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Roundtable Discussions at the 38th Conference

Thursday, July 19

1:25 p.m. - 2:40 p.m.
Room: Salon IV

The Roundtable Discussions offer an opportunity for us to engage in lively, informal dialogue about important topics in education and society. Each Roundtable will begin with a brief (10-15 minute) introduction by the presenter, and then will open up a Socratic dialogue among all participants. Join any discussion as you wish, and feel free to move between discussions after initial presentations are finished.

To ensure sufficient attendance at each Roundtable Discussion, most have been paired or clustered; in such cases, presenters will take turns presenting, and the Socratic dialogue will begin after the last presentation has finished.

Roundtable One: Overcoming Barriers to Critical Thinking Education – Experiences from Different Nations

A Multi-Disciplinary Intervention to Teach Critical Thinking Skills to Disadvantaged First-Year Students to Promote Intellectual Development

Lea Koenig

Lecturer, Office of the Dean, Natural Sciences
Faculty, Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of the Free State
South Africa

Despite courageous efforts of the Access Program in the Natural Sciences, first-year students still struggle to cope with academic challenges. The assumption that students should have a certain intellectual development level when entering tertiary studies initiated research which revealed inadequate critical thinking skills in first-year students. The question arose as to what could be done to assist the students in acquiring the skills needed to succeed - the exact same skills they were supposed to have mastered in school. This research shares the evidence of a multi-disciplinary effort to scaffold first-year Access Programme students.

For three years an action research design was implemented, and three major challenges were addressed: critical reading, critical writing, and critical thinking skills.  Each of these challenges highlighted specific problems, and scaffolding processes were put in place to address them.

The knowledge that students and lecturers gained through this long and tedious process was not only transferable to academic work, but also to many aspects of their personal lives. With feedback, focused critical-skills development, lots of practice and relevant scaffolding processes, these integrated multi-disciplinary interventions can have positive long-term advantages for struggling Access Programme students.

Fostering Critical Thinking in Character and Citizenship Education in Singapore

Thavamalar Kanagaratnam
Lead Specialist, Character and Citizenship Education
Student Development Curriculum Division
Ministry of Education

In Singapore, Character and Citizenship Education is a fundamental aspect of schooling from the primary through the post-secondary levels (7-18 years old). In recent years especially, this area in education has been recognized as being vital to the holistic development of our children and adolescents. Greater emphasis has been placed on it through the provision of enhanced curriculum resources, professional capacity-building and systemic support.

One key challenge is in developing teacher efficacy in facilitating critical thinking in Character and Citizenship Education. Often, teachers are not comfortable to open up the space and allow for multiple perspectives on moral, social and political issues, as they worry about the sensitivities that may arise, and about being unable to close such discussions well. The following question will be discussed: how can a teacher balance the tensions between the need to be neutral and encourage critical perspectives, while at the same time playing the role of a values educator?

Misinterpretation and Application of Confucianism Resulted in Barriers to Critical Thinking Development in China: How I Overcome These Barriers in My Teaching and Academic Research Work

Jing Shi
Associate Professor
, School of Culture and Media
Central University of Finance and Economics

The struggle between critical thinking and blind belief can be traced back many hundreds of years in Chinese history. Confucianism
founded by the greatest Chinese historical scholar, Confucius, more than 2,000 years ago was the most influential approach to thought in Chinese history. Confucius stressed the importance of education and his teaching methods greatly influenced the way Chinese children are taught, even today. But Confucius' educational thought ignored the importance of critical thinking and creative ability, for it advocated ‘believing and admiring everything our forefathers said.’ Confucianism also advocated unconditional obedience to feudal rulers, and thus became the dominant ideology of the Chinese feudal ruling class. That’s why the struggle against feudalism in China first started with criticism of Confucianism.

In order to overcome the negative impact resulting from the bind belief in everything Confucianism advocates, I always try to introduce new ways of thinking in my teaching work so as to cultivate critical thinking in my students. But serious disagreements over educational thought and teaching methods still exist in China today for various reasons.

This presentation seeks to introduce and discuss the historical and current situations confronting critical thinking development in China, and to share my experience in using critical thinking in teaching and academic research. 

Roundtable Two: Going Beyond Formal Education in Fostering Critical Thinking

The Intersection of Emotional Intelligence, ‘Formal Education,’ and our Lived Experience: How This Critical Point Affects Our Ability to Think

Alonzo Kelly

Kelly Leadership Group, LLC

Emotional Intelligence is our ability to understand our emotions and our responses to the emotions of others. The term 'formal education' is used to describe some degree of acquired knowledge through institutionalized education. The human experience involves life lessons that influence how we perceive, interpret, and respond to information. The intersection of these three points allows us to understand our comfort level in engaging in bold conversations necessary to think, support, advocate, and serve.

