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Aug 29, 2012

A Primer on Critical Thinking


Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities (Paul & Elder, 2002, p. 15).

A well-cultivated critical thinker:
a.     raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
b.     gathers and assesses relevant information, and effectively interprets it;
c.     comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
d.     thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
e.     communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.
Critical Thinking and the Learning Environment:
a.     Formulate discussions and questions to improve adult learners’ critical thinking skills:
Clarity                      Could you elaborate further?
                                  Could you give me an example?
Accuracy                 How could we find out if that is true?
                                  How could we verify or test that?             
Precision                 Could you give me more details?
                                  Could you be more exact?
Relevance              How does that relate to the problem?
                                  How does that help us with the issue? 
Depth                       What factors make this a difficult problem?
                                  What are some of the complexities of this question?
Breadth                    Do we need to look at this from another perspective?
                                  Do we need to consider another point of view?                 
Logic                        Does all this make sense together?
                                  Does what you say follow from the evidence?  
Significance            Is this the central idea to focus on?
                                  Which of these facts are most important?
Fairness                  Do I have any vested interest in this issue?
    Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?
  (Paul & Elder, 2006).
b.     Plan authentic tasks which address important issues or problems.
c.     Replicate real life situations within the discipline.
d.     Restructure learning to promote higher-level thinking (See “Bloom’s taxonomy”).
e.     Promote active learning by incorporating inductive teaching and learning methods such as:
-      Guided Inquiry;
-      Problem-based;
-      Project-based; and
-      Case-base learning.
  • Huba, M. E. & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Paul, R.W. & Elder, L. (2002). Critical thinking: Tools for taking charge of your professional and personal life. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education/FT Press.
  • Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: The nature of critical and creative thought. Journal
  • of developmental education, 23, 34-35.
  • Prince, M., and R.M. Felder. 2006. Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions, comparisons, and research bases. Journal of Engineering Education 95 (2): 123–38.
  • Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, 13th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Valerie Lopes, PhD

Author: francine_glazer

May 02, 2012

Weekly Teaching Notes: 2011-2012 index

As the academic year winds down and we look toward the summer, I present to you a list of all the Weekly Teaching Notes from this academic year, with links to their locations on the web. Weekly Teaching Notes will break for the summer and resume again in the fall.

I've enjoyed the email conversations I've had with many of you this year, as you responded to me about a particular idea. At the Center for Teaching and Learning, we are here all summer and are eager to assist you with your teaching, course design or redesign, scholarly writing, and preparing your reappointment/tenure/promotion portfolios. (All consultations are voluntary and confidential.) To make an appointment with us, please email Olena Zhadko (instructional designer) at or me at We will be delighted to work with you!

Student Motivation

Your Responses - Motivating Students to Improve Study Habits

Motivating Students to Improve Study Habits

Guide Your Students Toward More Effective Study Habits

Technology and Student Learning

Enhance Student Collaboration with Online Tools: Google Apps

More on Student Collaboration and Google Apps

What's the Right Tool for the Job?

Glogster and Audio Essays

Which Tool? ...  Blackboard? Google Apps? Something else?

Course Design

Use an Annotated Syllabus to Track Your Thinking about Course Design

Communicate High Expectations

Storytelling, Creativity, and Classroom Management

Engage Students in Your Course by Providing a Larger Context

Classroom Activities

Using Games in the Classroom

Value Lines Help Students Examine Both Sides of an Issue

Focused Listing

Critical Thinking 

Building Critical Thinking Skills with a Pro-Con-Caveat Grid

Developing Critical Thinking with Journal Writing

Lectures and Presentations

Make Your PowerPoint Memorable With Images

On the Use and Abuse of Lecture

To Post or Not to Post: What Are the Consequences of Posting PowerPoint Slides for Student Learning?

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

Personalize Plagiarism to Prevent its Practice

Five Tips to Reduce Cheating

Turnitin is now available within Blackboard

Using SafeAssign as a Teaching Tool

Help Students Develop Paraphrasing Skills to Deter Plagiarism

Grading and Student Feedback

Grade Mechanics Quickly, While Helping Students Learn

Tips for Gathering and Responding to Student Feedback

Grading, Like It or Not!

Weekly Teaching Notes: 2010-2011 index

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 25, 2012

Personalize Plagiarism to Prevent its Practice

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards. 

– Vernon Sanders Law, former major league baseball player (Pittsburgh Pirates)


Strong emotions help cement an experience into long-term memory. Not convinced? Think back – where were you when …

  • The first man landed on the moon?
  • A prominent political figure in your country was shot?
  • You first learned of the events of 9/11/2001?
  • You celebrated an important milestone?


We can use this phenomenon to help our students learn certain key concepts more deeply. For example, let’s look at how Deborah Zarker Miller, an assistant professor of English at Anderson University, makes plagiarism very personal to her students.


