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International Fellows Academy

Join our fellows and scholars for our first international….


Fellows Academy on Critical Thinking


How We Design Our Instruction:

 Fostering Deep Thinking Through Content


…a Socratic tutorial learning process

using first principles of critical thinking


October 6-10, 2014

At the University of Berkeley

The Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking together have hosted critical thinking academies and conferences for almost 35 years. During this time we have worked with more than 100,000 educators in designing instruction that places critical thinking at the core of teaching and learning.


We invite you to join us for a unique learning experience led by Fellows and Visiting Scholars of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Our first international Fellows Academy on Critical Thinking will be held at the University of Berkeley October 6-10, 2014; space is limited due to the intimate nature of the academy.


We will design the academy using a three-pronged approach. Delegates in the academy will work toward:

1.    internalizing first principles of a rich conception of critical thinking;

2.    contextualizing these principles within academic subjects and disciplines.

3.    Redesigning instruction to foster deep learning through content, using the concepts and principles of critical thinking.


As an academy delegate, you will have the opportunity work as “students” in the Paulian, or Paul-Elder Approach to Critical Thinking. You will be tutored by our fellows and scholars as you work to internalize a rich, interdisciplinary concept of critical thinking and to apply this concept to your instruction. Our fellows and scholars will think along with delegates, exemplifying the disciplined thinking of master teachers that students must themselves come to internalize over time. Fellows, visiting scholars, and delegates will work together as students in an intellectual community as they develop their understanding of content as a mode of thinking. Together we will read in important written works that illuminate critical thought or criticality. We will write our understanding of transformative ideas embedded in these works. We will discuss intellectually powerful and challenging ideas, as well as their interconnections. And we will teach these ideas to one another  - as we work to better understand critical thinking, to contextualize it, and to use it where needed and helpful in human life. 

In short, we will develop instructional strategies and methods for fostering critical thinking while we engage in these very processes ourselves. We presuppose in this design the assumption that for teachers to foster deep learning through content, they must themselves become serious students of powerful ideas and transformative thought. 


In this intensive academy, you will discuss essential ideas in critical thinking, learn (through your own experience) effective close reading and writing strategies, reason through complexities in questions within your subject field (so as to help student learn to do the same), write papers and receive feedback on those papers using intellectual standards (to develop your understandings while engaging as “students” thinking through content). 

Fellows and Scholars will participate as both “master students” and “tutors,” sometimes thinking aloud as students with delegates, and sometimes giving direction to academy delegates on how to better discipline reasoning and foster it in teaching and learning.


In this academy, we illumine how we design our instruction so as to foster intensive intellectual engagement of every student in every class every day of instruction. As an academy delegate, you will rethink your typical design for instruction, given your new understandings in critical thinking. You will:

·      articulate and develop your understanding of key concepts within your academic discipline,

·      rethink your “typical day” in the classroom to foster deep learning,

·      redesign one or more courses using first principles of critical thinking,

·      redesign the first 10 class sessions of a given course, using the tools of critical thinking,

·      analyze the books and textbooks you use from the point of view of critical thinking,

·      learn instructional design strategies for close reading and substantive writing and engage in these processes yourself.

The fellows and scholars of the Foundation for Critical Thinking will demonstrate how to devise ways of teaching class sessions that progressively build on each other. These teaching strategies reflect insights implicit in successful Oxford tutorials and Cambridge supervisions, adapted to much larger student numbers (than that of the Oxford don teaching one or two students). 

This five-day intensive workshop offers a unique opportunity to work closely under the tutelage of our fellows and scholars in a small, intensive, learning situation, much like disciplined Socratic schools one might envision.  This academy is for new or returning delegates to our approach. Sessions will be held during the day and evenings, as we create a seminar style socratic learning experience together in a disciplined intellectual community, the type of community we would hope to create on our campuses and which would be prevalent in fairminded critical societies. Delegates may spend several days thinking through one essential idea (or set of ideas), working that idea into their thinking, applying that idea within multiple contexts.  This workshop is designed for educators and administrators at all levels of instruction and is concerned to foster deep internalization of critical thinking in the long run.

Our Approach to Critical Thinking

Our instructional design strategies and approaches emerge from first principles in critical thinking. These include:

1.    That the only way to learn content of any kind is to think it into your thinking using your thinking.

2.    That all people, and hence all students, reason at differing levels of quality in differing contexts, within differing domains of thought. Students therefore must be approached as unique thinkers in their own right, with strengths and weaknesses, if they are to develop their capacity as reasoners.

3.    That humans are fundamentally reasoning creatures; humans work their way through life using their reasoning to figure things out as they go. Because the quality of one’s life depends directly on the quality of one’s reasoning, and because we cannot depend on our reasoning to be naturally of high quality, people need intervention strategies for thought. These strategies should be at the heart of teaching and learning.

4.    That it is not enough to leave the development of criticality at the level of the implicit, if students are to take command of academic subjects and disciplines. Instead the lingua franca of critical thinking, or in other words, the critical-analytic language embodied in all natural languages, should be made explicit in instruction, and used in a daily basis in teaching and learning.

The Oxford Tutorial

One important set of questions the Academy poses is: What can we learn from studying the manner in which “tutorial” and “supervisory” roles are exercised in classic forms of Oxbridge tutor/student teaching and learning?  

We hypothesize that there is a significant convergence between the best practices of the classic Oxford Tutorial and the "model" of teaching for critical thinking constructed, over the last 34 years, by the Foundation for Critical Thinking fellows. This suggests the further hypothesis that the "essence" of what makes the Tutorial powerful can be usefully "exported" into larger group settings. Here are some suggested common denominators:

We posit that both traditional Oxford Tutorial and emergent Critical Thinking approaches emphasize:


Teaching with a Socratic Spirit (teaching that emphasizes the student taking ownership of content through actively thinking it through). In this mode of teaching, the inquiry  process is more important than the answer, while rote memorization is accorded little


Teaching with intellectual standards (students are expected to adhere to clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and significance in their academic discourse). In this mode of teaching, intellectual discipline and rigor is expected and fostered.


Teaching that encourages students to identify key structural components in thinking (purposes, questions at issue, information and data, inferences and interpretations, concepts and theories, assumptions and presuppositions, implications and consequences, points of view and frames of reference).


Teaching that requires students to read, write, listen, and speak (critically).


Teaching that is dialogical (wherein the student learns to question the thinking of others and to expect his or her thinking to be questioned by others).


Teaching that encourages students to think for themselves while exercising intellectual humility and intellectual empathy.


Teaching that locates ultimate intellectual authority in evidence and reasoning, rather than in authority figures or “authoritative” beliefs or texts.

Under (well-designed) instruction for critical thinking and (well-designed) Oxford Tutorials, students learn how to analyze thinking, assess thinking, and re-construct thinking (improving it thereby). The thinking studied is that which is embedded in the content of established academic disciplines. As a result, students so taught become actively engaged in thinking historically, anthropologically, sociologically, politically, chemically, biologically, mathematically …

Through these processes, students learn how to read, write, speak, and listen in a new way (critically). Most importantly, they learn how to learn, using disciplined reading, writing, speaking, and listening as modalities essential to learning.