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42nd Conference Focal Session Descriptions


Focal Session Descriptions
for the
42nd Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking

Pre-Conference: July 24, 2022
Main Conference: July 25 - July 29, 2022

List of Sessions

Pre-Conference Sessions
Sunday, July 24, 1:00 - 7:00 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions I
Monday, July 25, 12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions II
Monday, July 25, 3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions III
Monday, July 25, 8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions IV
Tuesday, July 26,
12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT



Focal Sessions V
Tuesday, July 26,
3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions VI
Tuesday, July 26,
8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT



Guest Presentations Posted
Wednesday
, July 27,
3:00 p.m. EDT

Read More Here

 

 

Special Meetings on Professional Development
Wednesday
, July 27,
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EDT

Read More Here


 

Focal Sessions VII
Thursday
, July 28,
12:00 - 2:30 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions VIII
Thursday
, July 28,
3:30 - 6:00 p.m. EDT


 

Focal Sessions IX
Thursday
, July 28,
8:00 - 10:30 p.m. EDT


Early Closing Session
Thursday
, July 28,
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. EDT

Read More Here



Late Closing Session
Thursday
, July 28,
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EDT

Read More Here



Sunday, July 24


Pre-Conference Sessions
1:00 - 7:00 p.m. EDT


Placing Critical Thinking at the Heart of Teaching and Learning Every Day… Dr. Brian Barnes

There is no more important goal in schooling than cultivating the intellect, but we cannot achieve this goal unless we place intellectual development at the heart of instruction. To do this, we must approach our students at all levels as thinkers, as persons capable of figuring things out for themselves, as persons with their own thoughts, emotions, and desires, as persons with minds of their own.

At present, thinking is often ignored in schooling (and indeed in society). Critical thinking has historically been treated in education as another add-on, as something interesting we combine with other things we do. But when we understand what it takes to cultivate the intellect, we bring the concepts and principles of critical thinking into everything we do in the classroom, so that it becomes the centerpiece of instruction. This is true because it is through critical thinking that we make explicit the intellectual tools students need to live successfully and reasonably, to grapple with the complex problems they will inevitably face, to think their way through content of any kind. In this preconference session, we introduce the foundations of critical thinking essential to teaching and learning at all levels, coupled with application to classroom structures and strategies.


Improving Student Writing in Any Class Through Explicit Tools of Critical Thinking... Dr. Gerald Nosich

Educated persons skillfully, routinely engage in substantive writing. Substantive writing consists of focusing on a subject worth writing about, and then saying something worth saying about it. It also enhances our reading: whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should write to take ownership of what we are reading. Furthermore, just as we must write to gain an initial understanding of a subject's primary ideas, so also must we write to begin thinking within the subject as a whole and making connections between ideas within and beyond it.

Quite remarkably, many students have never written in a substantive way. Instead, they have developed the habit of getting by – often while receiving passing or even high marks from their instructors – with superficial and impressionistic writing which only obscures the purpose of writing itself. The lack of connection between the writing assignments students complete and the way in which writing can be used to enrich their learning and lives can leave them resistant to, or fearful of, their next assigned paper.

This session will explore ways of developing student abilities in substantive writing, through the tools of critical thinking, as a means for fulfilling, deep learning, which should also be enjoyable as an interrelated set of skills.


Advanced Session: Improving Your Instruction Through an Enriched Understanding of Critical Thinking Fundamentals... Dr. Paul Bankes

Most faculty who begin learning the tools of critical thinking stop learning before having a chance to substantively internalize, and consistently use, these intellectual instruments. However, some few go on to take the theory and application of critical thinking more seriously, to further improve their instruction.

This session is designed for those of you who have worked with us before at previous events or in professional development, and who are ready to more deeply explore the elements of reasoning, the intellectual standards, the intellectual virtues, and the primary barriers to critical thinking, and how these sets of concepts can be used to further advance your effectiveness in the classroom.



