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Posts Tagged ‘teaching critical thinking’

Beyond Critical Thinking: A Symposium

Friday, 13 November 2015
York University

Over the past 50 years a great deal of work has been done in the young field of Argumentation Theory. Much of this work is highly relevant to traditional Critical Thinking and Critical Reasoning pedagogy. Nonetheless, it has been largely ignored by the many instructors of those courses who are not themselves working in Argumentation Theory. In this symposium each speaker will relate their work to uses in the classroom and discuss the impact it can have on students and their approach to argument. Following each speaker, all the invited speakers and several other qualified scholars will form a panel and answer questions and raise points of discussion.

There will be two speakers in the morning and two in the afternoon. The morning and afternoon sessions will followed by a panel consisting of all speakers and other qualified persons. The panel will be discussion-based and participant led.

Invited Speakers:

  • Catherine Hundleby, University of Windsor
  • Michael A. Gilbert, York University
  • Chris Tindale, University of Windsor
  • Harvey Siegel, University of Miami

The Symposium takes place on Friday, 13 November, 2015 at:

York University
4700 Keele St.
Department of Philosophy
Toronto, Canada M3J 1P3

Lunch will be provided to registrants.

To register, please click here: http://sgy.apps01.yorku.ca/machform/view.php?id=13165

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Special Issue of TOPOI: Reasoning, Argumentation, Critical Thinking Instruction

Submission Deadline: 30 OCTOBER 2015

Peer review stage: about 8 weeks; revised papers: January 2016; online-first: April 2016
 

Following the RACT2015 conference, held 25-27 FEB at Lund University, we invite submissions of papers for publication in a special issue of TOPOI (http://www.springer.com/philosophy/journal/11245). Papers must be in the order of 6000 to 8000 words (including references), and must address one or more of the conference themes (listed at http://ract2015.wordpress.com), whether from an empirical or a more conceptual perspective. Other than promoting rigor and quality of scholarship (as evidenced, for instance, by demonstrating, familiarity with the relevant literature), this special issue primarily seeks to inform readers who wish to reduce the distance between the research front and what is (falsely) presented to students as the state-of-the-art in critical thinking instruction. Therefore, papers should be of immediate relevance to those who teach or coordinate instruction in critical thinking as part of school or university education, either as dedicated courses or across the curriculum, or plan to do so. Of special relevance is the current trend to appropriate research on social, cognitive and other biases, as well as on two systems or two processes accounts of human reasoning.

 
Among those invited to submit to this special issue are the RACT keynote speakers: (more…)

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2nd Call for Papers: Topoi–Reasoning, Argumentation, and Critical Thinking Instruction

Submission Deadline: 30 OCTOBER 2015

Topic: Reasoning, Argumentation, Critical Thinking Instruction (RACT)

Journal: TOPOI (http://www.springer.com/philosophy/journal/11245)

Peer review stage: about 8 weeks

Submission of revised papers: January 2016

Online-first publication expected: April 2016

Following the RACT2015 conference, held 25-27 FEB at Lund University (see: http://ract2015.wordpress.com), we invite submissions of papers for publication in a special issue of TOPOI (http://www.springer.com/philosophy/journal/11245). Papers must be in the order of 6000 to 8000 words (including references), and must address one or more of the conference themes listed at the above website. Whether being addressed from an empirical or a more conceptual perspective, other than rigor and quality of scholarship (as evidenced, for instance, by demonstrating, familiarity with the relevant literature), this special issue primarily seeks to inform those who wish to reduce the distance between the research front and what is (falsely) presented to students as the state-of-the-art critical thinking instruction. Therefore, papers should in one way or another be of immediate relevance to those who already do, or plan to, teach or implement instruction in critical thinking as part of school or university education, either as dedicated courses or across the curriculum. Of special relevance is the current trend to appropriate research on social, cognitive and other biases, as well as two systems or two processes accounts of human reasoning.

Among those invited to submit to this special issue are the RACT keynote speakers: (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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Jezebel has a few things to tell us regarding critical thinking and racism, mostly “keep it simple stupid.”  Stop making excuses to believe that there is no racism or that it’s sufficiently over that it can be employed ironically.  That ignorance is a failure in critical thinking.

Writers Jim Cooke and elenabo/Shutterstock use a disquotational appeal to truth:

You know how you can tell that black people are still oppressed? Because black people are still oppressed.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Even if it were not, irony takes a delicate hand and is almost impossible to deliver from a position of privilege.

Their anger is inspiring but humour is difficult to think about critically.  Many of us have no understanding of how it works and why what seems to be a simple pleasure can cause so much harm.  Perhaps that is as important a subject for teaching critical thinking as argumentation?  Humour can be a hindrance or boon, and understanding the reasoning it involves may help us use it better.

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest article by longtime critical thinking advocate and researcher Donald Lazere.  Prof. Lazere is Professor Emeritus of English at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

WHY IS THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOLARS SAYING SUCH AWFUL THINGS ABOUT CRITICAL THINKING?

Donald Lazere, Professor Emeritus of English, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Two of National Association of Scholars president Peter Wood’s recent “Innovations” blogs in the online Chronicle of Higher Education renewed NAS’s long-running attack on the theory and teaching of critical thinking, about which he and I had an e-mail go-round a few years ago. I think there have been several semantic misunderstandings here that have needlessly exacerbated the dispute, and I will try, once again, to overcome these here.

In “The Curriculum of Forgetting“ (Nov. 21), Wood wrote “What we need is a reversal of cultural tides, a restoration of the basic principle that the university is responsible for keeping the past imaginatively alive and available for the present.  The stance of generalized antagonism to the whole of Western civilization and the elevation of “critical thinking” in the sense of facile reductionism (everything at bottom is about race-gender-class hierarchy) makes the university function more and more as our society’s chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

In “Leaf Taking” (Dec. 4), he added, “We have elevated ‘critical thinking’ as the chief and worthiest end of a liberal education.  Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.   The critical thinker who is deaf to culture’s deeper appeals is impoverished in some profound ways.  He is equipped to take everything apart but not to put anything together.  We need more minds capable of moving at ease and grasping the whole.”

I posted the following comment in response to the Dec. 4 piece, but as I should have made clearer, it was directed more to the previous one: (more…)

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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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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.

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Puzzle Piece, by Wikimedia Commons user Crazy-phunk

Puzzle piece, via Wikimedia Commons

Don Lazere’s short but punchy piece in the Chronicle on the beleaguered state of critical thinking education in the American academy is well worth a read.

While I find myself agreeing with much of what he says, I think he misses one of the principal actors in the play: the increasing role of corporate influence in and on the structure and culture of American higher education.  Increasingly, administrators and board members are not professional academics but professional bureaucrats and managers who see their primary task as generating revenue.  This leads to a mentality that sees terms like ‘critical thinking’ as buzzwords, bogus assessment exercises, fodder for mission statements or worse, “branding” campaigns.  The perils therein are familiar enough and rants plentiful enough that I’ll leave it there.

What interests me the most about Lazere’s short piece is how it fits with what has really been an explosion of formal methods in the last thirty or so years.  Indeed, formal logic has changed so much that it is now virtually unrecognizable to those of us who remember the time when advances in modal logic were considered “cutting edge” to most in philosophy. From today’s perspective, the basic course in predicate calculus looks a lot like “baby logic”. ‘Critical thinking’, as Lazere points out, doesn’t seem to have much real purchase at all anymore:

(more…)

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