonstrates how a testing program can be devised which is coordinated with faculty development, in-house student and programmatic assessment, and a long range instructional improvement plan.

III. Teaching Students to Assess Each Other's Work

Emphasis is placed on the theory which aims directly at teaching students how to assess each other's work. It is based on years of classroom experimentation and experience (on the part of presenters) with faculty models aimed at student assessment.



Critical Thinking, Socratic Questioning, and Assessment

Systematic questioning and self-assessment are crucial not only to critical thinking but to effective teaching and learning as well. This think tank will focus on combining Socratic questioning sessions with practice in peer and group assessment.

Participants will learn how to design instruction so that Socratic questioning plays a significant role in learning and so that students, as well as instructors, initiate and use it. Participants will also learn how to facilitate students learning how to assess their own work and that of their peers.



Critical Thinking and the Health Care Professions

Teaching, learning, and the quality of practice in the health care professions can be significantly improved through reflective, critical thinking. In this think tank, the emphasis will be on how to activate critical thinking in professional education and practice in the health care professions.

The sessions will be relevant to those whose professional commitment is in any of the following fields: Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Health, Physical Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Adjunct Therapies, Nutrition, Homeopathic Medicine, Dentistry, etc.



Critical Thinking and Writing


This workshop will be focused on such questions as:

What is the role of thinking in writing?

What is the role of writing in the development of thinking?

How can we foster critical thinking through written assignments? How can we teach content better by the use of writing assignments (that require students to think through the content)?

How can we improve student writing by teaching them how to think like a good writer?

How can we teach students how to assess their own writing and give effective feedback for improvement?

How can we give students multiple writing assignments while ensuring that we have a minimal number of papers to grade?

As a result of this workshop, instructors will be able to design instruction so that students improve their learning through extensive writing (without adding additional work for the instructor.)



Critical Thinking in the Social Studies and Disciplines

In this think tank, participants will learn how to facilitate an emphasis on critical thinking in instruction in the Social Sciences. This think tank is relevant to those in the fields of: Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, History, Economics, Political Science, Communication Studies, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Urban Studies, etc.



Critical Thinking in the Arts and Humanities

In this think tank, participants will learn how to facilitate an emphasis on critical thinking in instruction in the Arts and Humanities. This think tank will be relevant to those in the fields of: Literature, Languages, Linguistics, Philosophy, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Classical Studies, Music, Religious Studies, etc.



Critical Thinking in Science and Math

In this think tank, participants will learn how to facilitate an emphasis on critical thinking in instruction in the Sciences and Math. This think tank will be relevant to those in the fields of: Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Physics, Geology, Environmental Studies, Computer Science, Mathematics, etc.



Critical Thinking in the Professions

In this think tank, the emphasis will be on how to facilitate critical thinking in professional education and practice. This think tank is relevant to those in the fields of: Business, Law, Social Work, Psychology, Medicine, Education, Management, Engineering, etc.



Teaching Students to Think Theoretically and Empirically

Learning to think theoretically and empirically within a discipline is essential not only to learning its most important content but also to internalizing it as a dimension of lifelong thinking and learning. Students should enter each course, therefore, prepared to internalize theory as well as to analyze and evaluate information.

Unfortunately, we know all-too-well that students are not so prepared, but look to us to spoon-feed them "important" bits and pieces of stuff to memorize for the test. Few students know how to isolate, or learn, important theories or important data. In this workshop, participants will learn how to put these two important dimensions of thought into a discipline-comprehensive perspective, design assignments, and foster student self-assessment in these important modalities of thought.



How To Teach Students To Ask Good Questions and Follow Out the Implications of Thought

One cannot be a good thinker and a poor questioner. Questions are the driving force of thinking. Clear and exact questions lead to clear and exact answers. Unclear questions lead to unclear thought, and therefore, unclear answers. In instruction, we should aim to help students discover how to ask powerful and significant questions. We should help them discover that the questions they ask, or fail to ask, are more important than the answers they give. This workshop will focus on teaching strategies, which can be effectively used in the classroom to facilitate student command of the questioning process.



Critical Thinking in Elementary School Instruction

Critical thinking is a way of thinking that enables us to think at the highest level we are capable of. This think tank will emphasize the process of using critical thinking as an organizing concept for all instruction at the elementary school level. It will also highlight a highly successful model of long-term staff development, which is being used by the staff of San Francisco Day School (a private elementary and middle school in San Francisco, CA).



