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30th Conference Sessions

Choose from the following sessions when registering. Choose one for each day section.  See preconference and conference schedule and sessions for full titles and descriptions.

  • Socratic Questioning
  • Assess Students Learning and Thinking 
  • Advanced Session: Develop a Thinker’s Guide 
  • Advanced Session: Questioning the Heart of the Critical Thinking Field  
  • Foundational Session (for new registrants)
  • Advanced Session:  Going Deeper: (for returning registrants)
DAY TWO Morning
  • Taking Ownership of Content Through Thinking 
  • Skilled Questioning and Close Reading
  • Critical Thinking: Many Things to Many Persons
  • Paulian Framework of Critical Thinking 
DAY TWO Afternoon
  • Develop Long-Term Staff Development Plan 
  • Critical Questions Students Should be Asking 
  • Skilled Questioning and Substantive Writing
  • Advanced Session:  Skilled Learner as Skilled Questioner
  • Concurrent sessions - choose at the conference, from among 30 sessions
DAY FOUR Afternoon 
  • The Power of the Thinker’s Guide Library
  • Teaching Students to Ask Multilogical Questions 
  • Male Chauvinism, Vulgar Feminism, Human Dogmatism
  • Advanced Session: Advanced Design of Instruction

How To Teach Students To Master Content
By Developing A Questioning Mind

Choose from among a number of sessions when registering. Click on each session title below to read the session description. Don't forget about the preconference which offers two-days of in-depth sessions before the conference begins.

DAY ONE: Monday

indicate one of the following sessions when registering.  The Foundational session is for all new attendees.
DAY TWO Morning: Tuesday
choose one of the following sessions when registering:
DAY TWO Afternoon: Tuesday
choose one of the following sessions when registering:

DAY THREE: Wednesday
Concurrent sessions. Participants will choose from among numerous concurrent sessions while at the conference. 

DAY FOUR Afternoon: Thursday
choose one of the following sessions when registering:

Conference Session Descriptions

  these sessions begin after the keynote address and focus on the foundations of critical thinking.  Indicate one of these two sessions when registering. The Foundational session is for new registrants:

Foundational Session:

Critical Thinking as Essential to Skilled Reasoning in Any Subject or Discipline…
Participants will be assigned to one of three groups led by Linda Elder, Gerald Nosich, or Enoch Hale.

The first day of the conference will focus on the fundamentals of critical thinking. This session will lay the foundation for all other conference sessions. It will introduce you to some of the most basic understandings in critical thinking – namely, how to analyze thinking, how to assess it, and how to develop and foster intellectual virtues or dispositions. 
One conceptual set that we will focus on is the elements of reasoning, or parts of thinking. The elements or parts of reasoning are those essential dimensions of reasoning that are present whenever and wherever reasoning occurs —independent of whether we are reasoning well or poorly. Working together, these elements shape reasoning and provide a general logic to the use of thought. They are presupposed in every subject, discipline, and domain of human thought.
A second conceptual set we will focus on is universal intellectual standards. One of the fundamentals of critical thinking is the ability to assess reasoning. To be skilled at assessment requires that we consistently take apart thinking and examine the parts with respect to standards of quality. We do this using criteria based on clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, and significance. Critical thinkers recognize that, whenever they are reasoning, they reason to some purpose (element of reasoning). Implicit goals are built into their thought processes. But their reasoning is improved when they are clear (intellectual standard) about that purpose or goal. Similarly, to reason well, they need to know that, consciously or unconsciously, they are using relevant (intellectual standard) information (element of reasoning) in their in thinking. Furthermore, their reasoning improves if and when they make sure that the information they are using is accurate (intellectual standard).
A third conceptual set in critical thinking is intellectual virtues or traits. Critical thinking does not entail merely intellectual skills. It is a way of orienting oneself in the world. It is a way of approaching problems that differs significantly from that which is typical in human life. People may have critical thinking skills and abilities, and yet still be unable to enter viewpoints with which they disagree. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet still be unable to analyze the beliefs that guide their behavior. They may have critical thinking abilities, and yet be unable to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know, to persevere through difficult problems and issues, to think fairmindedly, to stand alone against the crowd. Thus, in developing as a thinker, and fostering critical thinking abilities in others, it is important to develop intellectual virtues – the virtues of fairmindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance, intellectual courage, intellectual empathy, intellectual autonomy, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason.
This session is designed for new conference attendees. The following advanced session is for returning registrants.

