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31st Conference Sessions

Choose from the following sessions when registering. Choose one for each day section.  See preconference and conference schedule and sessions for full titles and descriptions.

  • Developing a Substantive Approach to Socratic Questioning Through Critical Thinking
  • 25 Weeks to Better Thinking and Better Living: Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Take Charge of Your Life
  • Three Historical Approaches to Critical Thinking and Their Significance for the Design and Assessment of Post-Secondary Curriculum
  • CANCELED How to Work Together with Colleagues to deepen Your Understanding of Critical Thinking Through Extended Book Studies
  • Teaching Students to Think Within a Field or Discipline
  • What are Intellectual Traits and How Does One Teach for Them?
  • Understanding the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Emancipating the Mind
  • Fostering Critical Thinking in the Secondary Classroom
  • Advanced Session: ‘On the potential of the critical vocabulary of the English language as an academic lingua franca’ (for returning registrants)
DAY TWO Morning
  • The Role of Administration in Creating Critical Thinking Communities
  • Using Peer Review on a Typical Day to Foster Substantive Critical Thinking
  • Teaching Students to Distinguish Strong and Weak Sense Critical Thinking
  • Fostering Critical Thinking in the Social Disciplines 
DAY TWO Afternoon
  • Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Teach Students How to Study and Learn
  • Why Transfer of Learning is a Common Consequent of Teaching for Critical Thinking 
  • Teaching for Intellectual Autonomy and Intellectual Courage
  • Sociocentric Thinking as a Barrier to Cultivating the Intellect
  • Concurrent sessions - choose at the conference
DAY FOUR Morning 
  • Teaching Students Fundamental and Powerful Concepts
  • Why I am Ashamed to Belong to the Human Species 
  • What I Think of When I Design Instruction
  • The Art of Close Reading and Substantive Writing

Conference Sessions:
Choose from among a number of sessions when registering. Click on each session title below to read the session description. 

Conference Plan and Sessions:

PRE-CONFERENCE: Saturday and Sunday
(you choose one of the following in-depth two-day sessions)…

: Monday - Thursday

: Monday
(you indicate one of the following sessions, which runs all day following the morning key-note address)
DAY TWO Morning
: Tuesday
(you choose one of the following sessions for the morning)
DAY TWO Afternoon
: Tuesday
(you choose one of the following sessions for the afternoon)
: Wednesday
All Day Concurrent Sessions... concurrent session program to be posted during the spring 2011 semester. All sessions are invited.

DAY FOUR Morning
: Thursday
(you choose one of the following sessions for the morning)

Preconference Session Descriptions

(you choose one of the following in-depth two-day sessions)…
Developing a Substantive Approach to Socratic Questioning Through Critical Thinking… Gerald Nosich
Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to follow out logical implications of thought. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.
Teachers, students, or indeed anyone interested in probing thinking at a deep level can and should construct Socratic questions and engage in Socratic dialogue. When we use Socratic questioning in teaching, our purpose may be to probe student thinking, to determine the extent of their knowledge on a given topic, issue or subject, to model Socratic questioning for them, or to help them analyze a concept or line of reasoning. In the final analysis, we want students to learn the discipline of Socratic questioning, so that they begin to use it in reasoning through complex issues, in understanding and assessing the thinking of others, and in following-out the implications of what they, and others think.
The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking because the art of questioning is important to excellence of thought. Both critical thinking and Socratic questioning share a common end. Critical thinking provides the conceptual tools for understanding how the mind functions (in its pursuit of meaning and truth); and Socratic questioning employs those tools in framing questions essential to the pursuit of meaning and truth.
This session will focus on the mechanics of Socratic dialogue, on the conceptual tools critical thinking brings to Socratic dialogue, and on the importance of questioning in cultivating the disciplined mind.  The session will be highly interactive as participants practice Socratic question using the foundations of critical thinking.  