No single textbook, program, certificate, or experience will equip a person to be the best critical thinker. Rather, a collection of what is learned both in the classroom and through life experiences, including how we personally respond to our own emotions, enables a person to navigate life in the most effective and efficient possible way. Influencing our decision-making process is diversity in thought, ability, socioeconomics, race, gender, intellectual ability, and support structures, just to name a few. The framework provided in this presentation will offer research, self-assessment tools, and recommended next steps for a person to explore how their unique experience influences their ability to think critically.

Critical Thinking for the Masses and the Individual: How Can We Plant the Seed in Today’s Global Society So that We Can All Grow Together with Critical Thinking?

Vina Quiambao
Graduating University Student
Ryerson University

The idea of making critical thinking more widespread is not new. It actually seems that more and more people are advocating for a world of critical thinkers, and this is not only by the work of formal institutions but also through the reach of social media. These efforts may be reaching those who are already interested in improving their critical thinking
a simple Google search can really do wonders but how are we ensuring that those who are not naturally drawn to it, and those who have no access to the proper resources, are also being reached? If everyone can benefit from being exposed to critical thinking, why wouldn’t we make sure that everyone is being exposed to it? Wouldn’t our world be so much more promising if everyone was at least exposed to the idea of critical thinking?

Now that technology has developed exponentially over the years and is only growing at a faster rate, the need for critical thinking has exploded and we need to find a way for humans to be well-equipped for the future. For instance, fake news and facts are being spread by the masses like wildfire through modern technological means of communication, and we can either continue with this status quo or equip people with the mental weapons of critical thinking to prevent further damage to our society. We can do something about this, and we can make sure that critical thinking is a part of every human’s daily life. The question is: how?

Roundtable Three: Critical Thinking in Professional Life and Business Administration

Cultivating the Application of Critical Thinking in Professions

Richard King
Thinking in Organisations

There are significant barriers to cultivating the application of critical thinking in any profession. At its heart, cultivating the application of critical thinking is a complex change issue. There are no simple, templated solutions or strategies for overcoming the barriers. Instead, each situation faced will be unique, and will require the thoughtful management of both expectations and experiences. This Roundtable Discussion will engage participants and encourage them to reflect upon their experiences in cultivating the application of critical thinking in their professions. An additional aim will be to establish a community of interest to share experiences and ideas.

Evolving Your Company Through the Habit of Critical Thinking

Andrés Hurtado


Héctor Miguel Páez

Every company is guided by its directors’ belief systems. Results, either good or bad, are a consequence of those beliefs. A company is not alone, it is part of a bigger ecosystem: different companies interacting in complex value-interchanging procedures. The ecosystem rules are dynamic; they frequently change. When ecosystem rules change, a company needs to adapt. If company does not adapt, it will be at risk. It is frequent to find that managers are not fast enough to change their belief systems. Critical thinking offers an alternative where managers can evolve their systems: they will be able to identify and modify them accordingly with the ecosystem’s value requirements.

Roundtable Four: Critical Thinking in Military and Other Complex Contexts

Critical Thinking in Complex Environments

Kevin M. Smith
Speaker and Design Consultant
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

We live in a complex world. All around us we can see examples of things and mechanisms that are complex, both natural and manmade. Many such systems are now being recognized as almost impossible to understand using conventional inquiry methods and limited analytic skills.

Over a recent ten-year period, as reported by insurance giant Munich Rea, human-caused design errors due to persistent complexity challenges has cost the high-tech industry more than 1.2 trillion dollars in lost revenue. 90% of all enterprise data collected is not even used: the top twenty companies spend almost 250 billion dollars a year on complexity-induced wasting of resources.

Militaries cannot escape the quagmire of complexity either. Military operations have become so complex that a new Pentagon agency has been established dedicated to ‘Battle Space Awareness,’ attempting to untangle complex networks and simultaneous operations to establish situational awareness of the whole.

Since Descartes, it has been assumed that to understand large-scale complex systems, one needed to decompose them into their constituent parts, study each component in isolation through the process of analysis and, once the analysis of each component is complete, to add all components together in a linear fashion so as to gain knowledge of the whole. This has been shown through the process of critical thinking to be wrong. Yet, many still struggle to offer a viable solution.

Armed with the power of reason, we can either address each problem separately, on a piece-meal basis, and hope for the best – comfortable with the belief that each situation is singular, and as such requires only situational expertise, with any consideration of higher-order skills being unnecessary. Or, we can consider critical thinking along with its analogue, analytic reasoning, and propose an alternative approach with considerably more promise. Critical thinking in the form of ‘higher-order reasoning’ will provide us with agile, bedrock skills to take on any challenge, simple or complex.

