“Every Student in Every Class at Every Moment – Intellectually Engaged”
All sessions at the 28th International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform will focus on teaching for intellectual engagement. Conference participants will choose from the sessions below.
|Unlike most academic conferences, the International Conference on Critical Thinking requires intellectual work of all participants in all sessions. One cannot learn critical thinking without doing critical thinking and one cannot do critical thinking without doing intellectual work. Sessions are designed to help you read, write, and think the ideas of critical thinking into your thinking. Active involvement is the key to success at the conference
THIS EVENT HAS CONCLUDED
Conference Session Title Index (full descriptions below)
Participants will choose one from the following selections:
Participants will select from a variety of concurrent sessions at the conference. These sessions focus on contextualization and documentation of critical thinking foundations. All concurrent sessions are invited.
Concurrent Session Schedule
July 23 - Wednesday Morning from 9:00am to 12:00
All Participants are invited to attend the closing session, where we will tie all of the sessions together and consider possibilities for moving forward.
Day One: Choose one from the following sessions:
“Evidence-Based” instruction is becoming a “buzz concept” in teaching. We must be cautious, however, that our enthusiasm for “evidence-based” instruction does not blind us to the necessity of making instruction and thought “purpose-based, question-based, concept-based, assumption-based, inference-based, and point-of-view-based” as well. Secondly, we must be sensitive to the fact that “evidence” may not in fact be “sound” or “accurate.” In addition, we must be clear about the difference between “evidence,” on the one hand, and “information” on the other. We may think, for example, that we have evidence in hand when we only have information (some of which may be disinformation or misinformation or merely irrelevant information). Information is, undoubtedly, an important element in thinking within any subject or discipline. But it can be, as suggested, accurate or inaccurate, relevant or irrelevant, significant or insignificant, sufficient or insufficient. It can be distorted to fit a particular world view or perspective. It can be misinterpreted as a result of false assumptions, prejudices and biases. In sound evidence-based instruction, the role of information in thinking is carefully conceived and is pedagogically-delivered so as to represent a critical rather than an uncritical use. This session will re-think evidence-based instruction, exploring some of its most important ins and outs.
A key insight into content (and into thinking) is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes 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, APPLIED by thinking. If you try to take the thinking out of content, you have nothing, literally nothing, remaining. Learning to think within a unique system of meanings is the key to learning any content whatsoever. This session, in other words, explores the intimate, indeed the inseparable relationship between content and thinking.
Ideas are to us like the air we breathe. We project them everywhere. Yet we rarely notice this. We use ideas to create our way of seeing things. What we experience we experience through ideas, often funneled into the categories of “good” and “evil.” We assume ourselves to be good. We assume our enemies to be evil. We select positive terms to cover up the indefensible things we do. We select negative terms to condemn even the good things our enemies do. We conceptualize things personally by means of experience unique to ourselves (often distorting the world to our advantage). We conceptualize things socially as a result of indoctrination or social conditioning (our allegiances presented, of course, in positive terms). Ideas, then, are our paths to both reality and self-delusion. We don’t typically recognize ourselves as engaged in idea construction of any kind whether illuminating or distorting. In our everyday life we don't experience ourselves shaping what we see and constructing the world to our advantage.
To the uncritical mind, it is as if people in the world came to us with our labels for them inherent in who they are. THEY are “terrorists.” WE are “freedom fighters.” All of us fall victims at times to an inevitable illusion of objectivity. Thus we see others not as like us in a common human nature, but as “friends” and “enemies,” and accordingly “good” or “bad”. Ideology, self-deception, and myth play a large part in our identity and how we think and judge. We apply ideas, however, as if we were simply neutral observers of reality. We often become self-righteous when challenged.
If we want our students to develop as a learners, they must come to recognize the ideas through which they see and experience the world. They must take explicit command of their thinking. They must become the master of their own ideas. Therefore they must become skilled in the art of conceptual analysis. This session will thus focus on the role of conceptual analysis in taking command of one’s mind and one’s life.
Bringing critical thinking into the high school classroom entails understanding the concepts and principles embedded in critical thinking and then applying those concepts throughout the curriculum. It means developing powerful strategies that emerge when we begin to understand critical thinking. In this session we will focus on strategies for engaging the intellect at the high school level. These strategies are powerful and useful, because each is a way to get students actively engaged in thinking about what they are trying to learn. Each represents a shift of responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. These strategies suggest ways to get your students to do the hard work of learning.