25 Weeks to Better Thinking and Better Living: Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Take Charge of Your Life… Linda Elder
There is nothing we do as humans that does not involve thinking. Our thinking tells us what to believe, what to reject, what is important, what is unimportant, what is true, what is false, who are our friends, who are our enemies, how we should spend our time, what jobs we should pursue, where we should live, who we should marry, how we should parent. Everything we know, believe, want, fear, and hope for, our thinking tells us. 
It follows, then, that the quality of our thinking is the primary determinant of the quality of our lives. It has implications for how we go about doing literally everything we do. The quality of your work is determined by the quality of your thinking as you reason through the problems you face as you work. The quality of your relationships is determined by the thinking you do about and in those relationships. 
Therefore, learning to think at the highest level of quality, or to think critically, is too important to leave to chance. Critical thinking is the disciplined art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of in any set of circumstances. Through developed critical capacities, you can take command of the thinking that commands you. In this preconference session, we will use the book:  25 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living (by Elder and Paul) as a launching pad for taking command of the thinking that is guiding everything we do, and all the ways in which we experience life.

Three Historical Approaches to Critical Thinking and Their Significance for the Design and Assessment of Post-Secondary Curriculum… Rush Cosgrove and Richard Paul 
In this session, three historical approaches to the history of critical thinking will be explored – with special emphasis on their significance for the design and assessment of the post secondary curriculum.  The first historical analysis will focus on the relation of criticality to the political and social struggle for power in human history.  We all share the experience of social indoctrination and acculturation, the result being that we are all raised to uncritically accept as true the beliefs and values of our society.  Recognizing the pervasiveness of this shaping of our life and thought heightens our awareness of the need to teach and learn in such a way as frees the mind from its social, cultural and political intolerance.  The second historical analysis will focus on the history of the disciplines.  The third historical analysis will focus on some of the great thinkers who have both challenged the paradigms that have limited the disciplines and developed insights that shifted the paradigms towards a more rational perspective.  The session will also focus on the significance of these historical analyses to how substantive critical thinking can be fostered in the curriculum and assessed academically.  This session, like all conference sessions, will be highly interactive.  Participants can expect to leave this session not only with a network of insights into the role of critical thinking in human history, but also with a richer grasp of practice-oriented theory.


these sessions begin after the keynote address.  Choose one of the following five options.  All will deal to some extent with the foundations of critical thinking:

Teaching Students to Think Within a Field or Discipline… Gerald Nosich
One of the main goals of instruction is to help the student internalize the most basic concepts in the subject and to learn to think through questions in everyday life using those concepts.  Critical thinking in biology is biological thinking.  Critical thinking in anatomy is anatomical thinking.  Critical thinking in literature is thinking the way a knowledgeable, sensitive, reasonable reader thinks about literature.  A discipline is more than a body of information.  It is a distinctive way (or set of ways) of looking at the world and thinking through a set of questions about it.  It is systematic and has a logic of its own.  In this session, participants will think thought the logic of a discipline of their choosing.  They will also focus on teaching the logic of their discipline so students internalize the way of thinking inherent in the subject as a life-long acquisition. 

What are Intellectual Traits and How Does One Teach for Them?…
Richard Paul

Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world. It is a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, and yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, to stand alone against the crowd. This session focuses on designing instruction that transforms the mind, instruction that fosters the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.

Understanding the Relationship Between Critical Thinking and Emancipating the Mind…
Linda Elder

Most people are trapped in their beliefs. They use ideas in their thinking that they are unaware of and have never examined for quality. They have developed a world view which influences much of their behavior, but of which they have little or no understanding. They are using assumptions accumulated throughout their lives which lead to their inferences and conclusions, but which they themselves have little or no awareness of. They are trapped in egocentric narrow-mindedness and sociocentric vested interest.


In short, the mind can be trapped in unexamined beliefs, concepts, assumptions, and world- views, or it can be freed through intellectual self-discipline and cultivation. This session will focus on the multiple ways that critical thinking can help us become more independent, and hence more free, in our thinking. It will focus on understanding the concepts and principles of critical thinking in ways that encourage students to “emancipate” their minds.

Fostering Critical Thinking in the Secondary Classroom…
Enoch Hale

Bringing critical thinking into the high school classroom entails understanding the concepts and principles embedded in critical thinking and then applying those concepts throughout the curriculum.   It means developing powerful strategies that emerge when we begin to understand critical thinking. In this session we will focus on strategies for engaging the intellect at the high school level. These strategies are powerful and useful, because each is a way to get students actively engaged in thinking about what they are trying to learn. Each represents a shift of responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. These strategies suggest ways to get your students to do the hard work of learning.