This session will examine the challenges of complexity and how critical thinking is the optimum approach to addressing problems in complex environments.

Critical Thinking Course as an ‘Awakening of Consciousness to Itself’ for Military Personnel

Caroline Obiageli

Nigerian Defence Academy

The Nigerian Defence Academy has started a new Master of Philosophy program in Security and Strategic Studies, targeting senior strategic-level officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces, with Critical Thinking and Advanced Strategic Reasoning as one of the two core courses in the program. As a member of the Critical Thinking teaching team, I observed the course participants’ initial display of a mix of excitement and resistance – excitement for the seemingly novel field of study, and a skeptical resistance for what they considered ‘anti-military’ principles of the course. However, continued engagement fostered expressions of a certain resemblance between critical thinking and some military operational decision-making processes, particularly the Estimate Process. This attracted my interest to explore further the relationships between critical thinking and military Estimate Process strategy, specifically as a means of identifying various ways that critical thinking values could be useful for effective military operational command and leadership. This presentation is therefore aimed at illustrating these relationships, with an eye towards establishing the importance of critical thinking to military systems and operations.

Roundtable Five: Fostering Critical Thinking Cultures in Higher-Education Institutions

Taking Critical Thinking Beyond the Classroom

Patty Payette
Director, Quality Enhancement Plan
University of Louisville

This Roundtable is an opportunity to hear about the strategies and experiences of an academic administrator who worked on a project to take critical thinking across the campus and across the community.

At the University of Louisville, the Paul-Elder critical thinking framework was cultivated in student affairs, student services, and in local projects as well as in the classroom. This session will be for those who want to hear about, and talk about, successful strategies for engaging non-faculty in structured, long- or short-term critical thinking endeavors that meet missions and goals outside of a curriculum.

The Challenge of Engaging Colleagues in Learning and Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

Ron Stein
Psychology and Learning Framework Professor
Mountain View College

Studies show that many community college students consistently show profound weaknesses in critical thinking skills. As teachers, one of the greatest positive impacts we can have on students is to help them build these higher-level thinking skills for their overall advancement and success. Yet, we have found in our learning institution that instructors want to teach critical thinking concepts, but do not have a framework from which to teach. There have been nation-wide conversations about the fact that faculty are not even able to define critical thinking in a consistent, useful way.

This presentation looks to open a discussion about how critical thinking concepts can be adopted and taught across disciplines in a college setting. The conversation will work to help develop ideas for encouraging instructors to ‘buy into’ a consistent, understandable framework that will engage them and ultimately foster a culture of critical thinking for their students across all disciplines.

Roundtable Six: Fostering Critical Thinking Cultures in Higher-Education Institutions

Adult Thinking Performance Profiles

Robert Niewoehner
David F. Rogers Distinguished Professor of Aeronautics
United States Naval Academy

Wolcott and Lynch described five ‘Thinking Performance Profiles,’ characterizing adults’ encounters with ill-structured problems such as those found in professional practice, whether business, technology or public policy. Their work expands on the work of King, Kitchener, and Fischer in adult cognitive development, and draws on Paul and Elder. Their characterizations humorously describe thinking behaviors commonly found in upper-level undergrads, graduate students, and early and mid-career professionals. Valuably for faculty and workplace supervisors, they suggest particular skills for targeted development of students and employees. Paul and Elder’s Critical Thinking model provides a framework for more easily conceptualizing their prescriptions. Deepening mastery of the elements of thought and intellectual standards, and development of the intellectual virtues, will naturally advance young thinkers along the development path promoted by Wolcott and Lynch.

Conceptualizing Content to Advance Learning Potential

Diana J. Taylor

Director: Education Specialist Programs for M/M and DHH
Mount Saint Mary’s University

Academic concepts become more and more demanding as content increases in supplication. Students may learn to use critical thinking skills to develop a pathway toward recognizing all the elements required of each complex concept. Teachers can lead students through that pathway with ease once they too can discover, organize and prepare this content effectively.

Learn to quickly recognize the concepts being taught, link them to prior learning experiences and transfer these skills to the new abstract applications that the classroom demands.

Roundtable Seven: Fostering Critical Thinking in Our Future Leaders

Critical Thinking as a Foundation for Leadership Education

Daryl Watkins
Associate Professor, Organizational Leadership
Associate Dean, College of Business
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
– Worldwide
United States

Some years ago, Linda Elder challenged me by questioning why our university described our Master in Leadership program as a Master of Science instead of a Master of Arts program. This question has come back to me a few times as our program administrators have wrestled with curriculum decisions. Developing leaders is not a science. There are no prescribed methods that work in every situation. Teaching leadership is not like teaching gravity.