(500 B.C.E. to 1400 C.E.) The first of five sessions on the history of Critical Thinking
The intellectual roots of critical thinking are ancient, traceable to at least 500 B.C. in the writings of some Greek thinkers in some Greek city states. There were some conditions conducive to that development of critical thinking. For example, because most Greeks were polytheistic, they were highly tolerant of divergent religious beliefs. The emergence of democracy in some Greek city states was conducive to civic debate and argumentation. We will examine the degree of freedom of thought implicit in the writings of some thinkers before Socrates and some after, including not only Plato and Aristotle, and some Skeptics, Stoics, and Epicureans, but also such thinkers as Cicero, Seneca, Polybius, and Plotinus. (to 500 A.D.) Our interest will not be in their philosophies per se, but in the degree to which they exemplified, individually and collectively, some degree or dimensions of critical thought, as well as the extent to which their writings reflected the social conditions of the time. The period of time from the dark ages through the medieval era to the Renaissance (400-1400.) will principally be a study in intolerance and persecution of those who displayed any tendency to dissent from the received orthodox thinking. The history of the Inquisition and related social forces and conditions will be highlighted. Feudal society, in turn, will be analyzed as paradigm conditions for the suppression of freedom of thought, and hence of critical thought.
Day Two: Morning Choose one from the following sessions:
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 signal a full stop in 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. If your mind is not actively generating questions, you are not engaged in substantive learning. So the question is raised, “How can we teach so that students generate questions that lead to deep learning?” In this session we shall focus on practical strategies for generating questioning minds---at the same time, of course, that students learn the content that is at the heart of the curriculum.
Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world. It is a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, and yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, to stand alone against the crowd. This session focuses on designing instruction that transforms the mind, instruction that fosters the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.
Educated persons are skilled at and routinely engage in close reading and substantive writing. Through the ability to read closely, to comprehend and apply what one reads, students can master a subject from books alone, without benefit of lectures or class discussion. Indeed, through well-developed reading abilities, it is possible to become educated through reading alone. Skilled readers do this through intellectually interacting with the author as they read. They actively question as they read. They seek to deeply understand what they read. They make connects as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in close reading.
Concepts are tools we use in thinking. They enable us to group things in our experience in different categories, classes, or divisions. They are the labels we apply to 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 the world. Each subject gives us a unique vocabulary of concepts to use in thinking within the field that the discipline represents.
All subjects or disciplines are defined by their foundational concepts. When students master concepts at a deep level, they are able to use them to understand and function better within the world. Can you identify the fundamental concepts in every subject you teach or study? Can you explain their role in thinking within your discipline? Can you help students take command of core concepts? These are some of the questions we will explore in this session.
The Struggle for Freedom of Thought Surfaces Against Powerful Forces for Religious and Political Intolerance.
Some relevant thinkers to be explored in this session: Colet, Eramus, More, Bacon, Machiavelli
This session will provide teachers with strategies for fostering critical thinking at the elementary level. Special emphasis will be placed on helping students understand what it means to be a fair-minded critical thinker and how they can achieve this goal by learning to take their thinking apart, evaluate it and then improve it. To this end, Drs. Borman and Levine will focus on strategies for teaching elementary students the Elements of Thinking and the Universal Intellectual Standards and how to use these conceptual sets to evaluate and improve thinking. Participants will develop learning activities designed to foster critical thinking.
Day Two: Afternoon Choose one from the following sessions:
In some disciplines, the experts rarely disagree; in others, disagreement is common. The reason for this is found in the kinds of questions they ask and the nature of what they study. Mathematics and the physical and biological sciences fall into the first category. They study phenomena that behave consistently under predictable conditions and they pose questions that can be expressed clearly and precisely, with virtually complete expert
agreement. The disciplines dealing with humans, in contrast—all the social disciplines, the Arts, and the Humanities—fall into the second category. What they study is often unpredictably variable.
For example, humans are born into a culture at some point in time in some place, raised by parents with particular beliefs, and form a variety of associations with other humans who are equally variously influenced. What is dominant in our behavior varies from person to person. Hence, many of the questions asked in the disciplines dealing with human nature are subject to disagreement among experts (who approach the questions from different points of view).