Advanced Session: ‘On the potential of the critical vocabulary of the English language as an academic lingua franca’...
Rush Cosgrove

This session considers the potential implications for teaching, learning, and research of a shared academic language based on the critical vocabulary of the English language (consisting in those general terms in the language that function as intellectual constructs relevant to the appropriate analysis or evaluation of thought, irrespective of its content or domain). This approach to teaching and learning should facilitate more effective and efficient communication among academic groups, making it easier to think and work together more productively and creating innovative possibilities for teaching, learning, and research. 
The basic premises are these: that, at present in academia, we do not maximize our potential to think and work together; that much of the reason is due to history and tradition, but much is a result of specialized academic discourse which, while having clear advantages, necessarily excludes those who are not conversant in that particular scholarly dialect; that this exclusion results in numerous negative implications (some being that students often find it difficult to enter into new fields; that teachers often find it difficult to share experiences and improve practice; and that cross-disciplinary and cross-methods research, the kind which, historically, produces highly fruitful innovations, is relatively rare); that a cross-disciplinary and shared academic language would ameliorate many of these limitations; that the critical vocabulary of the English language is an intriguing prospective candidate for laying the foundations of such an intra-disciplinary academic dialect; and that developing this language, on any foundation, would be beneficial in countless directions. 
In fact, we already do use this common language, though we often do so implicitly and inefficiently. In virtually every field we question for clarity and accuracy, for relevance, depth, breadth, and significance. In every field there are assumptions and questions, conclusions and concepts, information and implications, purposes and points of view. Furthermore, success in academia worldwide is dependent upon intellectual perseverance as well as a certain degree of intellectual empathy and open-mindedness. By making these concepts more explicit, by focusing on them as conceptual tools to be used for interrogation and communication, academic discourse might become more efficient and effective, opening up new and exciting possibilities for teaching, learning, and research.
Thus this session explores the critical analytic vocabulary implicit in the English language as the guiding force for teaching and learning.  This session is designed for returning registrants.  New conference attendees should choose a different session for Day One.  This session presupposes that participants have moderate understanding of the elements of reasoning, intellectual traits and intellectual virtues.


...choose one of the following four sessions:

The Role of Administration in Creating Critical Thinking Communities… Gerald Nosich

Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, through any problem or issue. With a substantive concept of critical thinking clearly in mind, we begin to see the pressing need for a staff development program that fosters critical thinking within and across the curriculum. As we come to understand a substantive concept of critical thinking, we are able to follow-out its implications in designing a professional development program. By means of it, we begin to see important implications for every part of the institution – redesigning policies, providing administrative support for critical thinking, rethinking the mission, coordinating and providing faculty workshops in critical thinking, redefining faculty as learners as well as teachers, assessing students, faculty, and the institution as a whole in terms of critical thinking abilities and traits. We realize that robust critical thinking should be the guiding force for all of our educational efforts. This session presents a professional development model that can provide the vehicle for deep change across the curriculum, across the institution.  It will utilize Dr. Elder’s article on professional development that has been published in TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION.

Using Peer Review on a Typical Day to Foster Substantive Critical Thinking…
Linda Elder

To acquire substantive knowledge, students need: 1) engagement in the active construction of knowledge and 2) constructive feedback for that construction. This session will focus on the second half of this need: the reception of constructive feedback. Students can learn how to improve their own thinking and that of others by learning simple techniques for giving constructive feedback. This session will focus on how to get students to give constructive feedback that helps others as they expand their knowledge and insight by getting constructive feedback from those others. Through this process, students can learn how to help other students think more clearly, accurately, precisely, relevantly, deeply, broadly, logically, and fairly (as they learn how to do so themselves).

