Critical Thinking Note 5: Critical Thinking Curriculum Development Series

The Philosophy Dept. (not just me, but most of us) will be running a Critical Thinking Curriculum Development workshop through the Faculty Commons this year and our first meeting is just two weeks from now. This workshop will meet on four Thursdays from 3:00 to 4:30 in D-104 on the following dates, Oct. 10, Nov. 7, Jan 16, and Feb. 13. In this workshop, Philosophy faculty will share a variety of open source curriculum materials and help participants develop Canvas critical thinking modules to suit their courses and students. Register right away.

You can register for our Critical Thinking Curriculum Development Series here:

Now for some content. Not everyone gets the Faculty Commons newsletter, so this time I’m re-issuing a contribution to the most recent edition. Please forgive the recycling. Some new notes are in the works.

In Russia there is a saying: “When the fight is over, stop swinging your arms.” The point is well taken. There is generally not much to be gained from bemoaning our assorted defeats once they are a done deal. Additionally it’s not very much fun. On the other hand, there are some fights, well struggles, which we are never really done with. And critical review of our recent shortfalls can be highly instructive as we continually aim to do better. How we understand our world, including others and ourselves, is one of these ongoing struggles. Here, critical review of past performance serves the genuinely useful aim of figuring out something new.

As useful as critical thinking can be in reviewing and revising our opinions and our reasons for holding them, it might also force us to recognize our own shortcomings, like having held false opinions or having reasoned poorly. So there is a risk of critical thinking giving us cause to bemoan our defeats and hence being not very much fun. A common practice in the face of this risk is to engage in creative and often self-deceptive strategies for avoiding critical thinking. A big part of our jobs as college level educators is to help our students outgrow self-satisfied intellectual complacency and embrace habits of critical thinking in spite of these risks. As humbling as it can be to find that you’ve believed a falsehood or reasoned poorly, there is new, more mature confidence to be found in cultivating skill at evaluating reasons, ferreting out false opinion and moving, at least incrementally, towards a better understanding of our world, others in it and ourselves. Additionally, this part is fun.

So, how are we helping our students face the challenge of critical thinking and how might we do better? This will be the focus of a new Critical Thinking Curriculum Development workshop at the Faculty Commons organized and facilitated by assorted members of BC’s philosophy department. There is a well-developed critical thinking curriculum in philosophy that supports an entire genre of textbooks and a diverse array of web resources. One of our own faculty members, Mark Storey, has recently written a complete critical thinking text intended for free distribution to and use by BC faculty and students. Our plan is to give workshop participants this fall and winter an exclusive first look at this new free resource. Of course we will be inviting critical feedback for further improvements and refinements. Participants will also get to make their own refinements and revisions. A primary goal for this workshop will be for participants to adapt, supplement and revise Mark’s text and other critical thinking notes and resources in developing a Critical Thinking module in Canvas that is custom tailored to meet the needs of their courses and students.


  1. Russ Payne

September 25, 2013

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