Translate this page from English...

*Machine translated pages not guaranteed for accuracy.

Click Here for our professional translations.


Print Page Change Text Size: T T T

41st Conference Focal Session Descriptions



For a more detailed breakdown of all conference activities and breaks each day, please see the Daily Schedule.

 

 

Conference Entirely Online 

 Registration Closed

Pre-Conference: July 25
Main Conference: July 26 - July 30, 2021
 

 

Includes 10 weeks of free membership at our subscription website:
Center for Critical Thinking Community Online!
(Access begins July 19, 2021.)

To see a list of publications we recommend to help you internalize conference concepts, click here.


Session Menu 

Please Note:

1. To accomodate participants in different time zones around the world, some sessions occur more than once. Alongside the title of every such session below, a bracketed number indicates whether that session is a first, second, or third iteration of the same topic.

2. If a Focal Session Presenter loses his or her connection at any time, please wait for them to reconnect. If the connection cannot be re-established in a timely fashion, the session will be rescheduled and its new time announced to participants via email.


Click titles for session descriptions . . .


(Pre-Conference Sessions)

Sunday, July 25: 1:00 - 7:00 p.m. EDT  


Monday, July 26 12:00 - 2:30p.m. EDT

(Focal Sessions I)


Monday, July 26: 3:30 - 6:00p.m. EDT  

(Focal Sessions II)


Monday, July 26: 8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT

(Focal Sessions III)


Tuesday, July 27: 12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT
(Focal Sessions IV)

Tuesday, July 27: 3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT
(Focal Sessions V)

Wednesday, July 28
No Focal Sessions

Guest Presentations Posted at 3:00 p.m. EDT

Special Meetings
on Professional Development at 8:00 p.m. EDT

Thursday, July 29: 12:00 - 2:30p.m. EDT
(Focal Sessions VII)

Thursday, July 29: 3:30 - 6:00p.m. EDT
(Focal Sessions VIII)

Thursday, July 29: 8:00 - 10:30p.m. EDT
(Focal Sessions IX)

 

Sunday, July 25


1:00 - 7:00 p.m. EDT


Taking Initial Ownership of the Foundations of Critical Thinking… Dr. Brian Barnes

The elements of reasoning, proper standards for thought, and intellectual virtues together form the bedrock of critical thinking theory. Internalizing these conceptual sets and their relationships with each other is crucial to developing as a thinker, and to incorporating critical thinking in your learning, teaching, work, and life.

Most people who discover the fundamentals of critical thinking stop working with them before they have a chance to adequately take ownership of these concepts, and therefore to use them with significant consistency and effectiveness. This session lays the groundwork for taking ownership of the foundations of critical thinking, while beginning to apply them to life and work.


Socratic Questioning as a Primary Conceptual Toolbox for Teaching, Learning and Understanding... Dr. Gerald Nosich

Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including exploring complex ideas, getting to the truth of things, opening up issues and problems, uncovering assumptions, analyzing concepts, distinguishing what we know from what we don't know, and following out logical implications of thought. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep; it focuses on foundational concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems; and it advances the ethical dimension of thought (where ethics is relevant).

Teachers, students, professionals, government officials, and, indeed, anyone interested in probing thinking at a deep level should become skilled in constructing Socratic questions and engaging in Socratic dialogue. The art of Socratic questioning is intimately connected with critical thinking, because the art of questioning is indispensable 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; Socratic questioning employs those tools in framing questions essential to the pursuit of meaning and truth.

This session will introduce the methodology of Socratic dialogue and its relationship with the language and tools of critical thinking. It will be interactive as participants briefly practice Socratic questioning using the foundations of critical thinking.



Monday, July 26


12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions I)


Foundational for New Participants: Placing Critical Thinking at the Core of the Curriculum… Dr. Linda Elder

There are a number of connections we must make conceptually and pragmatically to successfully advance educational curricula. Most school practices still cluster around or emerge from either a didactic conception of learning, or group-centered activities void of proper standards, both of which makes the dominance of lower-order learning inevitable.