Despite this conundrum, we have persisted in moving students through a systematic approach to leadership development. We start with a foundation of critical thinking. My claim is that leaders must think well to lead well. Put differently: critical thinking is antecedent to good leadership. Consequently, we introduce Paulian concepts in the first three weeks of the first course in our program. We use Learning to Think Things Through by Gerald Nosich, Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools by Paul and Elder, and various online resources in that first course. We continue to cultivate fairminded critical thinking throughout the remainder of the program using implicit methods within our learning activities (discussion groups, journaling, critical reading, papers, and presentations).

Rebuilding a Curriculum in the Quest for Tomorrow’s Critical Thinking Leaders in Post-War Colombia

Nicolas Diaz-Durana

Head of the Social Studies Department
Gimnasio Moderno School in Bogota

Colombia is a country with a complex and violent political history. Its culture is strongly influenced by sexism and the Catholic religion. Education is permeated by tradition-based assumptions about family, the role of women and the structure of society. Kids grow surrounded by dichotomic thinking and superficial ideas about morals and community. Individualism has therefore become a common strategy to break through and thrive in such a challenging environment.

The purpose of this Roundtable is to discuss how critical thinking can become a motor of change in light of these conditions. The case of Gimnasio Moderno, one of Colombia’s most important private schools, will be shared and discussed. With 103 years of history and a Montessori-oriented model, the school has taken on the task to rebuild its curriculum in order to better face the country’s challenges after the peace treaty signed with the FARC (the oldest guerrilla group in the world). Critical thinking, as conceived by Drs. Paul and Elder, has been in the center of this process. With this change, the school aims to continue to educate students who can become tomorrow’s leaders: critical thinkers with the skills to take on a country wanting to end a long history of war.

Roundtable Eight: The Role of Critical Thinking in Public Health: The Online Learning Environment

Robert Carter, III
Senior Lecturer, Health Sciences and Public Health
Azusa Pacific University, University College;
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army

In public health, online learning provides students with an opportunity to evaluate concepts learned and apply them to their professional experiences. This process occurs in a learning community where student interaction and feedback fuels the learning process, leading to a higher level of critical reflective thinking for the learner.

The challenge for online public health instructors is how to incorporate critical thinking in the online environment in an effective manner. This presentation will address the issue of critical thinking and how it is applied in an actual online environment through an interactive exercise created by the instructor. 

Roundtable Nine: Live Your Longest Life; Die Your Shortest Death

Bett Martinez
Executive Director
The Possible Society

In Aging Gracefully, French psychologist Marie de Hennizel writes, ‘There is nothing older than not wanting to grow old.’ I respectfully disagree: in my humble opinion, even in caveman days, when life was ‘harsh, brutish and short,’ I believe people did not want to die. In our times, even with increased longevity, we don’t like to focus on think critically on – this subject. We all know that we are going to die, but hope we’ll live well right until the end, feel fulfilled with our doing and being, and then ‘drop’ dead quickly in what researchers term ‘compressed morbidity.’

This Roundtable presentation will be conducted to elicit people’s feelings and ideas regarding life planning. The purpose of the session is to encourage critical thinking about life fulfillment, and to share considerations on things that can be done to plan and create a better present and a better end-of-life – individually and collectively.

In the presentation, I will use my acting background to do a dramatic reading of a brief short story. At the conclusion of the story, Roundtable participants will receive a set of quotes and questions to facilitate discussion. 

This Roundtable aims to: 

1. Brainstorm how to prepare and put in place plans and people, routines, and relationships to make the course of one’s life and the end of one’s life as gratifying as possible.

2. Share how, in other parts of the world, governments and families help create ‘softer landings,’ and discuss what may be done here.

3. Continue the connection and reflection among participants, sharing experiences.

Hopefully, this may be the impetus for setting up an international blog on this much-needed topic.

Roundtable Ten: Developing an Integrative Expectation for Critical Thinking Across a Psychology Curriculum

Bethann Bierer
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Senior Instructor, Psychology Department
University of Colorado Denver

Critical thinking has become a desired component of undergraduate educational programs, yet few disciplines have sought to systematically integrate instruction in this skill throughout the entire curriculum. While almost all instructors will agree that critical thinking is essential, few are successful in linking this sense of felt value with their instructional goals and efforts.

At the University of Colorado Denver, a concerted effort is being implemented that seeks to provide students with a comprehensive structure that stresses not only the skills inherent in developing an ability to think critically, but a clear, consistent message that emphasizes the importance of investing time and effort in developing these skills. This session will explore the considerations that have gone into the development of this program as well as some of the early feedback on the program’s efficacy.