On-line Announcements — Remind, Enhance, and Supplement Course Content
On a weekly basis in my on-line courses in thinking critically and creatively, I send out weekly “Musings with Roger” to remind the students of the forthcoming due dates of the assignments and discussion forum. In addition, I use the announcements to enhance and supplement course content so as to suggest effective study guidelines, to expand the horizons of critical thinking, and to share thought-provoking quotations – all of which are relevant to the chapter under consideration.
A reminder – what is due and when————-
February 9 – Monday – Chapter 2 – What is Critical Thinking? Discussion, 20 points,
February 11 – Wednesday – Qualities of a Critical Thinker Assignment, 20 points,
February 13 – Friday – The defining processes of the mind Assignment, 20 points
———————————————relative to chapter 1 – supplementary
By Maryellen Weimer, PhD
I’ve seen lots of lists that identify the characteristics of good teachers. They’re great reminders of what we should aspire to be as teachers. I haven’t seen many corresponding lists that identify the characteristics of good learners. I decided to put one together and invite your input. This could be a list for our students or anybody who aspires to learn well.
- Good learners are curious – They wonder about all sorts of things, often about things way beyond their areas of expertise. They love the discovery part of learning. Finding out about something they didn’t know satisfies them for the moment, but their curiosity is addictive.
- Good learners pursue understanding diligently – A few things may come easily to learners but most knowledge arrives after effort, and good learners are willing to put in the time. They search out information—sometimes aspiring to find out everything that is known about something. They read, analyze, and evaluate the information they’ve found. They talk with others, read more, study more, and carry around what they don’t understand; thinking about it before they go to sleep, at the gym, on the way to work, and sometimes when they should be listening to others. Good learners are persistent. They don’t give up easily.
- Good learners recognize that a lot of learning isn’t fun – That doesn’t change how much they love learning. When understanding finally comes, when they get it, when all the pieces fit together, that is one special thrill. But the journey to understanding generally isn’t all that exciting. Some learning tasks require boring repetition; others a mind-numbing attention to detail; still others periods of intense mental focus. Backs hurt, bottoms get tired, the clutter on the desk expands, the coffee tastes stale—no, most learning isn’t fun.
- Failure frightens good learners, but they know it’s beneficial – It’s a part of learning that offers special opportunities that aren’t there when success comes quickly and without failure. In the presence of repeated failure and seeming futility, good learners carry on, confident that they’ll figure it out. When faced with a motor that resists repair, my live-in mechanic announces he has yet to meet a motor that can’t be fixed. Sometimes it ends up looking like a grudge match, man against the machine, with the man undeterred by how many different fixes don’t work. He’s frustrated but determined to find the one that will, all the while learning from those that don’t.
- Good learners make knowledge their own – This is about making the new knowledge fit with what the learner already knows, not making it mean whatever the learner wants. Good learners change their knowledge structures in order to accommodate what they are learning. They use the new knowledge to tear down what’s poorly constructed, to finish what’s only partially built, and to create new additions. In the process, they build a bigger and better knowledge structure. It’s not enough to just take in new knowledge. It has to make sense, to connect in meaningful ways with what the learner already knows.
- Good learners never run out of questions – There’s always more to know. Good learners are never satisfied with how much they know about anything. They are pulled around by questions—the ones they still can’t answer, or can only answer part way, or the ones without very good answers. Those questions follow them around like day follows night with the answer bringing daylight but the next question revealing the darkness.
- Good learners share what they’ve learned – Knowledge is inert. Unless it’s passed on, knowledge is lost. Good learners are teachers committed to sharing with others what they’ve learned. They write about it, and talk about it. Good learners can explain what they know in ways that make sense to others. They aren’t trapped by specialized language. They can translate, paraphrase, and find examples that make what they know meaningful to other learners. They are connected to the knowledge passed on to them and committed to leaving what they’ve learned with others.
Good teachers model this kind of learning for their students, which makes me believe that “good learner” belongs on those lists of good teacher characteristics.
———————————————————–more principles of critical thinking
S-3 Exercising Fairmindedness
Principle: To think critically, we must be able to consider the strengths and weaknesses of opposing points of view; to imaginatively put ourselves in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them; to overcome our egocentric tendency to identify truth with our immediate perceptions or long-standing thought or belief.
This trait is linked to the ability to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than our own. This trait also requires the willingness to remember occasions when we were wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, as well as the ability to imagine our being similarly deceived in a case at hand. Critical thinkers realize the unfairness of judging unfamiliar ideas until they fully understand them.
The world consists of many societies and peoples with many different points of view and ways of thinking. To develop as reasonable persons, we need to enter into and think within the frameworks and ideas of different peoples and societies.
We cannot truly understand the world if we think about it only from one viewpoint, as Americans, as Italians, or as Soviets. Furthermore, critical thinkers recognize that their behavior affects others, and so consider their behavior from the perspective of those others.
S-4 Exploring Thoughts Underlying Feelings and Feelings Underlying Thoughts
Principle: Although it is common to separate thought and feeling as though they were independent, opposing forces in the human mind, the truth is that virtually all human feelings are based on some level of thought and virtually all thought generative of some level of feeling. To think with self-understanding and insight, we must come to terms with the intimate connections between thought and feeling, reason and emotion.
Critical thinkers realize that their feelings are their response (but not the only possible, or even necessarily the most reasonable response) to a situation. They know that their feelings would be different if they had a different understanding or interpretation of the situation.
They recognize that thoughts and feelings, far from being different kinds of “things”, are two aspects of their responses. Uncritical thinkers see little or no relationship between their feelings and their thoughts, and so escape responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Their own feelings often seem unintelligible to them.
When we feel sad or depressed, it is often because we are interpreting our situation in an overly negative or pessimistic light. We may be forgetting to consider positive aspects of our lives.
We can better understand our feelings by asking ourselves, “How have I come to feel this way? How am I looking at the situation? To what conclusion have I come? What is my evidence? What assumptions am I making? What inferences am I making? Are they sound inferences? Do my conclusions make sense? Are there other ways to interpret this situation?”
We can learn to seek patterns in our assumptions, and so begin to see the unity behind our separate emotions. Understanding ourselves is the first step toward self-control and self-improvement. This self-understanding requires that we understand our feelings and emotions in relation to our thoughts, ideas, and interpretations of the world.
————————————————–quotations worthy of reflection about critical thinking or lack of it
The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.
~ Charles Eliot Norton
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
~ Bertrand Russell
The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.
~ Aldous Huxley
The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.
The great masses of the people…will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.
~ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1933
Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.
~ Hendrik Van Loon
The trouble with most folks isn’t so much their ignorance, as knowing so many things that ain’t so.
~ Josh Billings
Regards, roger — your companion on the academic journey