Monday, July 25


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


Foundational for New Participants: Understanding Critical Thinking as Essential to Education in Any Field of Study and at Every Level… Dr. Linda Elder

There are a number of connections we must make conceptually and pragmatically to successfully advance educational curricula. Most educational practices sadly still cluster around or emerge from either a didactic conception of teaching, or group-centered activities void of proper standards. Both of these lead to lower-order learning and wasting of precious intellectual resources.

To get beyond this, students must come to understand every subject as a mode of thinking they need to learn to reason within, using critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, substantial improvements can only occur by restructuring math courses so students learn to think mathematically, history courses so students learn to think historically, science courses 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 as 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 instructors’ “delivery” of content.


For Business and Government: Using Critical Thinking to Analyze Problems… Dr. Paul Bankes

The problems we increasingly face at all levels of society 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 demands that we continually relearn, that we routinely rethink our decisions, and that we regularly reevaluate the way we work and live. In short, the world we now face is one in which the power of the mind to command itself, to regularly engage in competent analysis, will increasingly determine the quality of our work, the quality of our lives, and perhaps our very survival.

Through this session you will learn how to apply explicit tools of critical thinking to better analyze problems and decisions, as well as reason through complex questions. To analyze your own thinking, you must be able to take it apart and scrutinize how you are using each element. To analyze others’ reasoning, you must be able to scrutinize it in the same way. When you clearly understand the components of thought (or elements of reasoning), and begin to use them explicitly in your thinking on a daily basis, the quality of your work significantly improves.

This session will help leaders in business, government, and education:

  • begin to, or better, internalize the elements of reasoning essential to skilled analysis;
  • better use analytic thinking as a tool for thinking deeply about the questions, issues, and challenges you face in your work.

For Returning Attendees: Practice Deconstructing Problems in Your Classes or Profession… Dr. Linda Tym

It is essential that students learn to deconstruct or analyze problems at the center of the courses they take, the subjects they learn within, and the professions they intend to enter. Every subject or domain of thought revolves around a cluster of primary problems or questions. Every subject or field of study comes to life because of the very questions being asked within that subject or field. How do our students come to be aware of these questions? How are they to approach these problems and questions when they become aware of them? What explicit tools are they learning to analyze them?

In this session, we will focus on analyzing problems in your classes or profession by practicing deconstructing them into their elements.



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


Teaching Students to Properly Assess Reasoning in Every Course… Dr. Gerald Nosich

Since reasoning is at the heart of every subject, domain of thought, and field of study, it follows that students should be learning to competently assess reasoning in every course they take. However, students are rarely taught the importance of internalizing intellectual standards for assessing reasoning – standards such as clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, fairness, and sufficiency.

In this session, you will be introduced to these standards, and to methods for helping students learn how to actively use intellectual standards in assessing reasoning as they think through content.


Connecting Evidence-Based Instruction to the Rich Tools of Critical Thinking... Dr. Paul Bankes

One of the most important skills in critical thinking is that of evaluating information. However, instead of a simple series of steps to memorize and follow mindlessly, students need a rich perspective on evidence-based decision making; this begins with the important recognition that information and fact are not the same thing. It also requires the important recognition that not everything presented as fact is true.

It is essential to comprehend that the prestige or setting in which information is asserted, or the prestige of the person or group asserting it, is no guarantee of accuracy or reliability. Consider the following helpful maxim: An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be incomplete at best, and very often is false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious, etc.

Careful thinkers, skilled in evidence-based decision making at a high level, use a wide variety of safeguards in making decisions based on actual evidence – not merely on information asserted to be true. It is not possible to learn these safeguards separately from an actual study of the best thinking within the disciplines. It is possible, however, to develop a healthy skepticism about information in general, especially when encouraged to support a belief that serves the vested interests of a person or group. This skepticism is applied by regularly asking key questions about information presented to us:

  • To what extent could I test the truth of this claim by direct experience?
  • To what extent is this belief consistent with what I know to be true or in which I have justified confidence?
  • How does the person who advances this claim support it?
  • Is there a definite system or procedure for assessing claims of this sort?
  • Does the acceptance of this information advance the vested interest of the person or group asserting it?
  • Is the person asserting this information made uncomfortable by having it questioned?