To get beyond this, students must learn to understand every subject as a mode of thinking that they will need to learn to think within, using critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, substantial improvements can only occur by restructuring math classes so students learn to think mathematically, history classes so students learn to think historically, science classes so students learn to think scientifically, and so on. In other words, we must approach our disciplines not as bodies of content to be delivered and consumed, but constellations of concepts to be reasoned through and internalized. By so doing, we provide a toolkit of actionable knowledge that can continue elevating our students’ thinking and learning long after they have completed our courses.

This session will provide practical approaches for kindling students’ reasoning faculties, enabling them to internalize (not just memorize) important ideas in your discipline, and focusing the educational process upon learners’ engagement rather than the instructor’s “delivery” of content.


Using the Tools of Critical Thinking in Business and Government for More Effective Results… Dr. Brian Barnes

Reasoning through issues and problems with skill and competence is essential to functioning at a high level in business and government. This requires understanding and internalizing fundamental critical thinking concepts and principles and using these concepts and principles routinely throughout the workday, as well as in planning for the future of the company or governmental agency. One set of critical thinking concepts and principles essential to competent reasoning comes from universal intellectual standards, such as clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, fairness, and sufficiency.

In this session, we will introduce and elaborate upon the intellectual standards, and participants will apply them within the context of business or government.


Advanced Session: Powerful Ideas You Are Using to Foster Critical Thinking… Dr. Paul Bankes

Most people who begin learning the tools of critical thinking stop before they have a chance to really internalize, and therefore use, these intellectual instruments. However, some go on to take the theory and application of critical thinking to deeper levels. This session is designed for participants who have worked with us before at previous events or in professional development, and who have started developing powerful ideas they have found useful in their learning, teaching, work, and/or lives.

Be prepared to share your ideas and experiences with others in the session! We want to know the instructional strategies you find most effective in fostering critical thinking, as well as the most significant challenges you face in advancing critical thinking as a teacher or other leader.




3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions II)


Foundational for New Participants: Placing Critical Thinking at the Core of the Curriculum… Dr. Gerald Nosich

There are a number of connections we must make conceptually and pragmatically to successfully advance educational curricula. Most school practices still cluster around or emerge from either a didactic conception of learning, or group-centered activities void of proper standards, both of which makes the dominance of lower-order learning inevitable.

To get beyond this, students must learn to understand every subject as a mode of thinking that they will need to learn to think within, using critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, substantial improvements can only occur by restructuring math classes so students learn to think mathematically, history classes so students learn to think historically, science classes so students learn to think scientifically, and so on. In other words, we must approach our disciplines not as bodies of content to be delivered and consumed, but constellations of concepts to be reasoned through and internalized. By so doing, we provide a toolkit of actionable knowledge that can continue elevating our students’ thinking and learning long after they have completed our courses.

This session will provide practical approaches for kindling students’ reasoning faculties, enabling them to internalize (not just memorize) important ideas in your discipline, and focusing the educational process upon learners’ engagement rather than the instructor’s “delivery” of content.


The Art of Asking Essential Questions... Dr. Brian Barnes

It is not possible to be a good thinker and a poor questioner. Questions define tasks, express problems, and delineate issues. They drive thinking forward. Answers, on the other hand, often bring an end to thought. Only when an answer generates further questions does thought continue as inquiry. A mind with no questions is a mind that is not intellectually alive. No questions (asked) equals no understanding (achieved). Superficial questions equal superficial understanding, unclear questions equal unclear understanding, and so on. If your mind is not actively generating questions, you are not engaged in substantive learning.

In this session we shall focus on practical strategies for generating questioning minds, and for using the art of inquiry to reach higher levels of learning, teaching, work, and living.


Fact Over Fake: How the Tools of Critical Thinking are Essential for Distinguishing Fact from Falsehood, Truth from Lies, Evidence from Disinformation… Ms. Carmen Polka

The logic behind bias and propaganda is simple, and it is the same the world over. Each society and culture has a unique world view. This colors what they see and how they see it. Media messaging reflects the world view of the culture for which that media is created. But the truth of what is happening in the world is much more complicated than what appears to be true in any culture. To be a critical consumer of media in any society, one must come to terms with this truth and filter accordingly. Critical thinking is a complex set of skills that reverses what is natural and instinctive in human thought. The uncritical mind is unconsciously driven to identify truth in accordance with the following tacit maxims:

  • “It’s true if I believe it.”
  • “It’s true if we believe it.”
  • “It’s true if we want to believe it.”
  • “It’s true if it serves our vested interest to believe it.”


