This is a tentative journal of a Critical Thinking course’s first-time instructor. I embrace this new journey with commitment and passion hoping to transform the excitement (and anxiety) of novelty into chances for pedagogical experimentation and betterment. Over the course of the semester I will try to expose my reasoning behind class design and activities. I will always start from the learning objective of a specific class and from there I will move on to the possible activities I could develop in order to achieve those same learning objectives. Each post will be divided into two parts: the first one composed of objective and ideas; the second one made of what went well and what went wrong.
Class 0 – Introduction
Easing up the beginning of the semester
Getting to know students and students getting to know instructor
Introducing Critical Thinking
Activity n1: “Tell us”
- Tell us your NAME
- Tell us what was the latest cultural product (film, video, song, book, article, etc.) you enjoyed the most.
- Tell us what your favorite MTA train line or train station is.
- The first to go is the instructor (just to provide an example and to help students speak up their minds)
Activity n2: analyzing and questioning 4 sentences:
- it covers the course learning objectives in a dynamic way
- it provides a glimpse of how the classes are going to look like
- Instructors writes the following four sentences on the board:
- All options are equally valid
- We must tolerate all different ways of living
- Beliefs don’t require evidence
- There is no truth
- For students: Take a few minutes, on your own write a response to each of these statements, write down the first thing that comes to your mind for each sentence.
- Form groups of three:
- Write down one area that you were agreeing
- Write down one area that you did not write about and that your colleagues made you think
- Discuss with class
What went well
During both exercises students seemed very open to discuss their ideas and experiences. Often times, talking about the MTA turns into a list of complaints while it is refreshing and interesting to think abut it when riding nyc subway’s trains procures us positive feelings. I was able to learn that students come from different parts of the city and not just the neighbors around LaGuardia. Many times students mentioned a specific train line because it gave them the chance to move across the city, something that it is often taken for granted. Train lines that usually bring students to their respective homes, or to other places they are emotionally attached with, were among the most cherished routes.
Wonderfully varied responses came out of the cultural products mentioned and “consumed” in the recent past. Interests varied from the Great Gatsby to God of War (videogame). 😊
A big thanks to Shannon Proctor, a person who I am going to thank a lot in this journal, for showing me the perfect exercise to introduce critical thinking (the common reflection on the meaning of the four sentences written above). It engages right away students in thinking “deep,” in going on over the surface of apparent meanings, in breaking down the various steps in the effort of achieving the complexity of more abstract thoughts.
The big mistake I made was not providing short slips of paper to my students. They had to take out pages from their notebooks or search for other scrap paper. Nothing problematic but something I need to address for the next course introduction.