Consider the varieties of ways that human minds are influenced:
Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, through any problem or issue. With a substantive concept of critical thinking clearly in mind, we begin to see the pressing need for a staff development program that fosters critical thinking within and across the curriculum. As we come to understand a substantive concept of critical thinking, we are able to follow-out its implications in designing a professional development program. By means of it, we begin to see important implications for every part of the institution –redesigning policies, providing administrative support for critical thinking, rethinking the mission, coordinating and providing faculty workshops in critical thinking, redefining faculty as learners as well as teachers, assessing students, faculty, and the institution as a whole in terms of critical thinking abilities and traits. We realize that robust critical thinking should be the guiding force for all of our educational efforts. This session presents a professional development model that can provide the vehicle for deep change across the curriculum, across the institution.
The history of schooling is also the history of educational panaceas, the comings and goings of quick-fixes for deep-seated educational problems. This old problem is not being reduced. Rather, it is dramatically on the increase. This results in intensifying fragmentation of energy and effort in the schools - together with a significant waste of time and money. Many teachers become increasingly cynical and jaded.
It is time to recognize that education will never be improved by simplistic educational fads. Fads by their nature are fated to self-destruction. Teachers and administrators need to understand the problem of educational fads so that they can effectively distinguish substantive efforts at educational reform from superficial ones.
All educational trends or fads have their roots in reasonable ideas. Trends become fads when a reasonable idea is applied unreasonably. All reasonable ideas enhance education when integrated into a substantive concept of education. They fail when imposed upon instruction through a non-substantive, fragmented, conception of education. In this session, we focus on some of the current educational trends or fads in schooling today.
Science and The Age of Revolution (1600 to 1850)
The Growing Power of Nationalism, Imperialism, and Colonialism : The Theory of Human Rights in Conflict with the Imposition of Hegemony of European Nations Over Less Technologically Developed Cultures (in the Americas, Africa, and the Orient).
Some relevant thinkers: Bacon, Hobbes, Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Tom Paine, Voltaire, Condillac.
Building on the foundational concepts covered in the first session, this session will continue to focus on infusing critical thinking in elementary instruction throughout the curriculum and within student relationships. Participants will be engaged in applying the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards within content areas including math, language arts, and social studies. Classroom management issues will also be addressed through application of critical thinking strategies.
Day Three: Morning Invited Concurrent sessions:
Participants will select from concurrent sessions at the conference. These sessions focus on contextualization and documentation of critical thinking foundations. All concurrent sessions are invited.
Concurrent Session Schedule
Day Three: Afternoon Choose from one of the following sessions:
To reason well, we must understand, not only how to take our thinking apart and assess it, not only, in other words, the tools and concepts that critical thinking offers, but also the powerful barriers, that exist naturally in the mind, to good reasoning. This session will target some of those barriers. We will focus, for example, on self-deception, bias, prejudice, distortion of information and ideas, intellectual arrogance, intellectual hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and stereotyping. We will offer a theory of mind which can help you, and your students, become more aware of the native egocentric tendencies that operate in the mind and that keep you from reaching your potential as thinker.
Clarifying the Discourse on Critical Thinking: Where and How Paul Provides the Framework for a Trans-Disciplinary Conceptualization:
It is widely agreed that the discourse on critical thinking is fragmented. Although common conceptualizations can be found in the numerous definitions of critical thinking, this base-line is often abandoned in lieu of discipline specific conceptualizations that do little to challenge the status quo both in departmental traditions and in its applications within education. Since critical thinking provides the tools for analyzing and assessing thinking within every subject and discipline, and thus without these tools, no subjects or disciplines can exist, it follows that critical thinking must be placed at the heart of the curriculum within and across the disciplines. Paul has developed a trans-disciplinary approach to critical thinking that explicitly illuminates the link between critical thinking and thinking within the disciplines. He has shaped a concept of critical thinking with substance and vision, applicable to every domain of human thought.
This session will examine Paul's work in relation to the rather fragmented discourse on critical thinking. It will outline Paul's mission and critics, and it will critique the different ways scholars have constructed discipline specific conceptualizations of critical thinking. The purpose, then, is to clarify the discourse and Paul's place within it for those interested in the theory of critical thinking.
To understand our experience and the world itself, we must be able to think within alternative world views. We must question our ideas. Ideas are to us like the air we breathe. We project them everywhere. Yet we rarely notice this. We use ideas to create our way of seeing things. What we experience we experience through ideas, often funneled into the categories of “good” and “evil.” We assume ourselves to be good. We assume our enemies to be evil. To the uncritical mind, it is as if people in the world came to us with our labels for them inherent in who they are. THEY are “terrorists.” WE are “freedom fighters.” All of us fall victims at times to an inevitable illusion of objectivity. Thus we see others not as like us in a common human nature, but as “friends” and “enemies,” and accordingly “good” or “bad.” Ideology, self-deception, and myth play a large part in our identity and how we think and judge. We apply ideas, however, as if we were simply neutral observers of reality. We often become self-righteous when challenged. If we want our students to develop as learners, they must come to recognize the ideas through which they see and experience the world. They must take explicit command of their thinking. They must become the master of their own ideas. They must learn how to think with alternative ideas, alternative “world views.” This think tank lays the foundation for this process.