Teaching Students to Distinguish Strong and Weak Sense Critical Thinking…
Richard Paul
Strong-sense critical thinkers are fundamentally concerned with reasoning at the highest level of skill, considering all the important available evidence, and respecting all relevant viewpoints. Their thought and behavior is characterized primarily by intellectual virtues or habits of mind. They avoid being blinded by their own viewpoints. They recognize the framework of assumptions and ideas upon which their own viewpoints are based. They realize the necessity of putting their assumptions and ideas to the test of the strongest objections that can be leveled against them. Most importantly, they can be moved by reason; in other words, they are willing to abandon their own ideas when other ideas prove more reasonable or valid.
Weak sense, or unethical critical thinkers, on the other hand do not hold themselves or those with whom they ego-identify to the same intellectual standards to which they hold opponents.  They do not reason empathically within points of view or frames of reference with which they disagree; they tend to think monologically (within one narrow perspective). They do not genuinely accept, though they may verbally espouse, the values of fairminded critical thinking.  They use intellectual skills selectively and self-deceptively to foster and serve their selfish interests at the expense of truth.  They use critical thinking skills to identify flaws in the reasoning of others and sophisticated arguments to refute others’ arguments before giving those arguments due consideration.  They routinely justify their irrational thinking through highly sophisticated rationalizations.  They are highly skilled at manipulation.
This session will thus explore the distinguishing characteristics of strong and weak sense critical thinkers, with the aim of fostering these essential understandings in student thought.

Fostering Critical Thinking in the Social Disciplines…
Enoch Hale
The social disciplines include academic courses that foster understanding of the individuals, groups and institutions that make up human society. They study how humans live together in groups in such a way that their dealings with one another affect their common welfare. In this session, we focus on fostering critical thinking within the social disciplines – within history, anthropology, geography, economics, political science, psychology and sociology.   

DAY TWO Afternoon

...choose one of the following four sessions: 
Using the Tools of Critical Thinking to Teach Students How to Study and Learn… Enoch Hale
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…
Richard Paul

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…
Gerald Nosich
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…
Linda Elder
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.

Day Three

All Day Concurrent Sessions


...choose one of the following four sessions:

Teaching Students Fundamental and Powerful Concepts… 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 foundational 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.

Why I am Ashamed to Belong to the Human Species…
Linda Elder
Humans often engage in irrational behavior. We fight. We start wars. We kill. We are self-destructive. We are petty and vindictive. We act out when we don’t get our way. We abuse our mates. We neglect our children. We rationalize, project, and stereotype. We act inconsistently, ignore relevant evidence, jump to conclusions, and say and believe things that don’t make good sense. We deceive ourselves in many ways. We are our own worst enemy.  In this session, we will explore some of the many problems caused by human thought and action.  We will begin to address these questions:  Why do humans behave in these irrational and unreasonable ways? What are the root causes of these problems?  And what, if anything, can be done about them?

What I Think of When I Design Instruction…
Richard Paul
Richard Paul is not only one of the leading theoreticians in critical thinking; he is also a distinguished teacher. Both his workshops and his classes are designed to foster intensive intellectual engagement of every student in every class. In this two-day preconference session, Dr. Paul will take you through his design of instruction, bringing you into how he thinks about instruction and how he contextualizes his knowledge of critical thinking in his classes.  Dr. Paul will demonstrate how to devise ways of teaching class sessions that progressively build on each other. Paul’s teaching strategies reflect insights implicit in successful Oxford tutorials and Cambridge supervisions. Of course, they are adapted to much larger student numbers (than that of the Oxford don teaching one or two students) and to students, on the whole, significantly less advanced. As part of the process, Paul will model the art of teaching critical reading, writing, and speaking.

The Art of Close Reading and Substantive Writing...
Enoch Hale
Educated persons are skilled at and routinely engage in close reading and substantive writing. When reading, they seek to learn from texts; they generate questions as they read and seek answers to those questions by reading widely and skillfully. In short, they seek to become better educated through reading. They do this through the process of intellectually interacting with the authors they read, as they read. They come to understand what they read by paraphrasing, elaborating, exemplifying, and illustrating what they read. They make connections as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read. 
Substantive writing, in turn, consists in focusing on a subject worth writing about and then saying something worth saying about it. It enhances our reading. It develops the more subjects we read and write about and the more points of view we use as tools for discovering important points. Whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should write to take ownership of that reading. Furthermore, just as we must write to gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas of a subject, so also must we write to begin to think within the subject as a whole and to make interconnections between ideas within and beyond the subject. Quite remarkably, many of our students have never read a text closely, nor written a substantive paper in all their years of schooling. Instead, they have developed the habit of skirting by with superficial and impressionistic reading, writing, and listening. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in close reading and substantive writing in content areas.