Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

A screen shot of Rationale Online

A screen shot of Rationale Online, click for a larger view.

It’s no secret to regular readers here that I’m a big fan of argument mapping. I’ve written about it several times and it’s come to be a very important component of my teaching. That’s why I’m happy to have added Rationale Online, a web-based version of the Rationale software package, to the RAIL Resources page.  Beyond merely listing it there, though, I thought I’d put up a short post about it as I think it really does represent a positive step in the evolution of argument diagramming software for the classroom.

The diagramming system used in Rationale Online is a descendant of that pioneered by Tim van Gelder (some will remember Reason!Able), wherein one can diagram both arguments and various sorts of rebuttals, with or without incorporating various sorts of argument schemes from a number of different models. (more…)

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Paul Gustav Fischer, "A fire on Kultorvet" c.1900

Paul Gustav Fischer, “A fire on Kultorvet” c.1900

Eric Schliesser, over at NewAPPS, has an interesting post up regarding a dispute between Marcus Arvan and Jason Brennan over the ethics of promoting the study of philosophy by citing empirical data about the success of philosophy majors. For those outside the discipline of philosophy this may seem a tempest in a teacup, but I think it warrants a closer look. For where one reads ‘philosophy’ in these discussions one could almost, in every case, substitute the name of another humanities discipline with no damage at all to the logic of the arguments in play. In the same way, I’m writing this post as a philosopher, but my guess is that a good deal of what I say here could probably be said just as well (if perhaps more eloquently) by my colleagues in, say, English or Communications. (more…)

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Proposed New Book: Critical Thinking in Higher Education

Contributions are invited for an edited collection of papers for a book on the topic Critical Thinking in Higher Education,to be edited by Emeritus Professor Ronald Barnett (Institute of Education, University of London), Emeritus Professor Robert H. Ennis (University of Illinois), and Associate Professor Martin Davies (University of Melbourne).

Papers should be submitted by December 31st 2012. Please note that abstracts for papers (400 words maximum) should be sent to the editors for consideration first (see Submission Procedure below).

The book will include a number of previously published papers and original, previously un­published papers. Submissions can be comparative reviews, conceptual studies, empirically-based papers, reflective case studies or offer theoretical contributions. The book will combine new papers, commissioned articles, and excerpts from seminal papers in the field.

Contributions for the proposed book can cover, but are not limited to, the following areas: (more…)

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My but these things are popular. This one comes to us via yourlogicalfallacyis.com and is free to download in three sizes. The graphic is also downloadable as vector art for those saavy and motivated enough to want to work with the image some more. In terms of design I think I like this one the best of all those shared on RAIL so far. (You can see the others here and here.) It also avoids the tricky business of classification and therefore might be more useful for teaching purposes. Below is a (crummy) screenshot. The files available for download are much higher quality.

Who are those three chaps in the middle there?

It is interesting that the fallacies seem to be bubbling up as a meme in the culture at large like this. I wonder if it’s a sign of sorts that people have had enough of the shoddy, transparently shortsighted and self-interested discourse that has come to characterize so much of public life and are starting to crave discourse of a different kind–perhaps more rational, thoughtful, and careful.  That would be nice…and timely too.

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Do PIPA and SOPA threaten to reverse legal burden of proof in the US?  Clay Shirky argues they do.  I don’t know enough about the legal system, or the proposed legislation.  However, this is a serious allegation with implications far beyond the US.

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Mark Battersby and Sharon Bailin have created a blog to supplement their excellent textbook, Reason in the Balance.  I have added it to the RAIL Resources page. You can also have a look at it here.

Reason in the Balance presents students with a novel, inquiry-based approach to critical thinking. If you haven’t had a chance to check out their textbook yet, it Battersby and Bailin’s treatment gathers and synthesizes much of the best recent material from across the different approaches in argumentation theory. It’s worth a look.

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This past term I had a rather unpleasant experience in my critical thinking class. I was confronted with a subset of students who walked in the door assured that I had nothing to teach them about critical thinking. I learned this because they vocally resisted absolutely everything with which they did not personally agree. Unfortunately, this wound up being nearly everything in the class–especially when it ran against the notion that everything is a matter of opinion, a matter for an eternal debate in which all views are equally right.

Now, many readers are probably thinking, “cry me a river, that happens to me every term”. I agree. It happens to me almost every term too. What was different this time was how long it lasted (all term, without let-up) and how deep the resistance went. Not even the definition of deductive validity was accepted as offering a legitimate, if technical and limited, usage of the word ‘valid’.  The only validity these students recognized was the sense in which a point of view was “valid to me”, full-stop.  They didn’t bother learning the technical sense of ‘valid’ well enough to offer even cursory reasons for why they wouldn’t accept it. Nor could they articulate what it was, exactly, that made a point of view “valid to me” when asked. This is just one example. On multiple occasions, I got the distinct impression that my refrain that sometimes it takes more than an affirmative “gut feeling” to make it reasonable to hold a position was being taken as a personal affront by some of the students. “How dare I”, their attitude demanded, “try to teach them that things were not as they believed?” (more…)

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