If you could figure out that previous diagram, you are better than we are At one level we all know what "critical thinking means--it means good thinking, almost the opposite of illogical, irrational thinking. But when we test our understanding further, we run into questions. For example, is critical thinking the same as creative thinking, are they different, or is one part of the other? How do critical thinking and native intelligence or scholastic aptitude relate? Does critical thinking focus on the subject matter or content that you know or on the process you use when you reason about that content?Peter Facione
Open the discussion on critical thinking—not finish it: Increase the usefulness of the term “critical thinking” by paring back some of the meanings it has accrued since it came into vogue in the late 1970’s, early ‘80’s, especially the conflation in the decade of the 1980’s of critical reasoning (Monroe Beardsley) with Critical Thinking (Richard Paul, Vincent Ruggiero); Apply the two terms appropriately to the work that we ask students to do in their majors and in their general education classes; and Link this discussion in an appropriate and useful way to the New Synthesis Project that was inaugurated a year and a few months ago by the Academic Affairs Office. To that end, let’s do some additional exploring in the archives of this topic.
That means, That we may end up with more questions than answers in the final moments of today, but that will at least leaven other important discussions on campus.
That said, on to task one: Let’s begin with a short writing piece in your bluebooks; this is, after all, a QUWAC workshop. Task A: List the three characteristics that you consider to be the key qualities of critical thinking or writing, and then circle the one you believe to be the most important. Then let’s see what everyone has come up with
Now, Task B: Task B: We want you to read the following passage from The Old Testament, the story of Solomon and the baby with two contending mothers. After you have read the piece, underline the most important line or phrase in the passage and then explain why you believe this to be the most important line or phrase.
Here is the story: “Two women came to King Solomon and stood before him. One woman (#1) said: "My Lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while with her in the house. On the third day after I gave birth, she also gave birth. We live together; there is no outsider with us in the house; only the two of us were there. The son of this woman died during the night because she lay upon him. She arose during the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep, and lay him in her bosom, and her dead son she laid in my bosom. when I got up in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead! But when I observed him (later on) in the morning, I realized that he was not my son to whom I had given birth!"
Part Deux: “The other woman (#2) replied: "It is not so! My son is the live one and your son is the dead one!" The first woman (#1) responded: "It is not so! Your son is the dead one and my son is the living one!" They argued before King Solomon. King Solomon said: "this woman (#2) claims 'My son is the live one and your son is the dead one, 'and this woman (#1) claims 'Your son is the dead one and my son is the living one!"'
The Kicker: “King Solomon said, "Bring me a sword!" So they brought a sword before the King. The King said, "Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other" The woman (#2) turned to the King, because her compassion was aroused for her son, and said: "Please my Lord, give her the living child and do not kill it!" But the other woman (#1) said: "Neither mine nor yours shall he be. Cut!" The King spoke up and said: "Give her (#2) the living child, and do not kill it, for she is his mother!" All of Israel heard the judgment that the King had judged. They had great awe for the King, for they saw that the wisdom of God was within him to do justice. [I Melachim 3:16 - 27]. The woman was rightfully awarded custody of her son. “
And before we talk, Task C: Task C: According to the criteria you listed in Task A, do Solomon’s decision and actions following that decision constitute an example of critical thinking or not? Why, why not? After doing this exercise, would you add anything or change anything to the criteria you listed in Task A? Let’s talk some more; what did you think?
Task D: Task D: Now compare the work from the King Solomon task and compare it with the critical thinking exercise offered by Richard Paul, Sonoma State University: “Directions: Write a brief response to the following statement or passage. Then exchange papers with a student sitting next to you. Read his or her response carefully, then write a brief reaction to that response. Finally, exchange papers again, read what your partner has written, and discuss your responses.”
Task D, con’t: R. Paul Exercise Statement or passage for analysis: We have developed a machine, a box with some electrodes and a life-support system, which we call the Pleasure Machine. If you plug into the machine, you can experience a lifetime of whatever pleasurable or enjoyable experiences you wish. Flying to Paris for a candlelit dinner with Tom Cruise or Jennifer Lopez, hitting a World Series-winning home-run in Yankee Stadium, playing lead guitar with The Rolling Stones, discovering a cure for cancer—whatever you can dream about you can experience in the Pleasure Machine. There is, however, one catch: once you plug into the machine, you must stay plugged in for life. Would you plug into the Pleasure Machine? Why or why not? My name: My response to the statement or passage: Respondent's name: Respondent's response:
Here is your task: Is this little thinking exercise like or unlike the King Solomon exercise? List at least two criteria to support your judgment. Let’s share a bit.
Task E: Still in your bluebooks. The Meteor Exercise. (see text in your handout packet)
So, after looking over the meteor piece Now, the question to you: is this an example of critical thinking? If no, why not, and if yes, why? Like before, put your responses in the bluebooks for discussion.
Task F, near the end now Read the story that the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead recounts in this passage from his philosophical autobiography. Once you are done, underline the most important line or phrase and explain in your bluebooks why you believe this is the most important part of the passage. Then, and this is important, summarize Whitehead’s argument about the squirrel family into two specific sentences. Then let’s talk.
So, let’s open it up: Talk: what did you come up with? Talk: Compare the first two of these exercises to the following. If you had to use these separate tasks to explain the difference between critical thinking and critical reasoning to someone, how would you group the various exercises? Which represent something closer to what we might call critical thinking, and which work closer to the field we call critical reasoning? Talk: What does a discipline rely on most to teach something to think like a major (see handout)? Talk: what’s the difference between critical thinking and critical reasoning? And why does it matter?
About Majors and Critical Thinking: “A set of purposes, key assumptions about the world, key concepts and models that people in the field use to gather and categorize information and trace out its implications. It involves a unique and fertile point of view in which people draw end conclusions that could not be drawn without the discipline. A good way to describe practitioners is to say that theyhave ownership of the logic of that field.”
About Majors 2: “A fundamental and powerful concept is one that can be used to explain or think out a huge body of questions, problems, information, and situations. All fields have fundamental and powerful concepts, but there are a relatively small number of them in any particular area. They are the most central and useful ideas in the discipline [bold ours].”
And, 1. “Critical thinking in biology is reasonable, reflective biological thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do in biology, and in the relation between biology and the world at large.” 2. “Critical thinking in history is skillful, responsible thinking that is conducive to good historical judgment, because it is sensitive both to historical contexts and to other contexts which have a relation to history; it relies on historical criteria, and it is self-correcting.”
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