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Online Courses in Critical Thinking

Registration for Spring 2024 Semester Open Now!

Online Critical Thinking Courses 

All course participants receive complimentary semester-long access
to the
Center for Critical Thinking Community Online

Courses also count toward certification in our approach .

See below for course descriptions, registration links, instructor information, and a general FAQ...

Important Dates for Spring 2024:

  • January 22 , 2024: Last day to drop with a full registration refund.
  • January 23, 2024: Instruction begins.
  • February 4, 2024: Last day to register .
  • March 19, 2024: Last day to drop with a prorated registration refund ($25 minimum refund deduction once the course begins).
  • May 14, 2024: Semester ends.

Course Offerings

CT700: How to Infuse Critical Thinking Into Instruction 

For instructors interested in developing their understanding of critical thinking and their ability to bring it into the foundation of instruction. This course is for teachers and faculty actively teaching during the semester. Academic credit is also available through Sonoma State University.  

This course  introduces a substantive conception of critical thinking and how to infuse this concept throughout your instruction. It fosters understanding of how to teach critical thinking skills to students through any subject or discipline, and at any level of instruction. In this course, you will be introduced to the elements of reasoning, universal intellectual standards, and intellectual traits through readings, discussions, and practical application activities. You will redesign lessons and strategies using the concepts and principles of critical thinking. You will practice strategies for Socratic discussions. You will help students learn to consciously use critical thinking concepts and strategies in learning, and in their lives. You will redesign and teach lessons you develop for your own classes - and receive course credit for doing so! 

As an outcome of this course, you will develop skills in:

  • Using the Elements of Reasoning and Intellectual Standards to create critical thinking lessons in your subject area. 
  • Designing instruction that fosters explicit critical thinking. 
  • Using the Elements of Reasoning and Intellectual Standards to think through intellectual, academic, personal, social, and political problems. 
  • Providing your students with the intellectual tools they need to engage in fairminded critical reasoning. 
  • Designing and conducting Socratic discussions using the concepts of critical thinking. 
  • Helping students learn to think within the key concepts in subjects and disciplines.  

This course is for educators or trainers who are actively instructing students or trainees during the semester.

CT800: Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life

Whatever you are doing right now is determined by the way you are thinking. Whatever emotions you feel are determined by your thinking. Whatever you want - all your desires - are determined by your thinking. If your thinking is unrealistic, it will lead you to many disappointments. If your thinking is overly pessimistic, it will deny you due recognition of the many things in which you should properly rejoice. 

Since few people realize the powerful role that thinking plays in their lives, few gain significant command of it. Most people are frequently victims of their thinking; that is, they are hurt  rather than helped   by it. Most people are their own worst enemies. Their thinking is a continual source of problems, preventing them from recognizing opportunities, keeping them from exerting energy where it will do the most good, poisoning relationships, and leading them down blind alleys.

This course will introduce you to the tools the best thinkers use and will exemplify the activities and practices you can use to begin emulating them. Here are some of the qualities of the best thinkers:

  • The best thinkers think about their thinking.    They do not take thinking for granted. They do not trust to fate to make them good in thinking. They    notice  their thinking. They    reflect   on their thinking. They   act  upon their thinking. 
  • The best thinkers are highly purposeful.    They do not simply act. They know why they act. They know what they are about. They have clear goals and clear priorities. They continually check their activities for alignment with their goals. 
  • The best thinkers have intellectual “tools” that they use to raise the quality of their thinking.    They know how to express their thinking clearly. They know how to check it for accuracy and precision. They know how to keep focused on a question and make sure that it is relevant to their goals and purposes. They know how to think beneath the surface and how to expand their thinking to include insights from multiple perspectives. They know how to think logically about and significantly.
  • The best thinkers distinguish their thoughts from their feelings and desires.    They know that wanting something to be so does not make it so. They know that one can be unjustifiably angry, afraid, or insecure. They do not let unexamined emotions determine their decisions. They have “discovered” their minds, and they examine the way their minds operate as a result. They take deliberate charge of those operations.
  • The best thinkers routinely take thinking apart.    They “analyze” thinking. They do not trust the mind to analyze itself automatically. They realize that analyzing thinking is an art one must consciously learn. They realize that it takes knowledge of the parts of thinking, and practice in exercising control over them.
  • The best thinkers routinely evaluate thinking, determining its strengths and weaknesses.    They do not trust the mind to evaluate itself automatically. They realize that the automatic ways in which the mind evaluates itself are inherently flawed. They realize that evaluating thinking is an art one must consciously learn. They realize that it takes knowledge of the universal standards for thinking, and practice in exercising control over them. 

