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   Course Title    Critical Thinking
Lecturer    Alexander V. Tyaglo
Institution    Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs
Country    Ukraine


1. Aim and objectives of the course

The principal aim of the course is to develop well-grounded, stable and effective skills in the criticism of professional texts (both written and oral) and everyday messages.

The achievement of this aim will improve students’ knowledge and skills in analysis, interpretation, evaluation and criticism of argumentative messages as successive stages in the whole critical thinking process.

A complementary aim of the course is to improve students’ ability to compose well-structured and persuasive professional messages (including research papers and dissertations).

2. Position and role of the course in the overall degree curriculum

This critical thinking course is elaborated for the Master’s level students. It correlates with courses in logic and philosophy traditionally delivered to university freshmen in Ukraine and other Newly Independent States.

The course is most relevant for the senior students, especially those whose majors are in sociology, humanities, law, etc. Its main role in the overall degree curriculum is to remind and advance professionally valuable thinking skills with the primary accent on criticism. A principal specificity of the course is permanent references to early-accumulated philosophical and logical education. In this way training in critical thinking is supported by the knowledge and skills gained earlier.

3. Methods used

The methodology to deliver this critical thinking course is not, by its nature, reducible to traditional lectures and seminars. It presupposes forms of training as a special combination of:

  • Reminder of earlier-accumulated knowledge and skills,
  • presentation of new information,
  • demonstration of relevant step(s) in the critical thinking process through examples pertinent to the professional practice,

  • exercises for each member of the student group, organized in order to improve different elements of personal critical thinking skills,
  • composition of home essays in order to advance and strengthen personal abilities to complete the critical thinking process as a structured whole.

Methods of small groups, round-table discussions, and similar activities in combination with traditional informative insertions are more suitable for this course. The number of members in any student group is to be limited to 15 -25 persons.

4. Course content

The course is divided into three separate modules in accordance with the natural structure of its content:

  • module of analysis of a message,
  • module of interpretation,
  • module of evaluation and criticism (because in practice evaluation and criticism are closely connected and articulated in parallel).

Each module includes a number of specific "right questions". These questions explicate a module’s essence in detail. They present the elementary units of the critical thinking process.

Evaluation and criticism of arguments are based on identification of diverse violations of logical norms. Therefore, the most typical and dangerous errors must be the focus of the critical thinking course. It is supposed that basic information about errors has been presented in previous courses in logic and philosophy already. But it is useful to review and maintain this information regularly. So, each session will pay special attention to a few fallacies. For the sake of session coherency the fallacies should be selected in connection with new information – regularly scheduled right questions.

Session 1.

An introduction. What is critical thinking? Critical thinking and logic. Main stages (modules) of critical thinking. Conception of critical "right questions".

Module of analysis

Session 2.

Reminding: Law of identity and its typical violations. New information: First critical question: What is the text’s problem (issue) and the conclusion? Demonstration by instructor how to find the problem and the relevant conclusion in messages. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 3.

Reminding: Law of non-contradiction and its typical violation. New information: Second critical question: What are the reasons? Demonstration by instructor how to find reason(s) relevant to the message’s conclusion. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 4.

Reminding: Law of the exclusive middle and its typical violation. New information: Third critical question: What is the argument’s structure? Argument with reasons "pro" and "contra". Examples of the diagram technique to elucidate the argument’s structure. Demonstration by the instructor how to find argument’s structure and to diagram it. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 5.

Reminding: Principle of sufficient reason and its typical violations. New information: How to compose a well-structured and persuasive message? A few useful rules. Demonstration by instructor how to compose a good message. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 6.

Class written quiz in analysis and composition.

Module of interpretation

Session 7.

Analysis of the class written quiz. New information: Concepts of understanding and interpretation. Forth critical question: What key words or phrases are ambiguous or empty? Logical and hermeneutical procedures to clarify words and phrases. Demonstration by instructor how to use procedures of definition and logical divisions. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 8.

