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Roundtable Discussions at the 2019 Training for Trainers and Advanced Academy

Sunday, April 14
10:45 a.m.


Embedding Critical Creative Thinking into Online Graduate Programs

Tracy Cooper

Program Chairman - Master of Liberal Arts Degree
Baker University

This presentation explores the relationship between critical thinking and creative thinking in the context of online graduate programs with particular emphasis on the symbiotic relationship between criticality and creative thinking. Often undervalued as a necessary and complementary component of critical thinking, creative thinking plays an integral role in high-quality, effective critical thinking and potential actions. Strategies will be presented to encourage faculty and students to think critically and creatively.

Improving Student Critical Thinking Through Direct Instruction in Rhetorical Analysis

Lauren McGuire

Professor of English
Missouri Southern State University

Cultivating critical thinking, intellectual growth, and lifelong learning opportunities that provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in life is a fundamental goal of all educational institutions. In an effort to encourage students’ higher-order thinking skills and abilities, educators are beginning to include critical thinking curriculum into a variety of academic disciplines. Instructional strategies that advance critical thinking pedagogy on a consistent basis could positively impact the range and quality of student critical thinking skills’ performance.

Purposeful implementation of Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder’s Elements of Thought, Intellectual Standards, and Socratic Questioning could strengthen students’ perceptions of critical thinking and of their own critical thinking abilities. Educators can cultivate these intellectual traits by encouraging students to develop those skills necessary for clearly and logically evaluating the credibility and reliability of rhetoric. Assuming that an argument can be any communication – written, spoken, aural, or visual – that expresses a point of view, it is vitally important for educators to challenge students to consider new perspectives on topics they may feel they already understand, and to provide practice for analyzing the sorts of arguments they will be assigned in their various courses.  Implementing Paul and Elder’s Elements of Thought, Intellectual Standards, and Socratic Questioning through direct instruction in rhetorical analysis could encourage students to detect and evaluate the assumptions, egocentrism, and sociocentrism in the rhetoric they are exposed to in literature, in the media, and in their own writing. Consistent application of Paul and Elder’s Intellectual Standards provides students with the tools necessary for the acquisition of intellectual humility as they approach the complexities of life with clarity, accuracy, and precision; explore multiple perspectives of difficult problems; and learn to sympathetically acknowledge the viewpoints of others with breadth and clarity.

This Roundtable will focus primarily on designing instruction which integrates direct instruction in rhetorical analysis. Emphasis will be placed on incorporating Paul and Elder’s Intellectual Standards, the Elements of Thought, and Socratic Questioning. Participants will work in small groups and will be offered instructional methodologies which encourage the evaluation of expository and argumentative discourse and which develop students’ critical thinking, reading, and writing skills.

Cultivating Critical Thinking in a Community—Getting Outside the “Box”

Ken Stringer

Most critical thinking education takes place, understandably and correctly, in an institutional or organizational context. Outside that context – that “box” – how can we cultivate fairminded critical thinking? In a world of ever-accelerating change and complexity, how can a community take on the task of fostering substantive intellectual discipline, rigorous self-reflection, and open-mindedness? If we want to see critical thinking become a core social value and thus a key organizing concept for all (not just educational) reform, how do we reach those beyond academia, government, and business? Is there an educational format or framework for teaching critical thinking principles and precepts in our community? How can critical thinking courses developed for educational institutions, business, and government be re-designed or re-purposed for use by community-focused groups striving to encourage civility, civil discourse, and civic engagement? 

The purpose of this Roundtable is to be a forum for exploring these issues – for exchanging thoughts and ideas on how to proceed. 

·       Participants should not expect to find ready-made solutions or a pre-defined format or framework that they could replicate. 

·       What we hope to discover in the course of the discussion is whether such work has been done, where, what the results have been, and what best practices can be identified. 

·       If there is a rich set of experience and information we can cull from, that will help immensely. If not, that itself will help define the starting point and illuminate the work that needs to be done.

This Roundtable Discussion is based on a core assumption: that within any given community, the introduction of critical thinking precepts and principles can generate the interest in, and commitment to, the pursuit of substantive intellectual discipline, rigorous self-reflection, and open-mindedness. A related premise: neither local educational institutions, governments, nor businesses are engaged in fostering critical thinking.

The objective is to outline strategies and steps to facilitate the introduction of critical thinking in a community context – outside an institutional or organizational framework.


Creating a Critical Thinking Environment in the Classroom

Jeri Ann Williams

Educator for the Gifted and Talented
Belmont Ridge Middle School

Learning to listen and question more is the role modelling goal for a teacher, facilitator, and mentor of a critical thinking community classroom environment. Critical thinking takes time with concentrated listening skills that engage students to freely share their ideas and thoughts. As educators, we must pose well-formed questioning that requires students to engage in thinking, feeling, and application to previous knowledge. This process provides access to new ideas and requires more than a yes-or-no answer.

As educators using the critical thinking model, we constantly must remember to cut our class talk by about 75% and eliminate the desire to provide answers. Our biggest job is to question and listen in a non-judgmental, relaxed style. Students must feel free to take risks, and to explore differing opinions with a readiness to provide examples or “on-the-spot” research to back expressed thinking (if needed).

Every class climate needs to set high expectations for curiosity and wonder as extremely valuable qualities. This can be seen in the ongoing interaction and open communication within the setting. In the beginning everyone agrees on the overall procedures and individual responsibilities. Students are distinct individuals sharing their unique thinking within the community, and are always providing questions that are asked repeatedly to foster critical thinking habits. Critical thinking is an ongoing way of thinking and applying logic to every situation inside or outside the classroom.

The process outlined above will be shown on a video of my current 7th and 8th grade middle school students beginning to refine and apply critical thinking. Both the teacher and students will be seen making the shift from a “somewhat” critical-thinking-inspired learning community to a more robust, ongoing critical thinking environment. Questions asked, listening techniques used by the teacher, and responsive body language and facial expressions (from both the teacher and students) can be seen. The audience will see and hear first-hand how critical thinking evolves in a typical classroom.