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Research and resources
Under 50 students
Over 50 students
Out of class activity
Media and Technology
Resource: The Cornell Note-Taking Method (handout)
A simple but powerful method enabling students to put their notes to many kinds of instructional use. (Described in 'Getting Students who Take Excellent Notes'.)
Commentary: Science is a Verb
Most non-majors take only a handful of science courses, usually in lecture format. Having realized that, this teacher now has his students DO science in class whenever he can.
Commentary: Introducing Complexity
What a few teachers have learned about moving students out of dualistic, right-wrong thinking.
Commentary: Engaging Students in Mid-Reflection
Calling attention to good thinking as it is happening can support students' growth into their own new perspectives.
Commentary: Reasoning through Value Conflicts
One teacher tackles emotional topics by illuminating the logics underlying the conflict generating the emotion.
Commentary: Introducing Causal Skepticism
Some ways to get students thinking about the quality of causal inferences and how to detect intellectual "cheap shots."
Commentary: Letting Students Choose their own Problem Solving Inquiry
One teacher's experience with the galvanizing effect upon his class when students are allowed to choose their own problem-solving inquiry topic.
Commentary: An Inquiry-Based Creative Problem Solving Course
A concise description of how an "inquiry" course can be organized, with a unique culminating presentation format.
Commentary: Why Student Self-Reflection is Critical to Inquiry
In the conversation of knowledge-creation, students must be prompted to ready themselves for constructive participation.
Teaching Tip: Low-Stakes Assessments Early and Often
Challenging our own assumptions about our students can help us better meet them where they are and give us the feedback we need to prevent frustration.
Teaching Tip: Choosing or Writing Good Cases
Practical design suggestions for what to include in your case and how to structure it.
Teaching Tip: Moving among Evidence-Based Approaches
Critical thinkers adjust their approach as the nature of the problem is revealed. Teaching students to "switch gears" can help them generate increasingly effective solutions.
Teaching Tip: Generating Many Solutions
Students can assume all problems have one "right" answer. This teacher confronts his students with the reality of their own divergent thinking, and only then asks them to synthesize a "best" answer.
Teaching Tip: Using "Clickers" for Large-Class Discussion
How one teacher uses an increasingly popular technology to get feedback on student understanding and stimulate critical discussion.
Teaching Tip: Informal Writing to Stimulate Critical Discussion
Brief moments of low-stakes writing in class can lead students from their own concrete observations into conceptual course material.
Teaching Tip: Setting a Tone for Engaged Discussion
You do not have much time to set students' expectations for engagement. Three teachers share how they do it.
Teaching Tip: Replicating the Scientific Publishing Process in Class
Help students learn the scientific review process by living it themselves.
Teaching Tip: Helping Students Contextualize their Opinions
Opening students' eyes to many perspectives on an emotional issue can be tricky. Here's how one teacher does it.
Teaching Tip: Drawing Students into an Ethical Case
Ethical discussions are difficult, but this teacher taps into an acute sensibility that students already possess.
Teaching Tip: Finding Good Cases in Popular Entertainment
Concrete examples can require detailed, backstory explanation. Here's where one teacher found ready-made cases his students already know.
Teaching Tip: Cause and Effect from a First-Person Perspective
Cause-and-effect thinking can be stimulated by this unique writing assignment and peer evaluation process.
Teaching Tip: Turning Causal Conclusions around
Develop students' intellectual flexibility by having them build cases for a cause-effect hypothesis, then have them probe other hypotheses and the weaknesses of their own arguments.
Teaching Tip: Modeling Flexibility of Thought for your Students
How two teachers build flexibility into their own classroom behavior and syllabus, allowing for thinking-on-the-fly and instructionally relevant tangents.
Teaching Tip: The Importance of Personalizing Critical Thinking
Inspire independent thought by connecting characteristics of historical thinkers to students' own lives.
Activity: Helping Students See Conceptual Relationships: Graphic Organizers
These simple activties leverage the power of visualizing information to help students make conceptual distinctions.
Activity: "Problematizing" a Graph or Image
A simple but surprisingly powerful in-class method for putting students in the shoes of a researcher.
Activity: Diagramming Arguments
Directing students' attention to how an argument is constructed is critical to helping them assess arguments made by others and make better arguments, themselves.
Activity: Necessary and Sufficient
Understanding a problem means learning more about what is necessary and sufficient to solve it. This exercise gives students practice identifying those elements.
Activity: After This, Therefore Because of This
Sensitize students to fallacies in causal reasoning by asking them to generate and then reverse causal inferences.
Activity: Constructive Controversy
A sequential small-group exercise designed to engage students deeply in many sides of a complex issue.
Activity: The Third Variable Problem
Giving students practice generating alternative hypotheses is crucial to their critical thinking development. This activity can begin that process.
Activity: Evaluating Media Reports
Critical analysis of popular news stories can demonstrate to students the everyday usefulness of critical thinking skills.
Activity: Eloosis: The Scientific Method Game
Watch a simple card game teach students the basic elements of the scientific method, quickly and enjoyably. Students move from wanting to win, to wanting to analyze, hypothesize, and test.
Activity: Fishbowl Discussion
Watching others in discussion can sometimes trigger thinking that being a participant would not. This flexible format allows for both.
Activity: The Observation/Inference Chart
This exercise gives students practice identifying what meaning they draw from a given set of data, and evaluating the quality of their inferences.
Activity: How Good Are These Questions?
Give students practice assessing the quality of a question before deciding whether or how to answer it.
Activity: Information Literacy Activities
Students do not arrive on campus knowing how to make good use of information sources. Here are some ideas on how to get them started.
Activity: Problem-Solving Activities
A popular format for giving students practice grappling with problems that are realistically "messy."
Activity: Develop a Deep Understanding of the Problem
Problem solving can leap too quickly to solution-finding, without enough attention paid to the nature of the problem. Here are some questions with which to slow things down.
Often used to describe any process of "coming up with ideas," brainstorming actually involves a specific set of discrete activities.
Activity: The "Hierarchical Solution Generation" Method
Brainstorming is only the first step to generating solutions: this method mines what has already been brainstormed to generate additional possibilities.
Among the simplest and most popular ways to activate any classroom. In as little as two minutes, students get time to reflect, compare thoughts with their peers, then give you feedback as a class.
Activity: Design a Perfect...
Releasing students from practical constraints can unleash creative brainstorming power.
Activity: Embellish Your Answer(s) to "What If?"
Extrapolating from current trends can be a doorway into creative problem-solving. This activity helps open that doorway.
Activity: Synthesizing a "True" Statement from Competing Factions
One teacher's creative approach to putting students in the shoes of competing factions who have to generate a joint statement upon which they can all agree.
Activity: Collaborative Editing
To be a good writer, you must be a good editor. Here's how one teacher helps his students learn both skills at once.
Activity: Modeling How to Receive Criticism
Open students up to receiving criticism by showing them how you respond when you are criticized yourself.
Activity: Living an Ethical Case - The "Tragedy of the Classroom"
Telling a resource-depletion story pales in comparison to making students live it, with real grade points attached. Here's how one teacher does it.