The critical mind consciously seeks the truth in accordance with the following
instinct-correcting maxims:

  • “I believe it, but it may not be true.”
  • “We believe it, but we may be wrong.”
  • “We want to believe it, but we may be prejudiced by our desire.”
  • “It serves our vested interest to believe it, but our vested interest has nothing to do
  • with the truth.”


At the same time, media creators often operate with the following maxims:

  • “This is how it appears to us from our point of view; therefore, this is the way it is.”
  • “These are the facts that support our way of looking at this; therefore, these are the
  • most important facts.”
  • “These groups and people are friendly to us; therefore, they deserve praise.”
  • “These groups and people are unfriendly to us; therefore, they deserve criticism.”
  • “These are the things most interesting or sensational to our audience; therefore, these are the most important things to focus on.”


Critical readers and listeners reverse each of these maxims. This session discusses how to do this and thus reduce the influence of bias and propaganda on your thinking.


Practical Strategies for Improving Student Learning K-12… Dr. Paul Bankes

Bringing critical thinking into K-12 instruction entails understanding the concepts and principles within critical thinking and then applying them 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 all levels of instruction. These strategies are powerful and useful, because each is a way to engage students in actively thinking about what they are trying to learn. Each represents a shift of responsibility for learning from teacher to student. Through these strategies, students learn to discipline their thinking as they reason their way through content. They learn the importance of using the principles of critical thinking in reasoning through problems and issues in every subject and discipline.




8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions III)


Foundational for New Participants: Placing Critical Thinking at the Core of the Curriculum… Dr. Gerald Nosich

There are a number of connections we must make conceptually and pragmatically to successfully advance educational curricula. Most school practices still cluster around or emerge from either a didactic conception of learning, or group-centered activities void of proper standards, both of which makes the dominance of lower-order learning inevitable.

To get beyond this, students must learn to understand every subject as a mode of thinking that they will need to learn to think within, using critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, substantial improvements can only occur by restructuring math classes so students learn to think mathematically, history classes so students learn to think historically, science classes so students learn to think scientifically, and so on. In other words, we must approach our disciplines not as bodies of content to be delivered and consumed, but constellations of concepts to be reasoned through and internalized. By so doing, we provide a toolkit of actionable knowledge that can continue elevating our students’ thinking and learning long after they have completed our courses.

This session will provide practical approaches for kindling students’ reasoning faculties, enabling them to internalize (not just memorize) important ideas in your discipline, and focusing the educational process upon learners’ engagement rather than the instructor’s “delivery” of content.


How Socrates, Seneca and Other Classic Thinkers Contribute to Critical Thinking… Dr. Linda Elder

Classic literature, when well chosen, captures the highest-level standards in literature. One way of deepening our understanding of critical thinking and its role in history is to routinely and systematically interrelate explicit critical thinking concepts and principles with transformative ideas developed by deep thinkers throughout history. Many people in modern times - including many with extensive formal education - have little to no understanding of the important and essential ideas that have been developed by significant thinkers in history, nor do most know how to intellectually access or assess classic texts.

In this session, we will briefly consider the thinking of Socrates, Seneca, and other distinguished thinkers throughout history and discuss how these thoughts interrelate, as well as how they connect with the conceptual tools in critical thinking.


Fact Over Fake: How the Tools of Critical Thinking are Essential for Distinguishing Fact from Falsehood, Truth from Lies, Evidence from Disinformation… Ms. Carmen Polka

The logic behind bias and propaganda is simple, and it is the same the world over. Each society and culture has a unique world view. This colors what they see and how they see it. Media messaging reflects the world view of the culture for which that media is created. But the truth of what is happening in the world is much more complicated than what appears to be true in any culture. To be a critical consumer of media in any society, one must come to terms with this truth and filter accordingly. Critical thinking is a complex set of skills that reverses what is natural and instinctive in human thought. The uncritical mind is unconsciously driven to identify truth in accordance with the following tacit maxims:

  • “It’s true if I believe it.”
  • “It’s true if we believe it.”
  • “It’s true if we want to believe it.”
  • “It’s true if it serves our vested interest to believe it.”