The purpose of assessment in instruction is improvement. The purpose of assessing instruction for critical thinking is improving the teaching of discipline-based thinking (historical, biological, sociological, mathematical thinking…). It is to improve students’ abilities to think their way through content, using disciplined skill in reasoning. The more particular we can be about what we want students to learn about critical thinking, the better can we devise instruction to serve that particular 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. In this session, we will introduce critical thinking assessment tools offered by the Foundation for Critical Thinking.
For our white paper on testing and assessment, click here https://www.criticalthinking.org/files/White%20PaperAssessmentSept2007.pdf
The Age of Industrialization (1850 to 1950)
Nationalism, Capitalism, Neo-Imperialism, Colonialism: Wars for Markets and Ideology, Factory Industrialism, Mass Man, Fascism, the Emergence of Mass Media, Mass Public Schooling, World Wars, The Roots of the Cold War, Relativity, the United Nations.
Some relevant thinkers: Newman, Mill, Darwin, Spencer, Marx, Freud, Fromm, Sumner, Gustavus Myers, Dewey, Sartre, Russell, Wittgenstein, Durkheim, Weber, George Herbert Mead, Piaget, Churchill, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, Henry David Thoreau, Mencken, Einstein, Glaser
Day Four: Morning Choose from one of the following sessions:
Many of the most deep seated habits that humans acquire come from the process of being socialized or enculturated. Almost everything we think or do, we have been taught to think or do by the social groups that have shaped us. Those who want to free themselves from indoctrination, to become intellectually emancipated, must understand this problem as a significant barrier to their development and begin to see its influence on their daily thinking.
Living a human life entails membership in a variety of human groups. This typically includes groups such as nation, culture, profession, religion, family, and peer group. We find ourselves participating in groups before we are aware of ourselves as living beings. We find ourselves in groups in virtually every setting in which we function as persons. What is more, every group to which we belong has some social definition of itself and some usually unspoken “rules” that guide the behavior of all members. Each group to which we belong imposes some level of conformity on us as a condition of acceptance. This includes a set of beliefs, behaviors, and taboos.
For most people, blind conformity to group restrictions is automatic and unreflective. Most effortlessly conform without recognizing their conformity. They internalize group norms and beliefs, take on the group identity, and act as they are expected to act—without the least sense that what they are doing might reasonably be questioned. Most people function in social groups as unreflective participants in a range of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors analogous, in the structures to which they conform, to those of urban street gangs.
This conformity of thought, emotion, and action is not restricted to the masses, or the lowly, or the poor. It is characteristic of people in general, independent of their role in society, independent of status and prestige, independent of years of schooling. It is in all likelihood as true of college professors and their presidents as students and custodians, as true of senators and chief executives as it is of construction and assembly-line workers. Conformity of thought and behavior is the rule in humans, independence the rare exception.
This session will focus, then, on the problem of sociocentric thinking in human life, and its implications for living a rational life, as well as for teaching and learning.
Good thinking is thinking that (effectively) assesses itself. Critical thinkers do not simply state the problem; they assess the clarity of their own statements. They do not simply gather information; they check it for its relevance and significance. They do not simply form an interpretation; they check to make sure their interpretation has adequate evidentiary support. Because of the importance of self-assessment to critical thinking, it is important to bring it into the structural design of every course and not just leave it to random or chance use. This session will focus on how to help students give constructive feedback that helps others as they expand their knowledge and insight by getting constructive feedback from those others. By this means, students can learn how to help other students think more clearly, accurately, precisely, relevantly, deeply, broadly, logically, and fairly (as they learn how to do so themselves).
Much lip service is given to the notion that students are learning to think critically. A cursory examination of critical thinking competency standards (enumerated and elaborated in this session) should persuade any reasonable person familiar with schooling today that they are not.