How To Teach Students Intellectual Standards and Values

Critical thinking is a way of thinking based on fundamental intellectual standards and values. One must value clarity, accuracy, and precision of thought. One must value relevance, depth, and breadth of thought. One must strive to think logically. One must value intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, and intellectual perseverance. One must have confidence in reason. But one cannot value what one does not understand and has not experienced.

This think tank will focus on the process of fostering understanding, appreciation, and command of intellectual standards and values. The key question will be, "How can we, by practical in-class teaching strategies, foster student command of intellectual standards and values (in whatever subject we teach)?"



Teaching Students to Enter, Analyze, and Evaluate Points of View

The accumulation of knowledge that education at its best represents is not a matter of mindless memorization but of discipline-based thinking that transforms our vision and experience. To see the world historically, sociologically, anthropologically, geologically, biologically, chemically, mathematically--to see the world as a poet, dramatist, artist, economist---to apprehend the world from an Occidental, Oriental, Eastern, Middle-Eastern, Western point of view---is a crucial and essential part of appreciating the power of thought and knowledge.

No one can master all points of view, but the ability to enter, analyze, and evaluate a point of view in the contexts that demand such thinking is essential for everyone who would successfully deal with an increasingly complex world. In this think tank, we will focus on teaching students how to learn a discipline as a way of seeing the world.



Teaching For Emotional Intelligence

Emotions and passions play a powerful role in human life. They can help or hurt us. They can be based on insight and depth of thought. They can be grounded in illusion, prejudice, and self-deception. Emotional intelligence, properly understood, is not best understood as an isolated phenomenon in the mind, but as an integrated by-product of gaining command of the full faculties of mind: thought, emotions, and desire working together.

Student emotions play an important part in their lives as students. When they bring irrational fears, past antagonisms, and inflexible, superficial ideas into the classroom, their learning is deeply flawed. This think tank focuses on teaching strategies which foster powerful, and rational, emotions and values: emotions and values that help guide the student toward deep and powerful learning. Through the development of rational emotions and values students can become lifelong learners and ethically sensitive persons.



Critical Thinking in Middle and High School Instruction

To learn, students must think. To learn well, students must think well. Critical thinking is a way of thinking that enables us to think at the highest level we are capable of. This think tank will emphasize the process of using critical thinking as an organizing concept for all instruction at the middle and high school level. It will also highlight successful model of long-term staff development - San Francisco Day School elementary school.



Questioning Students and Teaching Students to Question

Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of the interrelation of questioning and learning and a general understanding of why it is essential to question in order to master content and discipline the mind;
  2. form a basic concept of the kinds of questioning strategies that foster the simultaneous development of disciplined thinking and learning;
  3. form a basic concept of how to question students so that they, in turn, analytically question what they read, write, think, and believe.

Program Description

The session begins with a general introduction into the interrelation of questioning and learning and why it is essential to pose questions in order to master content and discipline the mind. This first session closes with questions and answers.

It is followed by 3 or 7 hands-on sessions (depending upon whether it is a one or two-day session) which focus on small group activities.

The second session focuses on critical reading (with a practice passage supplied by the presenter).

The third session demonstrates how the basic elements of thought (purpose or goal, problem or question at issue, assumptions, data or facts, concepts and theory, implications and consequences, alternative points of view) can each be made the focus of questions.

Each session thereafter is designed to build on the previous sessions and involves

  1. directed practice in Socratic questioning and
  2. the design of assignments, activities and assessment tools for same. Specific topics include: questioning to discover the structure of thought, questioning to develop the logic of one's own thought, forms of questioning as modes of thinking, assessing thinking through disciplined questioning, the role of questioning in reading and writing, questioning and the disciplining of the mind.



Critical Thinking and the Affective Dimension: Fostering Rational Motivation in Students

Participants Will

  1. form a basic understanding of the relationship between cognition and affect.
  2. form a basic understanding of how to teach students to take command of both the affective and cognitive dimensions of their minds.
  3. design instructional structures which maximally engage students in learning, structures which will motivate them to learn the content inherent in the course.