The critical mind consciously seeks the truth in accordance with the following
instinct-correcting maxims:

  • “I believe it, but it may not be true.”
  • “We believe it, but we may be wrong.”
  • “We want to believe it, but we may be prejudiced by our desire.”
  • “It serves our vested interest to believe it, but our vested interest has nothing to do
  • with the truth.”


At the same time, media creators often operate with the following maxims:

  • “This is how it appears to us from our point of view; therefore, this is the way it is.”
  • “These are the facts that support our way of looking at this; therefore, these are the
  • most important facts.”
  • “These groups and people are friendly to us; therefore, they deserve praise.”
  • “These groups and people are unfriendly to us; therefore, they deserve criticism.”
  • “These are the things most interesting or sensational to our audience; therefore, these are the most important things to focus on.”


Critical readers and listeners reverse each of these maxims. This session discusses how to do this and thus reduce the influence of bias and propaganda on your thinking.



Tuesday, July 27


12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions IV)


Reasoning Critically Within the Logic of Any Subject, Profession or Domain of Thought... Dr. Paul Bankes

A primary use of critical thinking is to help the thinker internalize the most basic concepts in a given subject (an academic discipline, a profession, or another domain of reasoning), and to learn to think through questions in everyday life using those concepts. Critical thinking in biology is biological thinking; critical thinking in mathematics is mathematical thinking; critical thinking in aeronautics is aeronautical thinking; and so forth.
 
A discipline is more than a body of information, and a profession is more than a body of policies and procedures; they are distinctive ways (or set of ways) of looking at the world and thinking through a set of questions about it. They are systematic, and each has a logic of its own.

In this session, participants will think through the logic of a discipline, profession, or other domain of thought per their choosing. They will thereby begin to gain tools for internalizing the subject's way of thinking as a lifelong acquisition.


Intellectual Virtues as Fundamental to the Cultivated Person, the Educated Mind and to Democratic Societies... Dr. Linda Elder

Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world, and a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, and to stand alone against the crowd.

Intellectual traits go beyond knowing a given set of skills; they define a person's intellectual character. That character does not only influence the thinker and his or her social circle, but also the society in which the thinker lives. The success or failure of any society in which common citizens are empowered to participate will largely depend upon the degree to which they embody intellectual virtues, or in other words, intellectual character.

This session focuses on learning that transforms people into conscientious citizens, able to contribute to healthy democracies, through the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy,  intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.


Why Strong-Sense Critical Thinking is Essential to the Future of Business and Government... Dr. Brian Barnes

Can we deal with incessant, accelerating change and complexity without revolutionizing our thinking? Traditionally, our thinking has been designed for routine, habit, and rule-bound procedures. Not long ago, we learned how to do our jobs, and then we used what we learned over and over in performing those jobs. But the problems we now face, and will increasingly face, require a radically different form of thinking: thinking that is more complex, more adaptable, and more sensitive to divergent points of view. The world in which we now live requires that we continually relearn, that we routinely rethink our decisions, and that we regularly reevaluate the way we work and live. In short, there is a new world facing us – one in which the power of the mind to command itself, to regularly engage in self-analysis, will increasingly determine the quality of our work, the quality of our lives, and perhaps our very survival.

Further, a workforce simply equipped with a toolbox of critical thinking skills will not suffice for the challenges now emerging; employees at any company or government agency will increasingly need to embody the dispositions of mind that bring about right action, for "weak-sense" critical thinkers (those with high-level  reasoning skills, but lacking in intellectual virtues) can do more harm to an organization than incompetent employees who lack fundamental skills.

As you work through this session, you will see the crucial implications that the development of intellectual character holds for the future of business and government, and how this character can be fostered among individuals and teams in an organization.




3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions V)


Strategies for Improving Student Learning on a Typical Day... Dr. Gerald Nosich

It is one thing to grasp the foundations of a robust framework of critical thinking, another to understand that our students must gain these understandings as well, and yet another to know how these ideas can be enmeshed within course activities and assignments. How does an instructor, who often faces conflicting pressures from administrators, parents, and students, design coursework that assuages these pressures while at the same time helping students internalize the critical thinking concepts they will need throughout their lives?

This session addresses these questions and provides pragmatic tools you can use in your courses, every day, to cover essential content, whilst also equipping students with powerful tools of mind that elevate their learning and life choices long after they leave your classroom.