First, ask your students to create an original work that is in some way related to your course, and tell them they will each have 60 seconds to present their creation to the class. A student in Foundations of Inquiry might create a brief video or write a short essay elaborating on one of the disciplines introduced in that course; a student in Interior Design might create a montage of sustainable materials; a student in Life Sciences might build a 3-dimensional model to represent a structure in the cell; a student in Engineering might create a schematic for a new, energy-efficient vehicle.


At the next class, after each student presents his or her work, let the students wander around and examine them more closely. Most likely, you will see a range of creativity – and of effort – in the projects. Tell the students to identify the work they find the most creative by standing next to it. Some students will choose their own work, but other students will likely choose someone else’s.


Once everyone has made a choice, tell the students to cross out the name of the person who created the project they are standing by, and to write in their own names instead. Inform them that you will give credit to the student(s) who have identified that work as most creative, not to the student who produced it. Wait for your announcement to sink in, and then ask if there are any questions. As the discussion evolves, the students will begin to realize the connection between what has just happened and plagiarism. Perhaps experiencing plagiarism from “the other side” will make a deeper, longer-lasting impact. 



  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., and Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series). Jossey-Bass, 1 edition.
  • Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., and Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. National Academies Press, 2 edition.
  • Miller, Deborah Zarker. (2012). A Lesson in Academic Integrity as Students Feel the Injustice of Plagiarism. Faculty Focus. Retrieved 4/24/2012 from
  • Zull, J. E. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. Stylus Publishing, 1 edition.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at The activity created by Deborah Zarker Miller was used with permission.


Author: francine_glazer

Apr 18, 2012

Five Tips to Reduce Cheating

  • Clearly articulate your expectations for the class and for EACH INDIVIDUAL ASSIGNMENT. Can students work with others on their homework assignments? Can they use old exams, lab reports, etc. as aids in the course? If they work in teams in lab, can they work together on the write-up?
  • Explicitly link assignments to the student learning outcomes of the course. Students often cheat on assignments that they see as meaningless or“busy-work.” If they understand the point of the assignment, especially how it will help them learn the material, they are more likely to push through it on their own rather than copy from someone else.
  • Reduce temptations to cheating. We cannot control student behavior, but we can at least show them that we care about the integrity of our classes by doing little things. For example, space students out during exams, provide multiple versions of the same test, require students to leave all non-essential materials at the front of the room, and have theWiFi turned off in the test room.
  • Discuss the relationship of academic integrity to professional ethics and students’ future chosen careers. Students are more likely to uphold integrity in academic assignments if they see it as holding more value, as opposed to it just being “another institutional rule.”
Report all cheating when you see it, rather than ignore it or handle it on your own. A professor can become known as someone who does not tolerate cheating or look the other way, and then the cheaters will not choose her class!
Many professors mistakenly assume that they can reduce cheating on their own, but it takes the entire campus. If instructors do not report cheating to the department chair and to the campus dean of students, that same student may be cheating in other courses and no one would ever know!
  • Davis, S. F., Drinan, P. F. & Gallant, T. B. (2009). Cheating in School: What We Know and What We Can Do. London, Wiley-Blackwell.
To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.
Barbara Millis
Teaching and Learning Center
University of Texas at San Antonio

Author: francine_glazer

Apr 10, 2012

Using Games in the Classroom

Are you looking for a way to try something new in your class, review material, encourage participation, or simply break up lecture with an activity? Consider incorporating games in your academic classes and involving your students actively in the learning process. 

Benefits of Using Games:
  • Involves students in active learning
  • Enlivens rote memorization
  • Can encourage students to draw on analysis, synthesis, evaluation
  • Can increase student motivation
  • Leverages a common experience among students
  • Provides intrinsic rewards
  • Can foster a more positive attitude toward the classroom experience – more attention, better attendance, better participation
  • Can improve retention, decision-making skills, and comprehension of general principles
  • Can encourage cooperation
Tips for Incorporating Games:
  • Define your educational objectives
  • Keep the games challenging, but not frustrating
  • Provide opportunities for success and positive reinforcement
  • Maintain a combination of knowledge and luck
  • Cooperative teams can be beneficial
  • Be sure to debrief afterwards
  • Try incorporating some student generated questions

Downloadable Templates:

  • Millis, B.J. and Cottell, P.G. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
  • Jones, K. (1997). Games and simulations made easy: Practical tips to improve learning through gaming. London: Kogan Page Ltd.
  • Rosato, J.L. (1995). All I ever needed to know about teaching law school I learned teaching kindergarten: Introducing gaming techniques into the law school classroom. Journal of Legal Education 45 (4), pp. 568 – 581.
  • Sarason, Y. and Banbury, C. (2004). Active learning facilitated by using a game-show format, or who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Journal of Management Education 28 (4), pp. 509 – 518.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Micah Meixner Logan, D.M.A.
TEACH Program Consultant
Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center
Texas Tech University

Author: francine_glazer

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Nicole Lundergan Nicole Lundergan
Campus: Manhattan
Major: Advertising, B.S.
Class Of: 2015
Wei (Peter) Huang Wei (Peter) Huang
Campus: Nanjing
Major: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Class Of: 2017
Sabiha A. Wadoo Sabiha A. Wadoo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Campus: Old Westbury