This course, as a whole, will introduce you to the tools of mind that will help you reason well through the problems and issues you face - whether in the classroom, in your personal life, or in your professional life. If you take these ideas seriously, and practice using them, you can take command of the thinking that ultimately will command the quality of your life. 

As an outcome of this course, you will develop skills in:

  • Demonstrating understanding of the importance of fairminded critical thinking in the cultivation of fairminded critical societies.
  • Demonstrating understanding of the parts of thinking, or 'Elements of Thought,' and how these parts work together in reasoning. 
  • Demonstrating understanding of universal Intellectual Standards and their importance in human reasoning. 
  • Demonstrating understanding of the barriers to critical thinking development, and of the ability to intervene in thinking to improve it. 
  • Articulating and exemplifying the primary concepts in critical thinking, and how they can be used as tools for understanding and improving human reasoning. 
  • Articulate understanding of the problem of media bias and propaganda as a barrier to critical thought in human societies. 
  • Demonstrating understanding of ethical reasoning, and showing comprehension of the differences between ethics and other modes of thought - including religion, social ideologies, politics, and law. 
  • Demonstrating abilities in close reading and substantive writing.


CT701: How to Infuse Critical Thinking Into Instruction, Part II - Advanced Course

This course builds upon understandings learned in CT700.  Hence, CT700 is a prerequisite for this course. Our approach to critical thinking is designed to transform teaching and learning at all levels; it is based on the concepts and principles embedded in a substantive conception of critical thinking. The purpose of the course is to help instructors continue to internalize the intellectual tools they need if they are to foster intellectual skills, abilities, and characteristics in student thought.  

In this course, we emphasize the importance of fostering a substantive conception of critical thinking. Such a conception not only highlights the qualities of the educated person, but also implies the proper design of the educational process. There are essential, minimal conditions for cultivating educated minds. These entail modes of instruction that foster development of the standards, abilities, and traits of the educated person.  

As an outcome of this course, you will develop skills in:

  • Developing effective strategies for fostering fairminded critical thinking in instruction.
  • Leading more advanced Socratic dialog.
  • Deepening your understanding of the foundations of critical thinking. 
  • Understanding the relationship between critical thinking and your own instruction
  • Beginning to outline a Thinker's Guide to Critical Thinking within your field of study (showing proficiency in understanding the relationship between critical thinking and your field of study).
  • Understanding more deeply the concepts of close reading and substantive writing, in order to better foster these understandings in student thought. 
  • Placing the concept of fairminded critical thinking at the heart of teaching and learning, including an explicit emphasis on the development of Intellectual Virtues. 
  • Understanding the roles played by native human pathologies of thought in impeding intellectual development. 
  • Redesigning lessons with critical thinking at the heart of teaching and learning processes.
  • Designing instructional assessment processes that dovetail with fostering critical thinking at every moment in teaching and learning. 

This course is for educators or trainers who are actively instructing students or trainees during the semester.

CT701 Registration is Closed


Our instructors are long-time Fellows or Visiting Scholars of the Foundation for Critical Thinking.  All are first-generation Paulian scholars, having studied directly with Dr. Richard Paul , and all are experienced in teaching critical thinking in higher education.

What People Say About Our Courses

  • 'I told my boss this week during a faculty meeting that this has been the best university course I've ever taken.'

  • 'The instruction and course content was phenomenal. . . . this course has added significant value to my life.'