The Art of Close Reading and Why Everyone Needs It... Dr. Brian Barnes

Educated persons are skilled at, and routinely engage in, close reading. When reading, they seek to learn from texts. They generate questions as they read, and they 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 texts they read, while they are reading. They come to understand what they read by paraphrasing, elaborating, exemplifying, and illustrating it. They make connections as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read.

Many persons of all ages have never read a text closely. Instead, they have developed the habit of skirting by with superficial and impressionistic reading. This session will therefore explore basic, foundational processes for developing skills in close reading. The aim is for these processes to become internalized and used throughout life as powerful tools for continual development.


How the Language of Critical Thinking is Essential to Cultivating Fairminded Critical Societies... Dr. Linda Elder

Humans have the capacity to be rational and fair, and thereby to create critical societies, but this capacity must be cultivated. Critical societies will develop only to the extent that:

  • Critical thinking is viewed as essential to living a reasonable and fairminded life.
  • Critical thinking is routinely taught and consistently fostered.
  • The problematics of thinking are an abiding concern.
  • Closed-mindedness is systemically discouraged; open-mindedness is systematically encouraged.
  • Intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, confidence in reason, and intellectual courage are social values.
  • Egocentric and sociocentric thinking are recognized as a bane in social life.
  • Children are routinely taught that the rights and needs of others are equal to their own.
  • A multicultural worldview is fostered.
  • People are encouraged to think for themselves and discouraged from uncritically accepting the thinking or behavior of others.
  • People routinely study and diminish irrational thought.
  • People internalize universal intellectual standards.


To most people, many of these concepts are either murky or completely foreign. This is largely because students are rarely equipped with vocabulary to analyze, evaluate, and improve their thinking; those who never learn this vocabulary in formal education are perhaps even less likely to discover it afterwards.

The ability to reflect upon one's reasoning, and to articulate its strengths and weaknesses, must be treated as both an educational right and an urgent prerequisite to meeting the challenges of our time. This session will explore this important imperative and discuss potential ways of moving forward to advance critical societies.




8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions VI)


Reasoning Critically within the Logic of Any Subject, Profession or Domain of Thought… Dr. Gerald Nosich

A primary use of critical thinking is to help the thinker internalize the most basic concepts in a given subject (an academic discipline, a profession, or another domain of reasoning), and to learn to think through questions in everyday life using those concepts. Critical thinking in biology is biological thinking; critical thinking in mathematics is mathematical thinking; critical thinking in aeronautics is aeronautical thinking; and so forth.
 
A discipline is more than a body of information, and a profession is more than a body of policies and procedures; they are distinctive ways (or set of ways) of looking at the world and thinking through a set of questions about it. They are systematic, and each has a logic of its own.

In this session, participants will think through the logic of a discipline, profession, or other domain of thought per their choosing. They will thereby begin to gain tools for internalizing the subject's way of thinking as a lifelong acquisition.


Intellectual Virtues as Fundamental to the Cultivated Person, the Educated Mind, and to Democratic Societies… Ms. Carmen Polka

Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world, and a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, and to stand alone against the crowd.

Intellectual traits go beyond knowing a given set of skills; they define a person's intellectual character. That character does not only influence the thinker and his or her social circle, but also the society in which the thinker lives. The success or failure of any society in which common citizens are empowered to participate will largely depend upon the degree to which they embody intellectual virtues, or in other words, intellectual character.

This session focuses on learning that transforms people into conscientious citizens, able to contribute to healthy democracies, through the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy,  intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.


Strategies for Improving Student Learning on a Typical Day... Dr. Paul Bankes

It is one thing to grasp the foundations of a robust framework of critical thinking, another to understand that our students must gain these understandings as well, and yet another to know how these ideas can be enmeshed within course activities and assignments. How does an instructor, who often faces conflicting pressures from administrators, parents, and students, design coursework that assuages these pressures while at the same time helping students internalize the critical thinking concepts they will need throughout their lives?

This session addresses these questions and provides pragmatic tools you can use in your courses, every day, to cover essential content, whilst also equipping students with powerful tools of mind that elevate their learning and life choices long after they leave your classroom.