Program Description

Students, like all of us, spend most of their time thinking about what they personally value. Their emotional life is a reflection of the extent to which they are achieving their personal goals--as measured by their own thinking.

Students internalize the knowledge they value, therefore, our teaching must take into account the emotions and values of our students. If the goal of education is to have a positive impact in the lives of our students, educators must face the challenge of showing the relevance of academic modes of thinking to the students personal lives.

Each academic discipline can be taught as a powerful mode of thinking which can transform the lives of students, but only if students are open to them, and are willing to re-create them inwardly and personally.

This session will provide ways to design instruction so that students internalize academic modes of thinking. The foundations of this session lie in the concomitant relationship between cognitive and affect, i.e. thinking underlies emotions and emotions underlie thinking.



Analytic Reading and Writing as Modes of Thinking

Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of the interrelation of reading, writing, and thinking and a general understanding of why it is essential to teach each in conjunction with the others

  2. form a basic concept of the kinds of teaching strategies that foster the simultaneous development of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills

  3. form a basic concept of how to assess while you get your students to assess reading, writing, and thinking

Program Description

The session begins with a general introduction into critical reading, writing, and thinking, laying out why it is essential to teach each of these skills and abilities in conjunction with each other, rather than in isolation.

This first session closes with questions and answers. It is followed by hands-on sessions which focus on small group activities.

The second session focuses on critical reading.

The third session focuses on a writing assignment based on teacher-developed analyses of the reading passage in the previous session.

Each session thereafter is designed to build on the previous sessions and involves

  1. directed practice in reading, writing, and critical thinking

  2. the design of assignments, activities and assessment tools for same. Specific topics include: reading to discover the structure of thought of the writer, writing to develop the logic of one's own thought, reading and writing as modes of thinking, assessing reading and writing, helping students to assess their own reading and writing, the role of Socratic questioning in reading and writing, the importance of precision in language usage, reading/writing and the disciplining of the mind.



Ethics Without Indoctrination: Moral Reasoning Across the Curriculum

Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of the complexity of everyday moral issues and of the intellectual dimension of morality;
  2. form a basic concept of the universal common core of general ethical principles (e.g., that it is morally wrong to cheat, deceive, exploit, abuse, harm, or steal from others, etc.);
  3. form a basic concept of how to integrate moral issues into subject domains (e.g. into literature, science, social studies, the arts, and vocational studies).

Program Description

The session begins with a general introduction into the nature of moral judgment and reasoning and why critical thinking needs to be at the heart of ethical reflection and reasoning.

The danger of moral indoctrination is explained. This first session is 1 &1/2 hours and closes with questions and answers. It is followed by 3 or 7 hands-on sessions (depending on whether it is a one or two day session) which focus on small group activities. The second session focuses on the critical reading of a text which raises a moral issue of significance in everyday life.

Participants Work in Groups to Distinguish

a) relevant moral principles

b) the perspective or view point of the reasoner

c) the facts relevant to the moral question at issue

This activity can be replicated in the classroom and establishes a paradigm for student discussion of moral issues.

The third session highlights the standards for assessing student reasoning concerning moral issues and questions and demonstrates how the intellectual standards that apply to technical issues and reasoning (clarity, accuracy, precision, evidence, consistency, coherence, relevance, depth, and breadth) apply with the same relevance to moral issues and reasoning. Each session thereafter is designed to build on the previous sessions and involves

1) directed practice in moral reasoning

2) the design of assignments, activities, and assessment tools for same. Specific topics include: analyzing an issue to determine whether it is a moral issue in whole or part; developing student proficiency in moral reasoning; moral reasoning as a mode of thinking; how to assess moral reasoning; grasping the relationship between intellectual and moral integrity; using moral language precisely; the relationship between moral judgment and the disciplining of the mind.



Critical Thinking: The Role of Administration

Outcomes

Participants Will

  1. form a basic concept of what is needed to facilitate the development of a school environment inside and outside the classroom that is conducive to critical thinking, mastery of content, and the disciplining of the mind

  2. appreciate why long-term critical thinking staff development is essential for success

  3. grasp some of the major obstacles to progress in cultivating the critical thinking of teachers and students.

Program Description

The presenter will analyze in general terms the problem of critical thinking infusion across the curriculum and then leads a discussion on the subject.