Advanced Session: Foundations of Critical Thinking – Going Deeper…

The advanced foundational session will focus participants on constructing a glossary of critical thinking concepts — which participants will subsequently assess by comparing their formulations to model formulations.  The session is advanced in that it assumes that participants have (previous to the conference) developed the ability to orally state, explain, and exemplify basic critical thinking concepts (namely the elements of reasoning, intellectual standards and intellectual virtues). In this session, participants will be expected to state, explain, and exemplify key critical thinking terms both orally and in writing (so clearly, accurately, and precisely that it would be adequate for insertion in a Critical Thinking Glossary of fundamental concepts.)  This session is designed for returning conference registrants.

DAY TWO MORNING...choose one of the following four sessions:

Engaging Students in Taking Ownership of Content Through Thinking…

A key insight into content (and into 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, APPLIED by thinking. If you try to take the thinking out of content, you have nothing, literally nothing, remaining. Learning to think within a unique system of meanings is the key to learning any content whatsoever. This session, in other words, explores the intimate, indeed the inseparable relationship between content and thinking.

Helping students understand the role of skilled questioning in close reading…

Educated persons are skilled at and routinely engage in close reading. Through the ability to read closely, to comprehend and apply what one reads, students can begin to master a subject. Skilled readers do this through intellectually interacting with an author as they read. This deep form of engagement with an author presupposes the asking of insightful and relevant questions while reading. Through the concepts and principles of critical thinking, these questions can be made explicit to students and, through practice, become part of their intellectual toolbox. Through these questions, students can better understand what they read, integrate important ideas with other important ideas, and, assess the quality of an author’s reasoning. Thus this session will explore ways and means for helping students develop the ability to ask critical questions while reading.

Critical Thinking: Many Things to Many Persons…

At the core of critical thinking is a robust insight. However, that insight plays itself out in a myriad of ways in a myriad of contexts. We bring critical thinking most effectively into our classrooms and our lives by respecting both its core idea and its myriad forms. In this session, the theoretical ground will be laid for the unity and diversity of critical thinking. Participants will leave this session with greater insight into how to help diverse learners use critical thinking more effectively in their special fields with their special concerns and priorities. Some questions learners ask should derive from the core concept of critical thinking. Others derive from discipline-specific ideas or principles. Both should help them take command of the content fields they are studying. Both should reflect their unique background as individuals.

Exploring Diverse Frameworks for Thinking; Suggesting the Paulian Framework as the center point of critical thinking as an academic discipline…

If we are to create societies in which fairminded critical thinking is the norm, it is imperative that we embrace critical thinking throughout schooling and human societies. For more than 2400 years, beginning with Socrates, the idea of critical thinking has been developing and to some extent influencing thought and action. But it has not yet taken root. One primary reason for this is that we lack a shared framework for critical thinking in education. Though the concept of critical thinking is well-established, frameworks for critical thinking vary, and in many cases, diverge. In 1980, Richard Paul introduced a framework for critical thinking which has since been further developed and integrated by Paul and others. In this session, the Paulian framework will be assessed in reference to other frameworks for thinking and for critical thinking. Dr. Elder will argue for the importance of establishing critical thinking as a discipline in its own right and suggest the Paulian approach as the core of this new discipline.

DAY TWO AFTERNOON...choose one of the following four sessions:

How to develop a successful long-term staff development plan that fosters critical thinking…

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.

To Think Is To Question. To Think Critically Is To Ask Critical Questions. What Are Some Critical Questions Students Should be Asking To Learn at higher and higher levels?...

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 bring an end to 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 that lead to deep learning?” In this session we shall focus on practical strategies for generating questioning minds---at the same time, of course, that students learn the content that is at the heart of the curriculum.

Helping students understand the connection between skilled questioning and substantive writing…

Skilled writing presupposes skilled reflection while writing. Unlike the impressionistic mind, the reflective mind seeks meaning, monitors what it writes, draws a clear distinction between its thinking and the thinking of its audience. The reflective mind, being purposeful, adjusts writing to specific goals. Being integrated, it interrelates ideas it is writing with ideas it already commands. Being critical, it assesses what it writes for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance, and fairness. Being open to new ways of thinking, it values new ideas and learns from what it writes.