Wednesday, July 28


3:00 p.m. EDT 



Guest Presentations Posted

Pre-recorded Guest Presentations will become available for viewing this day. Conference participants will have viewing access to these videos for several weeks after the final day of the conference.




8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EDT 


Special Meetings on Professional Development

Those interested in discussing professional development with our Fellows and Scholars may attend any of the following meetings:

  • K-12 with Dr. Linda Elder
  • Higher Education with Dr. Gerald Nosich.
  • Business and Governemnt with Dr. Brian Barnes


Thursday, July 29


12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions VII)


How Everyone is Egocentric and Sociocentric and Why This Impedes Critical Thinking... Ms. Carmen Polka

The human mind is at once rational and irrational, reasonable and unreasonable. We naturally see the world from a narrow egocentric perspective; we are also highly vulnerable to influence from group traditions, mores, taboos, and customs. We are naturally selfish, self-deceiving, prejudiced, and biased. We naturally distort reality to fit our vision of it. We naturally distort information to keep from seeing what we would rather avoid. We naturally seek more for ourselves and our group than is rightfully ours. We naturally act without due regard to the rights and needs of others.

In short, humans are naturally egocentric and sociocentric. At the same time, we are capable of developing as reasonable persons, but to do so requires commitment and some fundamental understandings about the pathological side of the human mind. In this session, we will focus on some of these painful truths about the mind. We will explore egocentric and sociocentric thought as intrinsic mental phenomena that get in the way of cultivating the disciplined mind, and hence in the way of our development as rational human beings. We will also discuss processes for overcoming these pathologies.


For Administrators: Promoting and Cultivating Critical Thinking Across the Organization... Dr. Patty Payette

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, and 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 institution.


Assessing Critical Thinking in Teaching and Learning... Dr. Brian Barnes

The purpose of assessment in instruction is improvement. The purpose of assessing instruction for critical thinking is to improve the teaching of discipline-based thinking (historical, biological, sociological, mathematical, and so on). It is to improve students’ abilities to think their way through content by using disciplined skill in reasoning. The more specific we can be about what we want students to learn about critical thinking, the better can we devise instruction to serve that purpose. Unfortunately, standardized tests now widely used in critical thinking are not designed to impact instruction. There is a significant disconnect between what standardized tests assess and what we want students to learn.

This session will focus on methods for integrating assessment of critical thinking across the curriculum.




3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions VIII)


Teaching Students the Role of Powerful Concepts in Learning Any Subject or Discipline ... Dr. Gerald Nosich

Concepts are ideas we use in thinking. They enable us to group things in our experience into different categories, classes, or divisions. They form the basis for 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 of our decisions depend on how we conceptualize things, and all subjects or disciplines are defined by their foundational concepts. For instance, a fundamental concept in ecology is ecosystem, defined as a group of living things dependent on one another and living in a particular habitat. Ecologists study how differing ecosystems function and how they interrelate with other ecosystems. They are concerned with ecological succession - the natural pattern of change occurring within every ecosystem when natural processes are undisturbed. This pattern includes the birth, development, death, and then replacement of ecological communities. Ecologists have grouped communities into larger units called biomes, regions throughout the world classified according to physical features, including temperature, rainfall, and type of vegetation. Each of these is a seminal concept that cannot merely be seen (or memorized) as just one of many equally important details, but as fundamental for thinking one’s way through virtually any ecological issue, such as imbalance, energy, nutrients, population growth, diversity, habitat, competition, predation, parasitism, adaptation, coevolution, and conservation.

When we master foundational concepts at a deep level, we are able to use them to understand and function better within the world. Can you identify the fundamental concepts in your discipline or profession? Can you explain their role in thinking within your discipline or profession? How can you help students and/or colleagues take command of these concepts? Can your students give examples of how they are important in life? These are some of the questions to be explored in this session.


Critical Thinking Therapy for Mental Health and Self-Actualization... Dr. Linda Elder

Critical Thinking Therapy is based in the assumption that to gain command of your life requires, first and foremost, gaining command of the thinking that is commanding your life. It uses explicit concepts in critical thinking to help individuals gain command of their emotional lives, achieve emotional well-being, and realize all of which they are capable as unique persons.