These questions, both singly and as a group, represent no panacea. They do not prevent us from making mistakes. But, used with good judgment, they help us lower the number of mistakes we make in assessing information.

In this session, we will explore a rich conception of evidence-based reasoning, indispensable in preparing students for a world where misinformation spreads globally within minutes. This includes understanding how the concept of evidence connects with the other elements of reasoning. 


For Returning Attendees: Where Are You in the Stages of Critical Thinking Development?… Dr. Carmen Polka

To develop as critical thinkers, we must work through stages. This is to say that there are levels of intellectual development which people go through as they improve as reasoners. We believe significant gains in quality of thought require recognizing that skilled critical thinking develops only when properly cultivated, and only through predictable stages:

  • Unreflective Thinkers are unaware of significant problems in their thinking.
  • Challenged Thinkers are faced with significant problems in their thinking.
  • Beginning Thinkers are making some effort to improve, but without regular practice.
  • Practicing Thinkers engage in regular practice and advance accordingly.
  • Advanced Thinkers are committed to lifelong practice and are significantly internalizing intellectual virtues.
  • Accomplished Thinkers have made intellectuals skills and virtues second-nature in their lives.


This mental framework has powerful implications for learning, teaching, and daily decision-making in all aspects of life. In this session, you will examine where you see yourself among these stages of intellectual development, and we will explore plans for reaching higher levels.



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



Repeat (Foundational for New Registrants): Understanding Critical Thinking as Essential to Education in Any Field of Study and at Every Level... Dr. Gerald Nosich

There are a number of connections we must make conceptually and pragmatically to successfully advance educational curricula. Most educational practices sadly still cluster around or emerge from either a didactic conception of teaching, or group-centered activities void of proper standards. Both of these lead to lower-order learning and wasting of precious intellectual resources.

To get beyond this, students must come to understand every subject as a mode of thinking they need to learn to reason within, using critical thinking concepts and principles. For instance, substantial improvements can only occur by restructuring math courses so students learn to think mathematically, history courses so students learn to think historically, science courses 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 as 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 instructors’ “delivery” of content.


Repeat: Connecting Evidence-Based Instruction Based on the Broader Tools of Critical Thinking for Greater Effectiveness... Dr. Linda Elder

One of the most important skills in critical thinking is that of evaluating information. However, instead of a simple series of steps to memorize and follow mindlessly, students need a rich perspective on evidence-based decision making; this begins with the important recognition that information and fact are not the same thing. It also requires the important recognition that not everything presented as fact is true.

It is essential to comprehend that the prestige or setting in which information is asserted, or the prestige of the person or group asserting it, is no guarantee of accuracy or reliability. Consider the following helpful maxim: An educated person is one who has learned that information almost always turns out to be incomplete at best, and very often is false, misleading, fictitious, mendacious, etc.

Careful thinkers, skilled in evidence-based decision making at a high level, use a wide variety of safeguards in making decisions based on actual evidence – not merely on information asserted to be true. It is not possible to learn these safeguards separately from an actual study of the best thinking within the disciplines. It is possible, however, to develop a healthy skepticism about information in general, especially when encouraged to support a belief that serves the vested interests of a person or group. This skepticism is applied by regularly asking key questions about information presented to us:

  • To what extent could I test the truth of this claim by direct experience?
  • To what extent is this belief consistent with what I know to be true or in which I have justified confidence?
  • How does the person who advances this claim support it?
  • Is there a definite system or procedure for assessing claims of this sort?
  • Does the acceptance of this information advance the vested interest of the person or group asserting it?
  • Is the person asserting this information made uncomfortable by having it questioned?


These questions, both singly and as a group, represent no panacea. They do not prevent us from making mistakes. But, used with good judgment, they help us lower the number of mistakes we make in assessing information.

In this session, we will explore a rich conception of evidence-based reasoning, indispensable in preparing students for a world where misinformation spreads globally within minutes. This includes understanding how the concept of evidence connects with the other elements of reasoning. 