The reflective mind improves its thinking by thinking (reflectively) about it. Likewise, it improves its writing by thinking (reflectively) about writing. It moves back and forth between writing and thinking about how it is writing. It moves forward a bit, and then loops back upon itself to check on its own operations. It checks its tracks. It makes good its ground. It rises above itself and exercises oversight. This applies to the reflective mind while writing — or reading or listening or making decisions.

All of these abilities in reflection presuppose abilities in asking relevant and important questions while writing. This session focuses on helping students formulate and ask just such questions.

Advanced Session: The skilled learner as skilled questioner…

A process for designing instruction that emphasizes the skilled thinker as a skilled questioner will be the focus of this session. All participants will experiment with designs of instruction with the view to putting the students as questioner at the core of all activities and assignments. The result should be a higher level of mastery of content by the students and a foundation for transferable question-handling skills essential to life-long learning. The session will explore critical thinking and the design of instruction at an advanced level. It will presuppose familiarity with the elements of reasoning, intellectual standards, and abilities of critical thinking. These terms, and the distinctions they imply, will be used as common background concepts for this session. This session is designed for returning conference registrants.

Concurrent Sessions... participants will choose these sessions while at the conference. Click here to see the concurrent sessions.  All concurrent sessions are invited.

DAY FOUR MORNING...choose one of the following four sessions:

A Quick Look at the Whole: The power of the thinker’s guide library…

For ten years Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder have been developing the thinker’s guide library, beginning in 1999 with the Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. The Thinker’s Guide library provides convenient, portable references that students and faculty can use to improve the quality of studying, learning, and teaching. All conference participants will receive the full library at the conference. In this session, participants will work through a number of activities which will introduce them to each of the guides in the series and help them determine which guides will be most useful in their work with students.

Teaching Students to Ask Multilogical Questions within a Field or Discipline…

In some disciplines, the experts rarely disagree; in others, disagreement is common. The reason for this is found in the kinds of questions they ask and the nature of what they study. Mathematics and the physical and biological sciences primarily fall into the first category. They mainly study phenomena that behave consistently under predictable conditions and they pose questions that can be expressed clearly and precisely, with virtually complete expert agreement. The disciplines dealing with humans, in contrast—all the social disciplines, the Arts, and the Humanities—primarily fall into the second category. What they study is often unpredictably variable.

This session will focus on helping students learn to reason through multilogical problems and issues within the disciplines. Participants will formulate multilogical questions within their disciplines and consider how skilled thinkers from different perspectives would reason through those questions. Participants will also think through how to engage students in the same process.

Questioning Male Chauvinism and Female Chauvinism: Transcending Two Forms of Dogmatism;

Towards Egalitarianism and Fairmindedness in Gender-Centered Issues
Dr. Linda Elder

Humans are intrinsically social creatures, a phenomenon which unfortunately all too often manifests itself as sociocentrism or ethnocentrism. Almost a hundred years ago, in his seminal book Folkways, William Graham Sumner introduced the concept of ethnocentrism in this way:

Ethnocentrism is the technical name for this view of thinking in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it. . . . Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exacts its own divines, and looks with contempt on outsiders. Each group thinks its own folkways the only right ones, and if it observes that other groups have other folkways, these excite its scorn. (p. 13)

Ethnocentricity, or sociocentricity, manifests itself in an unlimited number of ways in human societies leading to a plethora of negative consequences. In this session, we will deal with two problems directly resulting from this phenomenon - male chauvinism and female chauvinism (or vulgar feminism).  In doing so, we will call into question some of the assumptions that lie at the base of our personal belief systems. We will use as a framework for our discussions the following important distinctions: vulgar believers, sophistic believers, and fairminded critical believers, noting, for example, that people can hold their beliefs either critically or uncritically, either selfishly or unselfishly. A critical believer is a true feminist, believing as they do in the social, economic, political equality of the sexes and thus supporting the rights of men as strongly as they support the rights of women. Be prepared for lively discussion and perhaps some disagreements in the spirit of openminded critical thinking.

Advanced Session: Critical Thinking Pedagogy; Advanced Design of Instruction…

This session will focus on viewing learning as inescapably linked to raising deep questions regarding the nature of the content one is seeking to learn. The salient features of the design of courses will be explicated, written about and discussed. The art of questioning as a robust and indispensible tool of learning will be employed. This session is designed for returning conference registrants.



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