Critical Thinking Resources

Critical Thinking Articles - An annotated bibliography of critical thinking articles. Compiled by the Indiana University Writing Program.

Critical Thinking Hub. An open courseware site on critical thinking, logic, and creativity at the University of Hong Kong, Philosophy Department. Great, concise explanations, and some excellent exercises.

 

Critical Thinking and Graduate Education

This document is a compilation of notes taken at the Spring 1999 workshop entitled "Critical Thinking and Graduate Education," sponsored by the Writing Center.


Panel Members

Dr. Carol Ellis, Chair
Dr. Michael Scriven, Keynote Speaker
Dr. Patricia Easton
Dr. Peter Withers
Constance Devereaux
Jennifer Hillman Helgren


recorded by Tamara Hollins

 

Dr. Carol Ellis

Dr. Ellis reported that the purpose of this panel was to discuss the relationship between thought and graduate education. The panelists, who included professors and graduate students, pondered three main questions identified by Dr. Ellis: 

  1. What does it mean to think? 
  2. What does it mean to think at the graduate level? 
  3. How do we work with thought and graduate education while engaging in thought that is valuable and reflects upon itself?

 

Dr. Michael Scriven

Dr. Scriven answered the last question by briefly summarizing the problems with critical thinking: "The main controversy centers around the choice between teaching it within a subject matter or as an autonomous subject.” The solution, Scriven declared, is to utilize both approaches. Faculty should teach students the highest standards of critical thinking activities within a subject matter and teach a separate course covering critical thinking elements. One of the results of such a tactic is the applicability of critical theory to both the academic and the non-academic (real) worlds. 

In addition to providing strategies for teaching critical thinking, Scriven delineated the progression from critical thought to critical writing. This transition is made through the self-application of critical thinking skills. One must treat his or her work as a subject for critical analysis. A critical thinker needs to realize that she/he possesses diluted thought processing skills and must act accordingly. In other words, one should apply critical thinking techniques to one’s own paper and have that paper critiqued by the appropriate person. Such skilled individuals are available at the CGU Writing Center.

Tip: Scriven introduces to his students techniques for defining terms and criticizing alleged definitions, methods for defining terms when one cannot provide a straight definition, and counter-exampling, all of which the students can use immediately.

Tip: Scriven stated that peer grading helps students to internalize good standards of evaluation, discouraging petty criticism. 

 

Dr. Patricia Easton

Dr. Easton, a CGU philosophy professor, provided a methodology for teaching critical thinking by discussing an exercise developed for a class targeting non-philosophy majors. As a result of completing the exercise, her students learned that arguments are based on a cognitive structure into which reasons fit.

Tip: A writer should diagram and think about the structure of an argument before writing the paper. This will allow the writer to enable the transfer of critical thinking skills to the critical writing process.

 

Constance DeVereaux

Deveraux, a CGU public policy and philosophy major, also focused on personal experiences in the classroom and on the application of critical thinking skills to critical writing. She noted that critical thinking helps one to organize and evaluate her or his writing. Writing skills are improved since one must concentrate on content after devising the structure of the argument. 

 

Dr. Peter Withers

Dr. Withers discussed the implementation of critical thinking in public policy. The problem in this arena is how to move beyond the mere focus on the critical thinking process to nuance (deep understanding). One can be logical and rational when making business decisions, but these decisions often collapse in practice because the nuances of how the decision will play out in the non-academic (real) world are not discussed. Moreover, time constraints challenge the ability of the business leader to move from ambiguity to deep understanding to critically evaluating the decision regarding its operation in the real world. Withers declared that business, with its heavy emphasis on opportunity, must engage in the critical thinking process of moving from ambiguity to evaluation while continuously building upon that process. One result would be businesses that are, at the least, more socially conscious. 

 

Jennifer Hillman Helgren

Helgren, a CGU history student, initiated another turn in the discussion by noting the importance of including a formal critical thinking course in the graduate school curriculum. The reasons for such a focus include the opportunity for new students to develop creative thinking skills (that is to say, students will learn how to come up with original interpretations and creatively build upon the ideas of other academics in order to enter dialogue in a meaningful way) and move beyond the petty critic. Hilgren provided strategies for reading and processing that help to prevent petty criticism by encouraging a respectful reader/author relationship and active questioning.

 

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