Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

A new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the decline of philosophy in the academy stresses again (see my previous post) the importance of philosophy in providing critical thinking education.  I’m pleased to see the props the author (Lee McIntyre) gives to feminist philosophers for their attention to pressing issues of our time, but I’m not sure his general despair over philosophy is warranted given other reports of the rising popularity of philosophy education.

McIntyre may simply be building a career as an alarmist.  His most recent book “Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior” despairs over losing the emancipatory potential of the social sciences.  (See Berel Dov Lerner’s review here.)  One begins to sense a pattern, and while I haven’t had a chance to investigate “Dark Ages” yet, I’m sceptical that it claims to promote value-free science.

However, his message about the need for a revaluation of the significance of philosophy education, and the central role of critical thinking in that context, may be important.  (He has a book coming out on this too.)  He says “the goal—especially at the undergraduate level—should be to help students recognize that philosophy matters. Not just because it will improve their LSAT scores (which it will), but because philosophy has the potential to change the very fabric of who they are as human beings.”  This requires taking critical thinking to a much higher level than most undergraduate programs will.

McIntyre blames the discipline for hiring sessional instructors, which is absurd since those decisions are made by administrators rather than faculty members.  However, philosophers do tend to view critical thinking, argumentation, and introductory education as less valuable, and so assign it to sessional instructors.  That might be rethought, but only if we begin to have philosophers trained in those methodological issues.

As argumentation theory and informal logic continue to grow (see the introductory editorial in Cogency), giving rise to new journals (such as Cogency) and becoming institutionalized in new research centres and doctoral programs, perhaps we will have the resources for that.   As it stands, critical thinking is much less a part of the philosophy curriculum than one might expect.

Philosophy is not alone in promising (and perhaps failing) to teach “critical thinking,” since that buzzword is so heavily used in education that it is almost meaningless.  Yet philosophers continue to claim a rightful ownership of that terrain.  That claim and the pride that goes with it flies in the face of typical educational and hiring practices that undervalue teaching and research in argumentation and informal logic.

What we need to turn things around may be a radical reconsideration of what is the purpose of a philosophy education.  McIntyre suggests that should be an appreciation of the value of philosophy, and that may require greater focus on the skills of philosophy. That will certainly depend on a broad consciousness-raising among philosophers, not to stem the hiring of sessional instructors but to demand that instructors of courses and authors of textbooks in critical thinking have expertise and training in informal logic.

Read Full Post »

Some readers of RAIL may already with John Bohannon’s brilliant competition Dance your PhD.  In the video below, given at a TED event in Brussels, Bohannon generalizes the point that Dance your PhD essentially makes: Explanations can be effectively delivered in any number of ways.  Though the suggestion that dancers might replace the ubiquitous and dreaded PowerPoint is a bit tongue-in-cheek to be sure, I think that the observations Bohannon makes here about it’s pitfalls are spot on and worthy of consideration.

I have to admit that I’m also seized with curiosity as to how or even whether this could be done with arguments.  At the very least the results would put a whole new “spin” on Michael Gilbert‘s theory of visceral argument. :)

Enjoy.

Read Full Post »

This article from the Denver Post stresses the usefulness of philosophy, including how “emphasis on informal and symbolic logic” helps with computer science.  In accounts of philosophy curricula, unfortunately, reference to informal logic is typically just name-dropping, as the textbook authors are mostly not scholars in the field, and instructors rarely have any relevant training.  That seems to be the case here:  Colorado State has only one logician on faculty, and he specializes in formal logic.

This problem is deeply ironic, for the scholarship being neglected was developed for the very purpose of filling the gap between logical theory and logical practice. Much scholarship in symbolic logic may be irrelevant to undergraduate pedagogy, but informal logic is a movement developed substantially for the purpose of creating an approach to logic that would be more relevant to students.

When philosophers appeal to “informal logic” or philosophers claim ownership over the teaching of “critical thinking,” it verges on fraud.  The baiting with informal logic scholarship devoted to critical thinking and switching it for a loose distillation of the cultural standards in the discipline of philosophy is going to catch up with us eventually.

It’s time for philosophers to wake up and put our money, our faculty positions, our textbook buying power, and our textbook reviews where the scholarship is.  Philosophy can be highly relevant if we hold ourselves to higher scholarly standards.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers