Event Date/Time: Sep 03, 2008 End Date/Time: Sep 06, 2008
Registration Date: Aug 27, 2008
Early Registration Date: Aug 05, 2008
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The Center and Foundation for Critical Thinking have together hosted critical thinking academies and conferences for more than a quarter century. We will bring our second academy to the UK September 3-6, 2008. The International Academy on Critical Thinking is designed for collegiate and pre-collegiate educators, lead faculty, teachers, headmasters, and academic administrators. Research fellow Rush Cosgrove, together with Richard Paul and Linda Elder, are designing the Academy.

Among the Oxford educators invited to present, include David Palfreyman, David Mills and Ted Tapper. In addition, Robert Beck will be joining Gerald Nosich, Richard Paul, Linda Elder, and Rush Cosgrove, fellows from the Foundation for Critical Thinking. The Academy will take further shape as we flesh out potential issues and finalize our preparations.

The first half of the Academy will concentrate on theoretical issues. The second half will focus on the development of practical strategies for the design of instruction. The Academy will explicate the nature of the Oxford Tutorial as it relates to critical thinking, and the nature of critical thinking as it relates to the Tutorial. The concept of critical thinking presented by Foundation fellows will be minimalist, substantive, and comprehensive. By 'minimalist' we mean that it will focus on those dimensions of critical thinking that are unarguable. By 'substantive' we mean a conception of critical thinking that is trans-disciplinary (and hence does not privilege the approach to critical thinking of any single discipline such as philosophy, psychology, or rhetoric). By 'comprehensive' we mean that all major dimensions of critical thinking are dealt with: the elements of thought, the universal standards of thought, and the traits of mind (of a fair-minded thinker). A fourth way to characterize the conception of critical thinking advanced by the fellows of the Foundation is that it is ROBUST ( both theoretically and practically).

The International Academy is designed for educators and administrators who seek to move beyond fundamentals to advanced understandings and strategies. The Academy is designed to help participants improve their comprehension of critical thinking and their ability to design instruction in such a way that students increasingly come to employ critical thinking as their main tool of learning.

The Academy will focus on how to understand instruction, and so design it, that students become intellectually engaged in thinking within the disciplines they study.

Seminars will run from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm each day. Delegates will be engaged in actively discussing theoretical and practical issues with the presenters, some of which will be present through-out the Academy.

Delegates from previous academies are welcomed back, to deepen their understanding of critical thinking. The academy will offer the means to achieve greater depth of understanding of critical thinking concepts and principles and their application to curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

The Oxford Tutorial

One important set of questions the Academy poses is: What can we learn from studying the manner in which “tutorial” and “supervisory” roles are exercised in classic forms of Oxbridge tutor/student teaching and learning? Is the essence of the tutorial, that which gives it its unique power, found in its outward form (particularly in its one-on-one faculty/student ratio), or are there ways to appropriate some of its essential strength, in alternative arrangements less labor intensive, less costly, but (financially and academically) more doable for institutions with less funding, and possibly less talented students?”

We hypothesize that there is a significant convergence between the best practices of the classic Oxford Tutorial and the "model" of teaching for critical thinking constructed, over the last 20 years, by the Foundation for Critical Thinking fellows. This suggests the further hypothesis that the "essence" of what makes the Tutorial powerful can be usefully "exported" into larger group settings. Here are some suggested common denominators:

We posit that both traditional Oxford Tutorial and emergent Critical Thinking approaches emphasize:
# Teaching with a Socratic Spirit (teaching that emphasizes the student taking ownership of content through actively thinking it through). In this mode of teaching, the inquiry process is more important than the answer, while rote memorization is accorded little

# Teaching with intellectual standards (students are expected to adhere to clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and significance in their academic discourse). In this mode of teaching, intellectual discipline and rigor is expected and fostered.

# Teaching that encourages students to identify key structural components in thinking (purposes, questions at issue, information and data, inferences and interpretations, concepts and theories, assumptions and presuppositions, implications and consequences, points of view and frames of reference).

# Teaching that requires students to read, write, listen, and speak (critically).

# Teaching that is dialogical (wherein the student learns to question the thinking of others and to expect his or her thinking to be questioned by others).

# Teaching that encourages students to think for themselves while exercising intellectual humility and intellectual empathy.

# Teaching that locates ultimate intellectual authority in evidence and reasoning, rather than in authority figures or “authoritative” beliefs or texts.

Under (well-designed) instruction for critical thinking and (well-designed) Oxford Tutorials, students learn how to analyze thinking, assess thinking, and re-construct thinking (improving it thereby). The thinking studied is that which is embedded in the content of established academic disciplines. As a result, students so taught become actively engaged in thinking historically, anthropologically, sociologically, politically, chemically, biologically, mathematically …

Through these processes, students learn how to read, write, speak, and listen in a new way (critically). Most importantly, they learn how to learn, using disciplined reading, writing, speaking, and listening as modalities essential to learning.

Under both approaches students learn to:

* raise vital questions and problems
* gather and assess important information
* come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions
* think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought
* communicate effectively with others
* figure out practical solutions to complex problems

It is commonly believed, and we suggest rightly, that the Oxford Tutorial methods of teaching are powerful for shaping minds and stimulating learning. It is also commonly believed, but we suggest wrongly, that the Oxford Tutorial methods are effective only in one-to-one, or one-to-two, teacher/student ratios.

The most important hypothesis of the Academy is the view that the “essence” of the successful teaching methods of the Oxford Tutorials and Cambridge Supervisions may be identified and “exported” in forms of instruction with varied and higher faculty/student ratios.


New College
University of Oxford
United Kingdom

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