Critical thinking competency standards, which are the focus of this session, serve as a resource for teachers, curriculum designers, administrators and accrediting bodies. The use of these competencies across the curriculum will ensure that critical thinking is fostered in the teaching of any subject to all students at every grade level. These competency standards can be found in A Guide for Educators to Critical Thinking Competency Standards: Standards, Principles, Performance Indicators, and Outcomes With a Critical Thinking Master Rubric, which will be provided to all conference participants and will be used throughout this session.
This guide, Critical Thinking Competency Standards, provides a framework for assessing students’’ critical thinking abilities. It enables administrators, teachers and faculty at all levels (from elementary through higher education) to determine the extent to which students are reasoning critically within any subject or discipline. These standards include outcome measures useful for teacher assessment, self-assessment, as well as accreditation documentation. These competencies not only provide a continuum of student expectations, but can be contextualized for any academic subject or domain and for any grade level. In short, these standards include indicators for identifying the extent to which students are using critical thinking as the primary tool for learning.
By internalizing the competencies, students will become more self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored thinkers. They will develop their ability to:
In this session, participants will work their way through many of the critical thinking competency standards. Participants will think through how these standards can and should be applied to teaching, learning and assessment in their subject or discipline, in their school or college.
Substantive writing consists in focusing on topic worth writing about and saying something worth saying about it. But all knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary, secondary, and peripheral ideas. Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving to an outer circle of peripheral ideas. The primary ideas, at the core, explain the secondary and peripheral ideas. Whenever we read to acquire knowledge we must write to take ownership, first, of the primary ideas, for they are a key to understanding all the other ideas. Furthermore, just as we must write to gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas, so also must we write to begin to think within the system as a whole and to make interconnections between ideas. The sooner we begin to think, and therefore write, within a system, the sooner the system becomes meaningful to us. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in substantive writing in content areas.
The Cold War, Trans-National Capitalism, World Religious Fundamentalism (Jewish, Christian, Muslim), The Hydrogen Bomb, McCarthyism, Wars for Markets and Ideology, Information Age, Mass Surveillance, Loss of Privacy, Environmentalism, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Mass Media, Mass Education, War on Terrorism, An Orwellian World, State-based Terrorism., Global Warming, Movements to Reform Education, First Wave of Critical Thinking Movement, Second Wave, Third Wave. Critical Thinking as the Leading 21st Century Skill, The Possibility of the Emergence of a Critical Society (or instead a Reversion to a New Dark Age)
Some relevant thinkers: Max Black, C. Wright Mills, Goffman, Commager, Habermas, Gorbachev, Paul.
The goal of these sessions will be twofold: 1) to document how difficult it has been for critical thinking to take root in human affairs and 2) to document the way it has, nevertheless, begun its emergence as a distinctive social and educational force. Our historical account will not cover every thinker who has thought critically. That would be impossible. It will deal with a particular thinker only when the writings of that thinker shed special light on the nature of critical thinking. Of course, attention will certainly be given to those thinkers who have formulated particular dimensions of critical thinking in a more-or-less explicit way. Finally, since critical thinking cannot significantly emerge except in social conditions conducive to that emergence, attention will be given to the conditions that have spawned some critical thinking as well as those conditions that have limited or stymied its development. Social, cultural, political, economic, and religious conditions will be discussed. The first session will lay the foundation for the sessions that follow.
It will shed light on the range of possible beginnings to critical thinking. For example, critical thinking begins when someone wonders, and tries to find out, why things are the way they are, when they seek the Logos of things, the way things interrelate to form systems and systems of systems. Critical thinking begins when someone notices that things are not the way they appear to be, when, to see or understand something, one must strip off a mask or front or counterfeit of something else. Critical thinking begins when someone questions the shaman or the witch doctor or the religious teacher or the leader and wonders whether they really know what they are talking about. Critical thinking begins when someone wonders whether his thinking is based on reality or merely on the way people around him think. Critical thinking begins when someone recognizes that he has never questioned his culture, his history, his politics, or his religion, and recognizes as well that he is foolish not to.
On the other hand, critical thinking is diminished to the extent that there is little or no freedom of thought. There is little freedom of thought when dominant belief systems align with dominant political, economic, military, or religious powers in a society. Critical thinking requires a degree of tolerance for thinking that dissents from the status quo. For most time periods and most historical settings, what we find is a high degree of intolerance of dissenting views. The sessions will aim to shed light on this historical dialectic of outcroppings of critical thought amid an overall social fabric of intolerance.
Advanced sessions presuppose fundamental command of the concept of critical thinking including elements, standards and traits on the one hand, and application or contextualization to some domain of thought on the other. These understandings will be presupposed of all participants.