...choose one of the following four sessions:
Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Teach Students How to Study and Learn…
To study well and learn any subject is to learn how to think with discipline within that subject. It is to learn to think within its logic, to:
- raise vital questions and problems within it, formulating them clearly and precisely.
- gather and assess information, using ideas to interpret that information insightfully.
- come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards.
- adopt the point of view of the discipline, recognizing and assessing, as need be, its assumptions, implications, and practical consequences.
- communicate effectively with others using the language of the discipline and that of educated public discourse.
- relate what one is learning in the subject to other subjects and to what is significant in human life.
To become a skilled learner is to become a self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinker who has given assent to rigorous standards of thought and mindful command of their use. Skilled learning of a discipline requires that one respect the power of it, as well as its, and one’s own, historical and human limitations. This session will offer strategies for helping students begin to take learning seriously.
This session focuses on a number of instructional ideas that are based in the idea that substantive teaching and learning can occur only when students take ownership of the most basic principles and concepts of the subject. These strategies are rooted in a vision of instruction implied by critical thinking and an analysis of the weaknesses typically found in most traditional didactic lecture/quiz/test formats of instruction. This session, then focuses on some basic instructional strategies that foster the development of student thinking, and strategies that require students to think actively within the concepts and principles of the subject
Why Transfer of Learning is a Common Consequent of Teaching for Critical Thinking…
Transfer of learning is sometimes seen as an elusive process. But when we have command of the concepts and principles of critical thinking, we see them as the logical means for transfer of knowledge and ideas. For instance, when we understand that all reasoning entails assumptions, we can begin to look for assumptions within any field or discipline; we can relate the assumptions within disciplines to one another. When we understand that all reasoning entails concepts, we can begin to identify and connect concepts within and among disciplines. When we understand that all high quality reasoning entails the consistent use of intellectual standards, we can explicitly identify the intellectual standards relevant to thinking well within any field or discipline; we can identify the intellectual standards relevant to good reasoning within all disciplines. This session will thus explore the concepts and principles of critical thinking in relationship with transferring knowledge and learning.
Teaching for Intellectual Humility and Intellectual Courage…
Intellectual Humility means having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one’s beliefs.
Intellectual Courage means having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing. This courage is connected with the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part) and that conclusions and beliefs inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading. To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically “accept” what we have “learned.” Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for non-conformity can be severe. This session thus focuses on fostering these virtues in student thinking.
Sociocentric Thinking as a Barrier to Cultivating the Intellect…
Many of the most deep seated habits that humans acquire come from the process of being socialized or enculturated. Almost everything we think or do, we have been taught to think or do by the social groups that have shaped us. Those who want to free themselves from indoctrination, to become intellectually emancipated, must understand this problem as a significant barrier to their development and begin to see its influence on their daily thinking.
Living a human life entails membership in a variety of human groups. This typically includes groups such as nation, culture, profession, religion, family, and peer group. We find ourselves participating in groups before we are aware of ourselves as living beings. We find ourselves in groups in virtually every setting in which we function as persons. What is more, every group to which we belong has some social definition of itself and some usually unspoken “rules” that guide the behavior of all members. Each group to which we belong imposes some level of conformity on us as a condition of acceptance. This includes a set of beliefs, behaviors, and taboos.
For most people, blind conformity to group restrictions is automatic and unreflective. Most effortlessly conform without recognizing their conformity. They internalize group norms and beliefs, take on the group identity, and act as they are expected to act—without the least sense that what they are doing might reasonably be questioned. Most people function in social groups as unreflective participants in a range of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors analogous, in the structures to which they conform, to those of urban street gangs.
This conformity of thought, emotion, and action is not restricted to the masses, or the lowly, or the poor. It is characteristic of people in general, independent of their role in society, independent of status and prestige, independent of years of schooling. It is in all likelihood as true of college professors and their presidents as students and custodians, as true of senators and chief executives as it is of construction and assembly-line workers. Conformity of thought and behavior is the rule in humans, independence the rare exception.
This session will focus, then, on the problem of sociocentric thinking in human life, and its implications for living a rational life, as well as for teaching and learning.