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A critical thinker is one who...


1. Observes.  One must both look closely and remain open to hidden or unexpected explanations to think critically.  Observation involves close attention to both regularities and exceptional data.  Simple recall and comprehension (putting what is recalled in one’s own words) of what one sees are the first steps in critical thinking.


2. Analyzes.  In order to truly understand one must break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood.  That is, analysis involves knowing the relationships between parts and recognizing the organizational principles that connect them.


3. Recognizes ambiguity.  Ambiguity means having two or more meanings.  Issues are often complex – complexity only emerges from confusion if one is willing to recognize ambiguity.


4. Accepts complexity. The critical thinker expects and tolerates uncertainty – the more complex an issue, system or process, the greater the uncertainty. Complex issues do not lend themselves to simple single-cause explanations. There are usually no easy answers to important issues or questions; issues in real life can rarely be simplified to right/wrong, yes/no, us/them, and so on.


5. Identifies assumptions & biases.  An assumption is something taken for granted by a thinker but often left unstated.  Since assumptions are not mentioned and thus not backed up with evidence, they offer insight into the validity of our own arguments as well as those of others.


6. Assumes perspective(s) of another.  Consider the phrase “walk a mile in their shoes.”  This implies a willingness to explore ideas contrary to one’s own beliefs and the ability to see problems and issues in a broader perspective than one’s own culture or interest group.


7. Adopts multiple perspectives.  To adopt multiple perspectives means to see a problem from many angles. There are as many perspectives as there are people, but several important categories include race, class, and gender.  Adopting multiple perspectives allows one to anticipate counter arguments and to address them even before one’s position is questioned.  Multiple perspectives can also lead one to reconsider one’s position.


8. Synthesizes.  Synthesis puts parts together to form a new whole.  It is the opposite of analysis.  Synthesis involves seeing connections among various and seemingly unrelated facts and experiences (e.g. different texts, different courses, different personal experiences or current events, etc.)  Creativity is an important part of synthesis, since the connections one finds may be original.


9. Recognizes bias.  A goal of critical thinking is fair mindedness.  One tests one’s own impressions in all ways possible.  Recognizing bias helps one to see their own assumptions and thus to reduce personal prejudice and to recognize it in others.


10. Evaluates.  To evaluate one must judge and to judge one must have definite criteria.  Such criteria may be internal (e.g., how effectively is the purpose or function of this process carried out?) or external (e.g. why might this process be of interest to someone? How does it compare to other works in its field?).


 General Test Study Guide (READ this first!)

Note: These study guides are subject to modification. For reasons as yet unforeseen we may not be able to follow the syllabus exactly. You will be notified in a timely manner if test dates must be changed. You will be notified of changes, additions, and deletions in lecture material and readings from the text via email before each test. Additional material will include information from videos shown in lecture.


Test emphasis will be on those subjects addressed in the text AND in lecture (About 50-50, lecture versus text, in terms of where test questions will come from). Obvious duplications are obvious things to look at more closely. Tests 1 and 2, 100 points each, are 80% multiple choice answers and 20% short answers (including short essays, matching, and lists). The final examination follows the same format.


Study Strategies


Read ahead. Read early. Cramming the night before the test puts information in your head but no context. Knowing definitions alone gets you a C. Knowing how things fit together gets you the A. It is better to study extensively, a few hours or sessions over a few days than to do it all at once. Some people do best when they see it, hear it, then write it (“it” being information). Try recopying your notes or making a few flash cards. The “worse” you are at a subject, according to your own self-assessment, the MORE time you will have to spend studying.

Study guides come in many forms. Some instructors provide detailed, specific lists of concepts for students to study. Others provide no input beyond listing the chapters to be covered on an exam. In either case, the goal of the instructor is to help you develop your independent skills at collating, prioritizing, and assimilating content. I believe that learning how to learn is as important as the information provided in this course. Learning how to learn is why you are in college. I hope that this class will help you take a step toward becoming a master learner, someone who can coolly and effectively dissect new information, distinguish the important from the unimportant, prioritize it, and make connections between it and information from your own pre-existing knowledge and experience. Hence, to foster the development of this skill, I will provide you with some practice. This study guide will provide study strategies and alert you to “markers”, ways to determine relative significance of given bits of content. It will not provide specifics like, “know this, be able to define that, etc.”  That information is already imbedded in the text and in my lecture outline.  I will not provide a "treasure map" to an A. 

Strategies For Studying The Text

Study the text first. Content presented in my lectures weaves in and out and through that presented in the text but the framework, the “cosmic structure” of this course, at least within chapters, closely follows that of Cunningham, Cunningham & Saigo.  Sometimes you may find that you will have to read parts of the text not specifically assigned to provide you with the background you need to fully assimilate the information provided in the assigned readings.  There's a detailed table of contents in the front of the text, information that will lead you to on-line support for the text, and a solid glossary of terms and an index in the back of the book (remember, knowing a few definitions alone won't cut it at university). 

At the beginning of each chapter Cunningham, Cunningham & Saigo provides you the reader with a list of questions that will be answered in the chapter. You should know the answers to these questions when you are finished with the chapter (I recommend writing out the answers to these questions as part of your test preparation). Consider these as excellent sample short answer questions. Cunningham, Cunningham & Saigo also provides critical thinking questions at the end of each chapter. Use these questions as a catalyst to crystallize your understanding of the subject matter in the chapter and in lectures. Practice preparing written answers to these questions too.

Chapters in Cunningham, Cunningham & Saigo are extensively outlined (NUMBERED SECTIONS, main headings, subheadings, sub-subheadings) and key concepts, phrases and words are highlighted, italicized and/or put in boxes. The outline = Their priorities! The highlighted concepts and definitions are used to link information together. They are the “dots”. If you can connect the dots you have mastered the chapter.

Do not forget to read and carefully examine the figures in each chapter!  Case studies, spotlights, figures, and guest essays are particularly fertile ground for test question generation.  Do not forget to take advantage of the Essential Study Partner CD-Rom that comes bundled with your textbook.  Do not forget to take advantage of the on-line resources provided by your textbook publisher.  The html is provided in your textbook and on the Essential Study Partner CD-Rom.

Strategies For Studying The Lecture Notes

After examining your notes on the chapters you will begin to see that Cunningham, Cunningham & Saigo has provided you with detailed outlines. Information in the chapters is organized in a hierarchical arrangement of main heading and subheadings. Lectures are similarly organized. However, your notes are your outline. Ask yourself, “how does the subject matter presented in lecture fit with that in the chapters?” It will be: the same as that in the text, more detailed or less detailed than the text, or completely different (but linked to some information in the text). You must go through the intellectual exercise of fitting lecture material into the framework/outline that you identified by analyzing the text. Once so organized, you will note that lecture material is also organized in a hierarchical fashion with main heading, subheadings, and definitions. Compare the two sources of information (lecture and readings). Where information is presented twice you have found yourself a key issue. These issues/ definitions/ topics are your highest priority (why else would I have repeated them?). If you know how they relate to the whole and to each other you cannot lose!

Study aides for each test 

Subject to change without notice

Created by Don Porschien

Last updated 5 August 05

Send comments to runningl@uwec.edu

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