Repeat (For Returning Attendees) : Practice Deconstructing Problems in Your Classes or Profession… Dr. Linda Tym

It is essential that students learn to deconstruct or analyze problems at the center of the courses they take, the subjects they learn within, and the professions they intend to enter. Every subject or domain of thought revolves around a cluster of primary problems or questions. Every subject or field of study comes to life because of the very questions being asked within that subject or field. How do our students come to be aware of these questions? How are they to approach these problems and questions when they become aware of them? What explicit tools are they learning to analyze them?

In this session, we will focus on analyzing problems in your classes or profession by practicing deconstructing them into their elements.



Tuesday, July 26


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


Helping Students Learn the Fundamental and Powerful Concepts in Your Courses... Dr. Linda Elder

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. In this session, you will work toward identifying the fundamental concepts in your discipline or profession, explaining their role in thinking within your discipline or profession, and helping students take command of these concepts.


For Business and Government: Using Critical Thinking to Evaluate Alternatives in Complex Contexts... 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 them routinely throughout the workday, as well as 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. We will then focus on more deeply internalizing the intellectual standard of depth by reasoning through and unpacking several complex questions.

Please bring examples of complex questions you face in your work that you would like to reason through.


Practice Deconstructing the Reasoning Embedded in Articles or Chapters to Improve Your Instruction or Knowledge Base in Any Field... Dr. Paul Bankes

Most people have never learned to explicitly identify the logic of a text. This leads to frequent misunderstandings of an author’s intention, which, in the realm of education, can result in students mislearning a subject. It can also lead to many other problems, such as people attempting to assess the quality of an idea without even knowing what it is; we see today how much harm this can cause in government, business, and other elements of society.

An effective way of overcoming this barrier to communication, learning, and teaching is by practicing the analysis of articles, essays, and chapters. By identifying the components of reasoning within a text, we can understand its overarching logic, and only then can begin to judge its worth.

This session will explore these concepts in more detail, will demonstrate how to deconstruct reasoning within a text, and will give participants practice in deconstructing the logic of written prose. Implications for teaching and learning will also be explored.



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



Why Education Should Entail the Development of Intellectual Character as Well as Skills and Abilities... Dr. Gerald Nosich

Critical thinking does not entail merely intellectual skills. Rather, 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 yet be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior; they may still 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, etc. Thus, in developing as a thinker and fostering critical thinking abilities, it is important to cultivate intellectual traits (also known as intellectual virtues or dispositions) – traits such as fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.

These traits of mind are essential to learning the content of any field, or in other words, of thinking through any discipline or area of study. Students cannot learn to think well in the natural sciences, the social sciences, arts, humanities, or professional fields without coming to terms with what they don’t know, or without having the intellectual courage to imagine a world far more complex than the world they have taken for granted. In all fields, students need to engage through intellectual empathy with other thinkers and envision new ideas; they also need to develop the intellectual autonomy and intellectual perseverance to work through deep and challenging issues without easily giving up or simply gravitating to group think. They need to develop fairmindedness in order to appreciate new theories and alternative viewpoints; they need to cultivate within themselves the confidence that they can, with work, come to understand themselves and the world in a deeper way.

This session will highlight the importance of cultivating and developing intellectual character in teaching and learning, and will explore ways of fostering it in your courses.


Helping Students Learn to Reason Through Social, Political, and Environmental Issues Using the Tools of Critical Thinking... Dr. Carmen Polka

Most students have very little experience of reasoning within opposing points of view. Indeed, most students have little experience with reasoning at all; in the typically didactic classes of today, the teacher is engaged in inculcating information. Students then come away with the impression that knowledge can be obtained without struggle, without having to consider more than one point of view, without having to identify or assess evidence, question assumptions, trace implications, or consider objections.


The result is students with no real sense of what the process of acquiring knowledge involves, who make absolutistic judgments about themselves and others without recognizing that they think from a point of view among potentially infinite others, with nothing more than a jumble of information and beliefs, and with little idea of what it is to reason one's way to knowledge and ever-better judgment.
 
As a result, students uncritically internalize images and concepts of what they and others are like – e.g., of what Americans are like, of what atheists, Christians, parents, children, business-people, farmers, liberals, conservatives, left-wingers, right-wingers, salespeople, and immigrants are like. They then ego-identify with their conceptions, which they assume are accurate, spontaneously using them as guides in their day-to-day decision making.

