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2006 Cambridge Academy Sessions


Cambridge Academy on Critical Thinking
March 28 - April 1, 2006
St. John's College - Cambridge University, United Kingdom

The Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking have together hosted critical thinking academies and conferences for a quarter of a century. We will bring our first academy to the UK during the 2006 Easter Holiday. The Cambridge Academy on Critical Thinking is designed for collegiate and pre-collegiate educators, lead faculty, teachers and administrators. Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, leading authorities on critical thinking, will design and conduct the academy.



  • Knowledge that is foundational.
  • Knowledge that is significant.
  • Knowledge that is useful.
  • Knowledge that leads to further knowledge and vital questions (that, in turn, leads to further knowledge and further vital questions, and on and on).
All conference sessions at the Academy will explore ways of teaching that foster the development of the intellect throughout pre-collegiate and collegiate education. All sessions will be interactive - integrating reading, writing and teaching as modes for taking ownership of the ideas within each session.


Delegates will choose from the following sessions (click on each title to see the session description):

Accommodations and General Information:

All academy participants will room at St. John’s College, Cambridge University. Registration is limited to 100 participants, and will be on a first-come, first-serve basis,. The fee for room, board, and registration is $1370 US dollars (approx. 780 English pounds). This fee includes the following:
  • Academy registration fee
  • Overnight accommodations for four nights (arriving 28, March, departing 1, April)
  • Full English Breakfast (29, March 29-1, April)
  • Morning Coffee and Biscuits
  • St. John’s Buffet Style Luncheon
  • Afternoon Tea and Small Pastries
  • Three Course Dinner with Coffee and Mints
For more information on accommodations, to get directions, and link to maps,click here.

For information on St. John’s College, Cambridge University, and Cambridge, click here .

The academy will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 28, March, and end at noon on Saturday, 1, April 2006. Accommodations for additional nights before and after the Academy will be available at St. John’’s College for participants who need it (for an additional cost of £55 per night).

For a daily schedule of sessions, click here to download the schedule in a word doc click here

Academy Theme
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Academy Schedule
St. John's Accommodations
About St. John's College

Academy Sessions

When you register, you will choose one session from each morning and afternoon section:

Day One Afternoon:

Both of the following sessions focus on introducing the elements of reasoning and intellectual standards, essential theoretical constructs in critical thinking. Taking initial ownership of these concepts is essential, as they will be used throughout the academy and will enable participants to immediately begin using a common critical thinking language.

Analyzing and Assessing Reasoning…Richard Paul
When we analyze, we break a whole into parts. We do this because understanding complex wholes requires understanding them through the interplay of their parts. Success in thinking requires developing, first of all, an analytic mind. The structures that define the parts of thinking, include: goals and purposes, problems and issues, information and data, inferences and conclusions, concepts and theories, assumptions and beliefs, implications and consequences, viewpoints and perspectives.

To assess thinking, we apply universal intellectual standards to both parts and whole. These standards are the criteria by which thinking is judged by educated and reasonable persons. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of these standards. These standards include, but are not limited to, clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, and fairness.

Analysis and evaluation are crucial skills for all students to master. And for good reason. They are required in learning any significant body of content in a non-trivial way. Students are commonly asked to analyze poems, mathematical formulas, biological systems, chapters in textbooks, concepts and ideas, essays, novels, and articles-just to name a few. Yet how many student can explain what intellectual analysis requires? Few students have a clear conception of how to think analytically. Which of our graduates could complete the sentence: "Whenever I am asked to analyze something, I use the following model:...?" This session will explore ways and means of cultivating a mind adept at analyzing and assessing thinking (identifying the strengths and weaknesses in reasoning).

Questioning the Structures and Standards of Thought… Linda Elder
Asking powerful analytic questions is vital to excellence in thought. When we analyze, we break a whole into parts. We do this because problems in thinking through a "whole" are often a function of problems in thinking through one or more of its parts. Success in thinking depends, first of all, on our developing an analytic questioning mind. One powerful way to develop an analytic mind is to focus it on questioning the structures that define the "parts" of thinking: questioning goals and purposes, questioning problems and issues, questioning information and data, questioning inferences and conclusions, questioning concepts and theories, questioning assumptions and beliefs, questioning implications and consequences, questioning viewpoints and perspectives.

Universal intellectual standards are the standards by which thinking is judged by educated and reasonable persons. Yet most people are unaware of these standard, which include, but are not limited to, clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, and fairness. Skilled thinkers explicitly question using these criteria. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in the modes of questioning that assess the strengths and weaknesses in reasoning.