Critical Thinking Therapy stresses the importance of 1) learning the explicit tools of critical thinking for mental health, 2) understanding the complex and rapidly-changing world to which most humans now must adapt, and 3) relying on the best thinking that has been done throughout history to address how best to live today (individually and collectively), and 4) helping clients forge the best path for their own self-fulfillment and achievement at the highest level of which they are capable.

This session discusses practical ways that current knowledge about critical thinking and mental health therapy can be integrated to promote mental well-being as well as self-realization.


How to Embrace Intellectual Empathy as a Way of Life and Matter of Principle... Dr. Paul Bankes

Intellectual empathy entails a consciousness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them, which requires the consciousness of our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions of long-standing thought or belief. This trait correlates with the ability to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, and with the ability to imagine our being similarly deceived in the case at hand.

Empathy of the intellectual sort does not come easily to humans, yet a lack of it reflects a pattern of failure in reasoning that can undermine the reasoner as well as others. This session will provide practical approaches to developing higher levels of intellectual empathy over time.


Advanced Session: The Theory and History of Critical Thinking, Going Deeper... Dr. Brian Barnes

One way of deepening our understanding of critical thinking and is to interrelate explicit critical thinking concepts and principals with transformative ideas developed by deep thinkers from the time of Socrates onward. At this year’s conference, returning registrants (and those who have attended our professional development programs in other contexts) are invited to participate in this advanced session in which we will focus on deeper levels of critical thinking theory, as well as on the history of critical thinking as a concept.

For this session, we presuppose that you have an initial or advanced understanding of the elements of reasoning, intellectual standards, and intellectual virtues. These intellectual tools will be used throughout the session.




8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT (Focal Sessions IX)


How Everyone is Egocentric and Sociocentric and Why This Impedes Critical Thinking... Ms. Carmen Polka

The human mind is at once rational and irrational, reasonable and unreasonable. We naturally see the world from a narrow egocentric perspective; we are also highly vulnerable to influence from group traditions, mores, taboos, and customs. We are naturally selfish, self-deceiving, prejudiced, and biased. We naturally distort reality to fit our vision of it. We naturally distort information to keep from seeing what we would rather avoid. We naturally seek more for ourselves and our group than is rightfully ours. We naturally act without due regard to the rights and needs of others.

In short, humans are naturally egocentric and sociocentric. At the same time, we are capable of developing as reasonable persons, but to do so requires commitment and some fundamental understandings about the pathological side of the human mind. In this session, we will focus on some of these painful truths about the mind. We will explore egocentric and sociocentric thought as intrinsic mental phenomena that get in the way of cultivating the disciplined mind, and hence in the way of our development as rational human beings. We will also discuss processes for overcoming these pathologies.


Assessing Critical Thinking in Teaching and Learning... Dr. Gerald Nosich

The purpose of assessment in instruction is improvement. The purpose of assessing instruction for critical thinking is to improve the teaching of discipline-based thinking (historical, biological, sociological, mathematical, and so on). It is to improve students’ abilities to think their way through content by using disciplined skill in reasoning. The more specific we can be about what we want students to learn about critical thinking, the better can we devise instruction to serve that purpose. Unfortunately, standardized tests now widely used in critical thinking are not designed to impact instruction. There is a significant disconnect between what standardized tests assess and what we want students to learn.

This session will focus on methods for integrating assessment of critical thinking across the curriculum.


Critical Thinking Therapy for Mental Health and Self-Actualization... Dr. Linda Elder

Critical Thinking Therapy is based in the assumption that to gain command of your life requires, first and foremost, gaining command of the thinking that is commanding your life. It uses explicit concepts in critical thinking to help individuals gain command of their emotional lives, achieve emotional well-being, and realize all of which they are capable as unique persons.

Critical Thinking Therapy stresses the importance of 1) learning the explicit tools of critical thinking for mental health, 2) understanding the complex and rapidly-changing world to which most humans now must adapt, and 3) relying on the best thinking that has been done throughout history to address how best to live today (individually and collectively), and 4) helping clients forge the best path for their own self-fulfillment and achievement at the highest level of which they are capable.

This session discusses practical ways that current knowledge about critical thinking and mental health therapy can be integrated to promote mental well-being as well as self-realization.


For Administrators: Promoting and Cultivating Critical Thinking Across the Organization... Dr. Paul Bankes

Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, and 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, and assessing students, faculty, as well as 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 institution.