  • 'I have really enjoyed this course. . . meetings were engaging and very informative. I plan to attend additional offerings this academic year.'

  • 'It was a pleasure for me to attend and complete the CT800: Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life.

    The course is well structured and . . . gradually takes the students from studying the basics of the critical thinking elements and standards up to the more demanding exercises . . .

    I noticed that now the Foundation gives all online course participants a semester-long free admission to the Center for Critical Thinking Community Online. I find this access to be very useful to foster critical thinking comprehension . . .

    . . . the teacher. Dr Brian Barnes, has been very proactive in providing students with all the necessary clarifications along the different live Socratic Discussions and written comments.

    Overall, I am very satisfied with the CT800 class. I would definitely recommend it to friends and acquaintances.'

  • "I took the on-line course [CT700] and found it very helpful.  I am teaching English . . . Guided by the concept of critical thinking and the suggested methods introduced in the course and the books, we have reconstructed our curriculum and written teaching materials. We have made critical thinking one of the objectives for our courses (e.g. reading, speaking, writing) and designed activities that promote critical thinking in almost every class (e.g. activities that require analysis, evaluation, etc.)

    We have been doing this for more than three years and I can see positive effects from my observation and students' feedback. Grade 2016 students are more aware of being logical and supporting their ideas with evidence, compared to students from previous years. They are also aware of looking at things from multiple perspectives. More students have intellectual pursuit and better prepared for academic study. These give me confidence in continue the critical thinking infused language instruction and I would try to find ways to do better."

  • "I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you [Dr. Linda Elder] and Richard Paul. You both created a system for life guidance through your very arduous work on critical thinking. Thank you for adding the intellectual virtues to critical thinking. Critical thinking without the intellectual virtues is still narrow-minded thinking. Thanks to [instructor] Paul Bankes [CT700], we could get familiar with fairminded critical thinking this semester in the class.

    Since I have also attended a couple of courses in psychology, I could better understand what majestic guidance you have created to help us have better lives by improving our way of thinking. I just wanted to say "THANK YOU" for each second you have devoted in this way. I will try to internalize fairminded critical thinking in my life and help to develop this idea as much as I possibly can.

    I hope one day I can claim that I am from the community of Fairminded Critical Thinking."

  • "I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for allowing me to complete the CT700 Course. It has been the most humbling and enlightening experience of my academic life. . . .

    I will now embark on my vision to make a difference in the South African Education System. Once, again, my gratitude goes out to you . . . "

  • "CT700 was an excellent course that changed my thinking and life. It was painful at times and I found it took time for me to meaningfully complete the assignments. As I worked through the first few weeks, I also wondered if I would be able to change my thinking process. By the end of the course, I grew personally and professionally in ways that I wasn’t sure were possible."

Frequently Asked Questions

How do the courses work?

Before the course begins, we email each registrant with the web address of the course and his or her login information. Everything is done through the web: viewing and submitting assignments, communication with the instructor and classmates, etc.

The course is broken down into individual modules, with each module lasting between one and three weeks. By the first day of each module, new assignments are posted for students to complete. These typically consist of reading, writing, watching video footage, and providing feedback on other participants' work from the prior week. Coursework is done on your own time, but each module's assignments are due on the final day of the module.

How long do the courses last?

Each course runs for 15 weeks (one semester).

How much time do the courses require each week?

The assignments, if done well, will take an average of 3-4 hours per week for most participants.

Who teaches the courses?

Each course is facilitated by an instructor educated in the Paul-Elder conception of critical thinking, under the direction of the Foundation's Senior Fellows. In recent years, some courses have been instructed by  Dr. Paul Bankes , while others have been instructed by Dr. Brian Barnes .
What are the course costs, and what do they cover?

Our registration fee covers the cost of tuition and all course materials. This fee is $942.

Will I receive a certificate of completion?

A certificate of completion will be provided upon request.

How will I receive my materials after I register for a course?

The course materials will be available online in a digital format.

What if I need to drop the course?

Please see the 'Important Dates' section at the top of this page.