Day 2 Morning:

Teaching Students to Construct Knowledge…Richard Paul
How should teaching be designed in the light of the fact that students do not acquire knowledge until they construct it in their minds? The answer is that we must develop multiple strategies for ensuring that students are continually involved in the construction of knowledge. We must abandon the notion that rote memorization of bits and pieces of the textbook or of lectures can substitute for the forms of construction that lead to understanding and knowledge. The two goals of this session, then, are: a) to cultivate insight into the principle that true knowledge presupposes the active "construction of knowledge" and b) to devise practical teaching strategies that result in students genuinely constructing knowledge.


Intellectual Traits and Dispositions…Linda Elder
Critical thinking is not just a set of intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world. It is a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from the norm. People can have limited critical thinking skills and abilities, and yet not enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They can have critical thinking abilities, and yet not analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They can have critical thinking abilities, and yet not distinguish between what they know and what they don’’t know, persevere through difficult problems and issues, think fair-mindedly, or stand alone against the crowd. This session focuses on designing instruction that transforms the mind, instruction that fosters the development of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.



Day 2 Afternoon:

The Art of Close Reading and Substantive Writing...Linda Elder
Educated persons are skilled in close reading and substantive writing. With the ability to read closely, we can comprehend and apply what we read. We can---in principle---master a subject from books alone, without benefit of lectures or class discussion.

Indeed, if we read widely and skillfully, we become educated through reading alone. Skilled reading enables us to intellectually interact with authors as we read. We actively question as we read.

When students learn to read closely, they come to understand what they read by constructing the meaning of the text, by paraphrasing, elaborating, exemplifying, and illustrating what they read. They make connections as they read. They evaluate as they read. They bring important ideas into their thinking as they read.

Substantive writing, in turn, consists in saying something worth saying about something worth saying something about. It enhances our reading. It develops as we read more widely in multiple subjects. When we write in a disciplined way about what we are reading, our writing skills improve at the same time we are taking ownership of what we are reading. Students need intellectual tools they can use to improve their writing as they learn. They need tools that enable them to employ writing as a principal tool in learning.

Quite remarkably, many of our students have never read a text closely nor written a substantive paper in all their years of schooling. Instead they have developed the habit of getting by with impressionistic reading, writing, and listening. This session will explore ways and means for developing student skills in close reading and substantive writing. It will emphasize reading and writing as tools for constructing knowledge and cultivating the intellect.


Critical Thinking Competency Standards…Richard Paul
Critical Thinking Competency Standards provides a framework for assessing students’ critical thinking abilities. It enables administrators, teachers and faculty at all levels (from elementary through higher education) to determine the extent to which students are reasoning critically within any subject or discipline. These standards include outcome measures useful for teacher assessment, self-assessment, as well as accreditation documentation. These competencies not only provide a continuum of student expectations, but can be contextualized for any academic subject or domain and for any grade level. In short, these standards include indicators for identifying the extent to which students are using critical thinking as the primary tool for learning.

Because they provide a framework for gaining insight into one’s own thinking and learning, students will find the competencies useful. By internalizing the competencies, students will become more self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored thinkers. This session will help participants take ownership of the competencies, utilizing A Guide for Educators to Critical Thinking Competency Standards (one of the guides in the Thinkers Guide Series).



Day 3 Morning:

Critical and Creative Thinking…Richard Paul
Creative and critical thinking often seem to the untutored to be opposite forms of thought, the first based on irrational or unconscious forces, the second on rational and conscious processes, the first undirectable and unteachable, the second directable and teachable. But to see critical and creative thought as opposing process is misleading. According to Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms, the word "critical," when applied to persons who judge and to their judgments, not only may, but in very precise use does, imply an effort to see a thing clearly and truly so that not only the good in it may be distinguished from the bad and the perfect from the imperfect, but also that it as a whole may be fairly judged and valued." The word ’’creative’’ has three relevant interrelated meanings in Webster’s New World Dictionary: 1) "creating or able to create," 2) "having or showing imagination and artistic or intellectual inventiveness (creative writing)," and 3) "stimulating the imagination and inventive powers (creative toys)."


Critical and creative thought, we shall argue, are both achievements of thought inseparable in everyday reasoning. Creativity masters a process of making or producing, criticality a process of assessing or judging. The mind when thinking well must simultaneously, both produce and assess, both generate and judge, the products it generates. The best thinking, we shall argue, displays both imagination and intellectual discipline, a deployment of critical thinking standards joined with a propensity to re-create thought in improved form.

In this session, we will focus on the essential idea that intellectual discipline and rigor are not only quite at home with originality and productivity, but these so-called poles of thinking (i.e. critical and creative thought) are in fact inseparable aspects of excellence of thought. Suggestions will be provided for fostering them in the classroom, simultaneously and seamlessly.


