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2005 Preconference (Archived)


The 25th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking

Pre-Conference Workshops

Choose one of the following workshop options for each day:

July 9, 2005

Foundational Workshop

An Introduction to the Fundamentals of Critical Thinking . . . Dr. Linda Elder

Foundational concepts in critical thinking will be covered in this session, while more specific dimensions of critical thinking, or a more advanced approach, will be the focus of International Conference sessions. This session, then, lays the foundation for the other sessions. It will introduce you to 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. In all conference sessions, we understand critical thinking not as something additional to content, but rather as skills, insights, and values integral to it. We focus, therefore, on illustrating how students can come to see what they are learning not as random bits and pieces of information to be memorized, but as a system with a definite set of logical relationships, an organized structure of concepts, principles, and understandings they must think their way through in order to learn content.

Socratic Questioning: Foundational . . . Dr. Richard Paul

All thinking is driven by questions. Good questions generate good thinking. Bad questions generate bad thinking. Deep questions, deep thinking. No questions, no thinking. To think well about thinking we need to learn how to ask questions that take thinking apart and reveal to us how the parts of our thinking are functioning together. In this session, Richard Paul will provide an introduction to the theory and practice of Socratic Questioning, through emphasis on the foundations of critical thinking. Participants will be engaged in Socratic dialogue, and will gain introductory experience in Socratic questioning, that with practice can lead to an increasingly richer understanding of the power inherent in disciplined questioning as a tool of both teaching and learning.

Teaching Students Fundamental and Powerful Concepts . . . Dr. 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 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.

July 10, 2005

Socratic Questioning: Advanced . . . Dr. Richard Paul

This session is a follow-up session to the Socratic Questioning: Foundational session, or for those who have already been introduced to the foundations of critical thinking. It provides advanced practice in Socratic questioning, with emphasis on developing an inner voice that monitors, assesses, and reconstitutes reasoning. It emphasizes the important role of questioning in understanding and reasoning through any discipline whatsoever. Physics, Literature, Geography, History, Sociology, Mathematics---these are some of the various subject disciplines in which students should learn to think. Each defines questions and purposes and utilizes concepts and procedures unique to itself. And yet each shares in common structures of thought and is subject to the same general intellectual criteria and standards. The art of Socratic questioning, therefore, is important in each of them, as indeed it is in all domains of human knowledge. The goal of Socratic questioning, then, is to establish an additional level of thinking to our thinking, a powerful inner voice of reason, to monitor, assess, and re-constitute--in a more rational direction--our thinking, feeling, and action. Socratic discussion cultivates that inner voice.

Critical Thinking:
The Key to Taking Charge of Your Personal and Professional Life . . . Dr. Linda Elder

You are what you think. Whatever you are doing right now, whatever you feel, whatever you want--all are determined by the quality of your thinking. If your thinking is unrealistic, your thinking will lead 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. As Milton says in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell.”

If the quality of your life is not what you would wish it to be, it is probably because it is tied to the way you think about your life. If you think about it positively, you will feel positive about it. If you think about it negatively, you will feel negative about it. In human life, thinking is largely subconscious, that is, rarely put into words explicitly. The problem is that when you are not aware of your thinking you have no chance of “correcting” it. When thinking is subconscious, you are in no position to see problems in it. And, if you don’t see problems in it, you won't be motivated to “solve” these problems.

But if you focus on improving the quality of your thinking, you can better achieve your goals and ambitions, make better decisions, and understand when others are trying to influence your thinking. You can then take better charge of what you do in your professional and personal life, how you relate to others, and even what emotions you feel. You become a better problem solver. You use power more wisely. You become less subject to manipulation. You live a fuller, a more happy and secure life. This session starts you on the path.

Using Critical Thinking Strategies to Assess
Students Learning and Thinking Within a Discipline . . . Dr. Gerald Nosich

This session will focus on a number of interrelated ways to assess the extent to which students are thinking critically within a discipline. Each strategy will emphasize reasoning through what is most central and important in the discipline. For example, asking students to write a response to central questions in the discipline serves as an excellent pre- and post-test for learning to think critically within the discipline. In a science course, it might well be “How does the physical world operate?” In an economics class, it might be “How are goods and services distributed and consumed within a given society? How should they be?” In answering fundamental questions, we can require students to organize a well-thought-through way of fitting the key insights in the course together as a whole. This session will focus on a variety of examples within multiple subjects (disciplines) that highlight assessment strategies aimed at deep learning. A holistic approach will be taken to the assessment process, with emphasis on both analysis and synthesis.

*These workshops are strongly recommended for those who have not previously taken a foundational workshop in critical thinking.

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