The Oxford Tutorial
The Advanced Seminar at the September 2019 Critical Thinking Educators and Administrators Academy
Compton Gardens and Conference Center
312 N. Main St.
Bentonville, AR 72712
September 26 - 29, 2019
On the Oxford Tutorial
There is a significant convergence between the best practices of the classic Oxford Tutorial and the framework for teaching critical thinking constructed, over the last four decades, by Foundation for Critical Thinking Fellows and Scholars. Both approaches – the traditional Oxford Tutorial and the emergent Critical Thinking instructional framework – emphasize:
Through these processes, students learn how to read, write, speak, and listen in a new way (critically). Most importantly, they learn how to learn using disciplined reading, writing, speaking, and listening as modalities essential to the development of knowledge. Under these approaches, students learn to:
- Teaching with a Socratic spirit (teaching with emphasis on the student taking ownership of content through actively thinking it through). In this mode of teaching, the inquiry process is more important than the answer, while rote memorization is accorded little importance.
- Teaching with Intellectual Standards, meaning students are expected to adhere to clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and significance in their academic discourse. In this mode of teaching, intellectual discipline and rigor is expected and fostered.
- Teaching that encourages students to identify key structural components in thinking (purposes, questions at issue, information and data, inferences and interpretations, concepts and theories, assumptions and presuppositions, implications and consequences, and points of view and frames of reference).
- Teaching that requires students to read, write, listen, and speak critically.
- Teaching that is dialogical, wherein the student learns to question the thinking of others and to expect his or her thinking to be questioned by others.
- Teaching that encourages students to think for themselves while exercising intellectual humility and intellectual empathy.
- Teaching that locates ultimate intellectual authority in evidence and reasoning, rather than in authority figures or “authoritative” beliefs or texts.
- Raise vital questions and problems.
- Gather and assess important information.
- Come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions.
- Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought.
- Communicate effectively with others.
- Figure out practical solutions to complex problems.
The same processes are used for deep learning and useful contextualization at any level of stud,y for any scholar with a disinterested approach to learning and scholarship. Therefore, these same processes – namely, critical reading, critical writing, critical speaking, and critical listening – form the core learning processes in all of our academies. This format enables scholars to go further into the concepts of critical thinking in order to better and more effectively contextualize these concepts within academic subjects, professions, and throughout human life.
Oxford Tutorial Teaching Strategies
Consider the following Oxford Tutorial teaching strategies adapted to a class size of twenty-five:
- In the traditional one-on-one setting, the tutor might Socratically question the tutee. In a one-on-twenty-five setting, the instructor might Socratically question the class as a whole (randomly calling on students to voice their views).
- In the traditional one-on-one setting, the tutor might assign the tutee to draft a short essay on a key concept or question relevant to learning some dimension of content. In a one-on-twenty-five setting, the instructor might assign the same essay to the class as a whole.
- In the traditional one-on-one setting, the tutor might discuss with the tutee her or his reasoning in a short essay (focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the essay). In a one-on-twenty-five setting, the instructor might break the class into groups of two, three, or four, with each student taking turns both questioning and being questioned by the other student(s) in the group (in a disciplined process of analyzing and assessing each student essay under the direction of the instructor).
Using these and similar methods, students would learn to play, reciprocally and ever more effectively, both the role of the tutor and that of the tutee.
In the Advanced Seminar we shall function in group Oxford Tutorial format, which will help participants experience a variety of ways in which this design can be made practical.
The Oxford Tutorial and Teaching for Critical Thinking: The Common Denominator
In both the Oxford Tutorial method of teaching and the evolving Teaching for Critical Thinking framework, students are assigned regular work that forces them to become engaged in thinking systematically through a curriculum. The result is that students learn how to learn: how to read well, to write well, to speak well, to listen well, and, in sum, to think well.
The main strength of the Oxford Tutorial is not in a precise set of formal arrangements, but in the tutor’s ability to adapt arrangements to accomplish important academic, intellectual goals.
The methods of teaching for critical thinking embody rich, powerful pedagogical strategies that approximate the means and ends of the Oxford Tutorial approach. Seeing and experiencing some of the most powerful of these alternative teaching structures will be a principal goal of the Academy.
To be held at Compton Gardens and Conference Center
312 N. Main St.
Bentonville, AR 72712
September 26-29, 2019