Helping Students Take Reasoned Command of Their Thoughts, Feelings and Desires (and engage in deeper learning)…Linda Elder
This session explores the three basic functions of the mind: thinking, feeling, and wanting.

  1. The function of thinking (the thinking mind) is to create meaning-to make sense of the events of our lives, sorting them into named categories, finding patterns in our experience. The thinking mind continually tells us: "This is what is going on. This is what is happening. Notice this and that." It is the part of the mind, the intellect, that figures things out.
  2. The function of feeling (the feeling mind) is to monitor or evaluate the meanings created by the thinking function-evaluating how positive and negative the events of our life are, given the meaning we are ascribing to them. It continually creates feelings and emotions that reflect thoughts. The emotion-forming dimension of the mind is continually reading what the intellect is telling us and forming emotions to match those thoughts. Most of the feelings that the mind forms are either positive or negative. They tell us either: "Things are going well for you! Or things are not going well for you!" When your thoughts are both positive and negative, then so are the corresponding emotions.
  3. The function of wanting (the desiring mind) allocates energy to action, in keeping with our conceptualizations of what is desirable and possible. It continually tells us: "This is what is worth getting. Go for it!" Or, conversely, it tells: "This is not worth getting. Don’t bother."


In sum, our mind is continually communicating three kinds of things to us: (1) thoughts about what is going on in our life; (2) feelings (positive or negative) about those events; and (3) desires to pursue, driving us in one direction or another (in the light of 1 and 2). What is more, there is an intimate, dynamic interrelation between thoughts, feelings, and desires. If we want students to be motivated to learn content in our classes, we must design instruction so that they grasp that taking ownership of content is possible for them, and important. It is important that they feel a sense of satisfaction when they persevere through the process of solving difficult problems and issues within disciplines. Strategies will be suggested to this end.



Day 3 Afternoon:

Teaching Students to Master Content Through Thinking… Richard Paul
Helping students see content as systems of meaning understood through thinking


A key insight into content (in relation to thinking) is that all content represents a distinctive mode of thinking. Math becomes intelligible as one learns to think mathematically. Biology becomes intelligible as one learns to think biologically. History becomes intelligible as one learns to think historically. This is true because all subjects are: generated by thinking, organized by thinking, analyzed by thinking, synthesized by thinking, expressed by thinking, evaluated by thinking, restructured by thinking, maintained by thinking, transformed by thinking, learned by thinking, understood by thinking, and applied by thinking. If you try to take the thinking out of content, nothing remains. Learning a system of thought as a system of thought is the key to learning any content whatsoever. This session, then, explores the intimate relationship between content and thinking.


Socratic Dialogue in Instruction…Linda Elder
Socratic questioning is disciplined questioning that can be used to explore thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of some matter, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, and to follow out logical implications of thought. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from questioning per se is that Socratic question is always systematic and deep, focusing on important, and often complex, concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.

When we use Socratic questioning in teaching, we do so to probe student thinking, to determine the extent of their knowledge on a given topic, issue or subject, to model Socratic questioning for them, or to help them analyze a concept or line of reasoning. We want students to learn the discipline of Socratic questioning so that they begin to use it in reasoning through complex issues, so that they can understand and assess the thinking of others, so that they can trace the implications of what they and others think and do.

This session will provide an introduction to the theory and practice of Socratic Questioning, through emphasis on the foundations of critical thinking. Participants will be engaged in Socratic dialogue, and will gain introductory experience in Socratic questioning. They will leave with a heightened awareness of the power inherent in disciplined questioning as a rich tool for both teaching and learning.



Day Four Morning:

Developing the Questioning Mind…Richard Paul
Teaching students to formulate questions that transform the mind


All thinking is driven by questions. Good questions generate good thinking. Bad questions generate bad thinking. Deep questions, deep thinking. No questions, no thinking. To think well about thinking we need to learn how to ask questions that break thinking down into its constituent parts and reveal how the parts are functioning together.

Put simply, it is not possible to be a good thinker and a poor questioner. Questions define tasks, express problems, and delineate issues. They drive thinking forward. Answers, on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates further questions does thought continue as inquiry. A mind with no questions is a mind that is not intellectually alive. No questions (asked) equals no understanding (achieved). Superficial questions equal superficial understanding, unclear questions equal unclear understanding. If your mind is not actively generating questions, you are not engaged in substantive learning. So the question is raised, "How can we teach so that students generate questions?" In this session we shall focus on practical strategies that stimulate questioning minds---enhancing, at the same time of course, students’ ability to learn the content at the heart of the curriculum.


Helping Students Take Command of Their Egocentric and Sociocentric Tendencies...Linda Elder
Two of the most significant obstacles to the development of critical thinking is the presence in the human mind of egocentric and sociocentric drives. Together they constitute a formidable barrier to fair-minded thought.