Over time, these students are equipped with mountains of ill-founded information (which parade as knowledge) and ideas, as well as a method of constructing world views nearly devoid of appropriate analytical tools and intellectual standards. The resulting dysfunction at the individual and societal level is obvious throughout the world.

Students need assignments in multilogical issues to break out of their uncritical absolutism. They need to discover opposing points of view in nonthreatening situations. They need to put their ideas into words, advance conclusions, and justify them. They need to discover their own assumptions as well as those of others. They need to discover their own inconsistencies as well as those of others. They do this best when they learn how to role-play the thinking of others, advance conclusions other than their own, and construct reasons to support them. Students need to do this for the multilogical issues - issues involving conflicting points of view, interpretations, and conclusions – which tend to form the most contentious political, environmental, and social questions of the day. But they also need to do this to bring discipline to the process of thinking through monological questions.

This session will offer practice in reasoning through political, social, and environmental issues as a model which can be brought into the classroom.


How Egocentric and Sociocentric Thinking Lead to Belief in Misinformation, Fake News, Conspiracy Theories and All Manner of Nonsense... Dr. Brian Barnes

Much has been said about the problems of disinformation, false narratives, and fake news. From the point of view of critical thinking, false information masquerading as truth is easily debunked. One need only look at the facts to discern what is really happening. But if these problems are so easy to see through, why are so many people believers of ideas that make no sense? Why do so many people fall prey to narrow ideologies or irrational conspiracy theories that cannot withstand the most basic tests of reason?

Egocentrism and sociocentrism, twin barriers to critical thinking, are enormous factors in why humans believe obvious misinformation or nonsensical ideas. This can happen through various mechanisms. For example, we might initially adopt an idea because it flatters us, and we may then internalize it such that we refuse to endure the discomfort of abandoning it later – even when confronted by information or reasoning that clearly invalidates the idea. Or, we may enjoy the status we have within a given social group on account of a given belief; when we later find evidence that the belief is false, our fear of being marginalized by friends and family can lead us to ignore or dispute the evidence.

This session deals with the roles played by egocentrism and sociocentrism in irrational beliefs, and discusses ways of recognizing when these tendencies are at work and how to counteract them.



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


Repeat: Helping Students Learn the Fundamental and Powerful Concepts in Your Courses... 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. In this session, you will work toward identifying the fundamental concepts in your discipline or profession, explaining their role in thinking within your discipline or profession, and helping students take command of these concepts.


Educating for Freedom of Thought and Why This is Essential to Cultivating Fairminded Critical Societies … Dr. Linda Elder

Fairminded critical societies take seriously the importance of human freedoms. Such societies simultaneously cultivate and systematically reward many forms of freedom, including freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, political freedom, economic freedom, intellectual freedom, freedom to learn, freedom to dissent, academic freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom to participate in government, sexual freedom, freedom from inhumane treatment, and the freedom to maintain one’s own
privacy. Each of these freedoms supports one another. And most are presupposed in the others. Their coexistence becomes a powerful underlying dynamic for moving from the groupish provincialism now prevalent in human societies to humanistic internationalism, and from vulgar dogmatic worldviews to cultivated ethical worldviews (which are currently so rare).

One of the most valued characteristics of critical societies is freedom of thought. Freedom of thought presupposes freedom of speech. If we cannot freely and openly discuss ideas of every kind – ideas that critique the way things are in our societies, ideas that call into question mainstream views, ideas that may even undermine the status quo – it cannot be said that we live in a free society. If we cannot dissent without being stereotyped, typecast, pigeon-holed, and marginalized – if we cannot openly disagree with, oppose, contest, and resist irrational and unfair laws and rules – we are not a free society.

But we cannot just think freely; we must also think with discipline, using principles of critical thinking. This requires adhering to appropriate standards for thinking and presupposes intellectual virtues or traits of mind – such as intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, confidence in reason, intellectual integrity, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, and intellectual civility.

