Critical Thinking Proficiency

1. Students read and critically analyze at least four readings from the anthology. Critical thinking is taught and utilized to discuss and to write about these readings. During their freshman year at college students have to learn how to read nonfiction critically, that is, to read texts, essays, scientific reports, historical materials, etc. very closely: to find the central argument in a text, to identify the author’s assumptions, to consider his/her purpose and audience, to evaluate the evidence. Understanding forms of analysis in the discipline and critically evaluating ideas in terms of specific criteria make up an important component of the course.

2. Students will write three to five papers (15-20 pages in full) in which critical thinking will be expected of them. Students also must participate in class discussion on a regular basis and write informally (Blackboard, journals, quizzes). As students write about the texts, they must use critical thinking in their analysis of them.

3. All essays will be evaluated, along with grading for class participation, journal writing, and tests. All students take a final exam, which may be a take-home or in-class writing. Many instructors also use quizzes.

4. Most, if not all, of the following, taken from the Core Proficiency Guidelines for Critical Thinking, would normally be covered in the typical 1201 class, through the analysis of the readings as well as through the teaching of critical reading and effective argumentation and persuasion.

• Identification of arguments
• Identifying assumptions
• Finding conclusions and premises
• Identifying kinds of reasoning (in 1201, especially causal analysis)
• Distinguishing good and bad reasoning
• Evaluating evidence
• Problem solving
• Analyzing text and information
• Making connections between ideas or information given
• Understanding forms of analysis in a discipline and critically evaluating ideas
in terms of specific criteria

1.Some time in class is devoted to discussing the nature of critical thinking. The Little Seagull Handbook includes a section on critical reading. Readings from the Reader, whether Reading the World or The Norton Reader, will be critically analyzed and discussed in class and in formal and informal writing assignments. TAs and TFs and new faculty members must use Reading the World.

2. All 1201 sections assign three to five formal (four to five for Teaching Assistants or Teaching Fellows) graded writing assignments, equaling a total of at least 15 – 20 pages, following the guidelines below:

a. Drafting process takes place for all formal, graded writing assignments. All assignments are handed in as rough drafts and then revised into a final draft. Students also are taught pre-writing techniques, outlining, and peer review. Two sessions (minimum) at the Writing Center are required.

b. The final formal writing assignment (the Research Essay) involves research, referencing, use of outside sources, and/or citations. MLA citation practices are taught in connection with this essay. Students have a library orientation as well to help them in their research strategies. This paper would not involve mere recounting of facts, but the use of them in the service of a clearly determined argument.

c. Students are required to learn and use five patterns of organization throughout the semester in their formal essay assignments (Definition, Process Analysis, Cause and Effect, Division and Classification, Comparison and Contrast), thereby acquiring a variety of techniques for developing their ideas and arguments and helpful in critical thinking . Normally, we would not assign a “comparison/contrast” essay, for example, but would teach that rhetorical strategy as a tool to use in an essay devoted, overall, to a larger purpose. Students may also be introduced to other writing concepts, again connected with critical thinking (Audience, Tone and Stance, Logical Fallacies, Logic and Metaphor, Bias in Language) incrementally throughout the semester. Students will be evaluated by how well they learn and use these techniques.

1. Critical thinking will be assessed through class discussions, informal writing, and the formal written assignments. Assessment of all 1201 classes is required through a uniform assessment instrument.

2. 1201 faculty work to increase the critical thinking evidenced in our students’ writing. The attached Primary Traits Rubric (used for faculty norming sessions and departmental assessment) and the Outcomes Statements for all First Year Writing courses indicate our critical thinking is integrated into our evaluation of students in 1201.