Human egocentricity is best understood as having two basic tendencies. One is to see the world in self-serving terms, to constantly justify what one selfishly wants, at the expense of the rights and needs of others. The second primary tendency of egocentricity is the desire to maintain its beliefs. It is primarily manifest in rigidity or inflexibility of thought.

Sociocentric thought is a direct and natural extension of egocentric thought. It extents the premise "It’s true if I believe it" to that of group-centered thought, "It’’s true if we believe it." It operates from the two primary tendencies of egocentric thought:
1. It seeks to get what is in the selfish interest of the group without regard to the rights and needs of other groups; and
2. It rationalizes the beliefs and behavior of the group (irrespective of whether those beliefs and behaviors are justified or not).

In this session, we focus on these two vexing interwoven tendencies---egocentric and sociocentric thought---suggesting ways to design instruction to help students grow beyond them through the development of critical thinking.



Day Four Afternoon:

Strategies That Transform Student Learning…Linda Elder
To study well and learn any subject is to learn how to think with discipline within that subject. It is to learn to think within its logic, to:
  • raise vital questions and problems within it, formulating them clearly and precisely,
  • gather and assess information, using ideas to interpret that information insightfully,
  • come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • adopt the point of view of the discipline, recognizing and assessing, as need be, its assumptions, implications, and practical consequences;
  • communicate effectively with others using the language of the discipline and that of educated public discourse; &
  • relate what one is learning in the subject to other subjects and to what is significant in human life.
To become a skilled learner is to become a self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinker, who has given assent to rigorous standards of thought and mindful command of their use. Skilled learning of a discipline requires that one respect the power of it, as well as its, and one’s own, historical and human limitations. This session will offer strategies for helping students begin to take learning seriously.


The International Critical Thinking Reading and Writing Test…Richard Paul
The International Critical Thinking Reading & Writing Test assesses the ability of students to use reading and writing as tools for acquiring knowledge. To appreciate the significance of this test, it is important to understand the integral relationship between one’s ability to read and write and one’s ability to learn how to learn.

Close reading and substantive writing are powerful processes in the acquisition of knowledge. To understand this, it is important to recognize, first, that the only way to learn important ideas is to construct them in one’s own mind, to actively bring them into one’s thinking using one’s thinking. The critical thinking abilities inherent in skilled reading and writing are fundamental to this process, to the development of the educated mind.

The purpose of the critical thinking reading and writing test is to assess students’ abilities to think in certain "disciplined" and skilled ways. If successful, the results will make it possible for those who score the tests to determine the extent to which students have and have not learned foundational critical thinking reading and writing skills essential to intellectual analysis and evaluation, skills critical to the educated mind.

In this session participants will develop and grade answers for some of the test forms (there are seven forms of the test). Participants will discuss how specific content for each test form can be taken from virtually any discipline or any text. Participants will leave with a clearer sense of the relationship between assessing critical thinking within content areas and designing instructional strategies that foster critical thinking. The test is primarily targeted toward college, university, and high school students. However, several test forms can be modified for use at any level, including elementary.



Day Five Morning:

Critical Thinking: The Role of Administration…Linda Elder
Critical thinking, deeply understood, provides a rich set of concepts that enable us to think our way through any subject or discipline, through any problem or issue. With a substantive concept of critical thinking clearly in mind, we begin to see the pressing need for a staff development program that fosters critical thinking within and across the curriculum. As we come to understand a substantive concept of critical thinking, we are able to follow-out its implications in designing a professional development program. By means of it, we begin to see important implications for every part of the institution - redesigning policies, providing administrative support for critical thinking, rethinking the mission, coordinating and providing faculty workshops in critical thinking, redefining faculty as learners as well as teachers, assessing students, faculty, and the institution as a whole in terms of critical thinking abilities and traits. We realize that robust critical thinking should be the guiding force for all of our educational efforts. This session presents a professional development model that can provide the vehicle for deep change across the curriculum, across the institution.


Bringing it All Together: Creating a Class Structure that Fosters Cultivation of the Intellect…Richard Paul
As a culminating session for those in direct teaching roles, this session will focus on placing critical thinking concepts and tools at the heart of classroom or course design. The focus will be on developing the key concept for a course or subject you teach, articulating and detailing the concept to make it intuitive to students, creating an activity which can be used to bring students into the most basic logic of the discipline, and designing a typical day (or typical lesion) which fosters critical thinking. The tools learned throughout the Academy will be used as guiding points for this session. The purpose is to begin to rethink the design of at least one course and develop a beginning plan for placing the cultivation of the intellect at the core of the class.



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