Rethinking Critical Thinking

Starting this week, I am teaching a graduate course in Critical Thinking using an experimental format in the hope of clarifying my dissatisfaction with the received views about the “teaching of thinking.”  This extends discussions and activities during the spring,  In parallel to the course, there will be a series of Collaborative Explorations, to which interested readers are invited to participate:

Rethinking Critical Thinking, Fall 2015

September How do people have their thinking changed?

  • A CE in which participants practice applying critical thinking at the same time as developing their own direct or indirect approach to fostering critical thinking in others.

October Everyone can think critically!

  • A CE in which participants learn as much as possible about how critical thinking is presented and promoted by others.

November Manifesto and Plan for Practice in Critical Thinking

  • A CE in which participants formulate specific plans for how to continue your own development as a critical thinker and, as a result, be able to foster the same among colleagues or students in your work/life/teaching situation.

The CE format (which is one of two strands of the course) is designed to allow each student/participant to

a) undertake intensive reading in the area of critical thinking, with students sharing annotated bibliography entries from which others can learn;
b) shape a path and final products for each CE that link closely with their personal interests; and
c) see themselves as contributors to ongoing development of the field through sharing of their products.

The second strand will involve activities or discussion based on shared readings around key concepts or issues in the field, with special attention to Causality, Complexity, and Context. Each activity promotes a way to improve thinking, but allows for insights about one’s thinking to emerge in its own way. Plus-Delta feedback at end of most activities fosters the formation of these insights as well as future improvements of the activity for future offerings of the course.

About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012,

One Response to Rethinking Critical Thinking

  1. If you read the description for the CEs and any of them interest you, in the sense of wanting to look into some angle related to the scenario in the CE, then that is what we are looking for. If none of them grab you, feel free to sit back and watch what others post on Peter adds: “The experience of taking CCT 601 students through the sequence of these three CEs (and other experimental class activities) plus the contributions of the CCT community to these CEs will, I am sure, help me clarify my thinking about teaching critical thinking, but no need for CE participants to be governed by what bugs me.”

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