This session will further explore these ideas; participants will engage in activities that encourage free but disciplined thinking which can be used as a model in teaching and learning.


Repeat: Practice Deconstructing the Reasoning Embedded in Articles or Chapters - to Improve Your Instruction or Knowledge Base in any Field... Dr. Paul Bankes

Most people have never learned to explicitly identify the logic of a text. This leads to frequent misunderstandings of an author’s intention, which, in the realm of education, can result in students mislearning a subject. It can also lead to many other problems, such as people attempting to assess the quality of an idea without even knowing what it is; we see today how much harm this can cause in government, business, and other elements of society.

An effective way of overcoming this barrier to communication, learning, and teaching is by practicing the analysis of articles, essays, and chapters. By identifying the components of reasoning within a text, we can understand its overarching logic, and only then can begin to judge its worth.

This session will explore these concepts in more detail, will demonstrate how to deconstruct reasoning within a text, and will give participants practice in deconstructing the logic of written prose. Implications for teaching and learning will also be explored.



Wednesday, July 27

Guest Presentations Posted


 3:00 p.m. EDT


Guest Presentations become viewable on this day by 3:00 p.m. EDT, and remain available to conference participants through the end of August.


Special Meetings on Professional Development


8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EDT


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 Government with Dr. Brian Barnes 


Thursday, July 28


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



How to Approach Students as Thinkers in K-12 Instruction... 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 K-12 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.


How to Assess Yourself as a Reasoner; How Students Can Assess Themselves as Reasoners... Dr. Brian Barnes

Effectively assessing reasoning is essential to critical thinking. While everyone at least sometimes uses standards appropriate for assessing thinking, often without consciously realizing it, do they adhere to the most relevant and important intellectual standards in every context? And how often do they fail to use any appropriate standards at all? For example, have you ever failed to think through the complexities of a problem before making a decision? Are you living your life in a way that is most significant to you, or are you being ensnared by a superficial lifestyle? When you make decisions, do you consider all the relevant and significant information needed to make those decisions? How frequently do your belief systems or ideologies impede your ability to adhere to intellectual standards (such as clarity, accuracy, precision, depth, breadth, logicalness, significance, fairness, and sufficiency)? In teaching, to what degree do you explicitly foster command of intellectual standards, so that your students learn to think through content in your classes through appropriate application of standards to the elements of reasoning?

Errors in reasoning frequently lead to poor decisions, and hence a poor quality of life. They can also create enormous impediments to both teaching and learning. This session focuses on how intellectual standards can be utilized for self-assessment in teaching, learning, and life, and will share ways of integrating intellectual standards into day-to-day living.


Why Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Social Justice and Anti-Racism Require Critical Thinking... Dr. Linda Elder

The vast majority of the ideas we use in our thinking are handed down to us through societal conditioning. Ideas may be developed, created or given new life when emerging generations try new ideas. Many of these concepts will lack substance and so will come and go as fads do. Others will have the potential to bring about needed change but will lack criticality and so will not be effective. The important ideas that remain with us are those that give us the most power to improve human conditions, the conditions of all species, and the life of the planet itself; and they are the ideas that stand the test of time.

In this session, the now widely used terms diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and anti-racism will be explored from the point of critical thinking. Since each of these concepts can be approach superficially or deeply, a rich concept of each is needed for these ideas to help transform human societies. Otherwise, they will become buzzwords and fads and eventually fade away.




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


Reworking Your Syllabus Using Critical Thinking Foundations... Dr. Gerald Nosich

A key insight into content, and into thinking, is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes more intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes more intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes more intelligible as one learns to think historically. This is true because all subjects are generated by thinking, organized by thinking, analyzed by thinking, synthesized by thinking, expressed by thinking, evaluated by thinking, restructured by thinking, maintained by thinking, transformed by thinking, learned by thinking, understood by thinking, and applied by thinking. Therefore, critical thinking should be reflected in every part of your syllabus.

In this session, you will focus on reworking your syllabus with critical thinking at the very foundations of the course and of student assignments.