Reminding: Errors in procedure of definition and logical division. New information: Fifth critical question: What are the (hidden) value conflicts and assumptions? Personal and social values. Typical value conflicts. Demonstration by instructor how to explicate and clarify values and value conflicts. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 9.

Reminding: Fallacy of egocentrism "Mine is better". New information: Sixth critical question: What are the (hidden) descriptive assumptions? Demonstration by instructor how to explicate and clarify descriptive assumptions. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 10.

New information: Conditional and unconditional problem solving. Seventh critical question: Under what (hidden) conditions is the conclusion acceptable? Demonstration by instructor how to explicate hidden condition in the problem solving and evaluate relevant conclusion. Student exercises on this topic. Class quiz in interpretation.

Module of evaluation and criticism

Session 11.

Reminding: Basic interrogative logic. Main errors in asking and answering questions (problem). New information: Eighth critical question: Is the problem correct? Is the conclusion relevant to the problem? Demonstration by instructor how to articulate the problem and its solution in a good manner, main errors in these procedures and ways of relevant criticism. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 12.

New information: Ninth critical question: How good are the reasons? Basic types of reasons (facts, laws, statistical data, etc.). Typical errors in selection of reasons to support a conclusion. Demonstration by instructor how to select correct reason(s), find and criticize typical relevant fallacies. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 13.

Reminding: Main types of inference (analogy, induction, deduction). Some typical errors in different inferences. New information: Tenth right question: Is the argument’s structure correct? Demonstration by instructor the correct ways of inference, typical fallacies and relevant ways of criticism. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 15.

New information: Eleventh critical question: Are there any fallacies in the reasoning? A general classification of fallacies (errors of perspective, errors of procedure, errors of reaction). Twelfth critical question: Does the argument have sufficient power? A quantitative assessment of argument’s power. Demonstration by instructor how to calculate an argument’s power. Student exercises on this topic.

Session 16.

Selected student home-essay presentations. Written student opinion poll concerning the course.

Session 17.

Selected student home-essay presentations. Conclusive instructor’s remarks and recommendations.

Final test.

5. Student evaluation

The students’ final course evaluation has two grades only – positive and negative. There are two ways to get the positive grade: 1) to accumulate the relevant sum of credits during the course, 2) to pass the final test successfully.

The students’ grades will be determined by class assignments (up to 2 credits), class written quiz (up to 5 credits), home essay and its presentation (up to 5 credits) and final test (up to 10 credits). The class assignments might be homework questions, or an oral quiz about new information, or personal and group exercises, and so forth.

In order to get the positive course evaluation a student must get no less than 10 credits. She/he can reach it without the final test (e.g., 5 credits for the class written quiz and 5 for the home essay; or 4 for the class written quiz, 4 for the home essay and 2 for the current class assignment). An opportunity to avoid the final test should stimulate regular efforts of a student during the course period. If a student did not accumulate 10 credits before the course ends, she/he must be tested until she/he will get this sum (but no more that 2 times without a special academic penalty).

6. Readings

A. Mandatory readings

Tyaglo A.V. Critical Thinking on the Basis of Elementary Logic. - Kharkov: V. Karazin National University in Kharkov, 2001. – 210 p. (in Russian).

B. Recommended readings

Bandurka O.M., Tyaglo O.V. Course in Logic. – Kharkiv: University of Internal Affairs, 1999 (in Ukrainian).

Tyaglo A.V., Voropay T.S. Critical Thinking. A Challenge to XXI-st Century Education. – Kharkov: University of Internal Affairs, 1999 (in Russian).

Brown, M. Neil and Keeley, Stuart M. Asking the Right Questions. A Guide to Critical Thinking. 5th ed. - Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

Paul, Richard. Critical Thinking. What Every Person Needs to Survive in A Rapidly Changing Word. 3rd ed. revised. – Santa Rosa, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking, 1993.

Ruggerio, Vincent Ryan. Beyond Feelings. A Guide to Critical Thinking. 5th ed. – Mountain View, CA etc. – Mayfield Publ. Co., 1998.



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