Distinguish Questions of Fact, Preference and Judgment... Dr. Paul Bankes

Many pseudo critical thinking approaches present all judgments as falling into two exclusive and exhaustive categories: fact and opinion. Actually, the kind of judgment most important to educated people and the kind we most want to foster falls into a third, very important, and now almost totally ignored category: that of reasoned judgment.

A judge in a court of law is expected to engage in reasoned judgment; that is, the judge is expected not only to render a judgment, but also to base that judgment on sound, relevant evidence and valid legal reasoning. A judge is not expected to base judgments on subjective preferences. Judgment based on sound reasoning goes beyond, and is never to be equated with, fact alone or mere opinion alone.

Here's a somewhat different way to put this same point. It is essential when thinking critically to clearly distinguish three different kinds of questions:

  • Those with one right answer (factual questions fall into this category). E.g., what is the boiling point of lead?
  • Those with as many answers as there are different human preferences (a category in which mere opinion does rule). E.g., which would you prefer, a vacation in the mountains or one at the seashore?
  • Those with better or worse answers (well-reasoned or poorly reasoned answers). E.g., how can we best address the most basic and significant economic problems of the nation today?

Only the second kind of question is a matter of sheer opinion. The third type is a matter of reasoned judgment — we can rationally evaluate answers to the question (using universal intellectual standards such as clarity, depth, consistency and so forth).

When questions that require better or worse answers are treated as matters of opinion, pseudo critical thinking occurs. People come, then, to uncritically assume that everyone's "opinion" is of equal value. Their capacity to appreciate the importance of intellectual standards diminishes. They then fail to see the difference between offering legitimate reasons and evidence in support of a view and simply asserting the view as true.

This session focuses on the importance of distinguishing between the three types of questions, and on how to do so in real-world contexts.


For Administrators: How to Support Critical Thinking at Your Institution... Dr. Carmen Polka

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.




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


Repeat: How to Assess Yourself as a Reasoner; How Students Can Assess Themselves as Reasoners... Dr. Brian Barnes

Effectively assessing reasoning is essential to critical thinking. While everyone at least sometimes uses standards appropriate for assessing thinking, often without consciously realizing it, do they adhere to the most relevant and important intellectual standards in every context? And how often do they fail to use any appropriate standards at all? For example, have you ever failed to think through the complexities of a problem before making a decision? Are you living your life in a way that is most significant to you, or are you being ensnared by a superficial lifestyle? When you make decisions, do you consider all the relevant and significant information needed to make those decisions? How frequently do your belief systems or ideologies impede your ability to adhere to intellectual standards (such as clarity, accuracy, precision, depth, breadth, logicalness, significance, fairness, and sufficiency)? In teaching, to what degree do you explicitly foster command of intellectual standards, so that your students learn to think through content in your classes through appropriate application of standards to the elements of reasoning?

Errors in reasoning frequently lead to poor decisions, and hence a poor quality of life. They can also create enormous impediments to both teaching and learning. This session focuses on how intellectual standards can be utilized for self-assessment in teaching, learning, and life, and will share ways of integrating intellectual standards into day-to-day living.


Repeat: Reworking Your Syllabus Through Critical Thinking Foundations... Dr. Gerald Nosich

A key insight into content, and into thinking, is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes more intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes more intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes more intelligible as one learns to think historically. This is true because all subjects are generated by thinking, organized by thinking, analyzed by thinking, synthesized by thinking, expressed by thinking, evaluated by thinking, restructured by thinking, maintained by thinking, transformed by thinking, learned by thinking, understood by thinking, and applied by thinking. Therefore, critical thinking should be reflected in every part of your syllabus.

In this session, you will focus on reworking your syllabus with critical thinking at the very foundations of the course and of student assignments.


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, rapidly-changing, frequently strange world to which most humans now must adapt, 3) looking to 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.



Friday, July 29

Early Closing Session


12:00 - 1:00 p.m. EDT


The closing session is a time to reflect on what we’ve learned at this year’s conference, and to explore ways we can continue to develop our reasoning afterwards.



Late Closing Session


8:00 - 9:00 p.m. EDT


The late closing session is primarily for those who are unavailable for the first, but those who wish to attend both sessions are welcome!