The Critical Thinking Toolbox

The Critical Thinking Toolbox

The Postgrad Critical Thinking Toolbox Techniques to have more interesting discussions, tutorials and debates Presenter: Nina Ginsberg Other upcoming PG workshops In this session More verbal focused not written Techniques are valuable precursors for better critical thinking Adapted from Edward de Bono (2008) work Participatory Will take time to integrate into practice, so this session is about

introducing + reinforcing some key moves Listen (to yourself and others) - how is what we cover today not/used? There are many more techniques these are just a few key ones These techniques can be frustrating! Not because they are difficult, but because once you know them and start applying them, you realise how many conversations are insufficient and uninteresting! Why is this session useful? Critical thinking is how the university trains us to evaluate material and make judgements This session helps expand how you think about the real world which is mainly perceptual, not critical. VIP: Being able to think about thinking (metacognition) not just what you think (UG), but WHY you think it (PG) The focus here is to explore a subject, not necessarily to make a judgement about it (thats critical thinking!)

Making a judgement about a subject comes AFTER you have thoroughly explored the subject in comprehensive detail (todays focus) Applying these skills will improve participation in discussions, tutorials and debates skills can also be applied elsewhere (transferable) Focus 6 Key CT approaches 1. 5 All Rounders 2. Concepts 3. Agreeing 4. Disagreeing Two extremes AGREEMENT DISAGREEMENT

You are totally right Yes, but I agree with everything you said.. I totally disagree I completely agree with you You are wrong there. Absolutely right.. That is not so I agree with you 100%....

You are not right about that at all.. = no discussion! =argumentative / superiority Insignificant contribution Common in academia Never 100% - place yourself somewhere in between A discussion should be a genuine attempt to explore a subject rather than a battle between completing egos

Curious exploration of a subject Not personal Avoid the need to be right Society = emphasizes argument/debate Government, law and media Winning and losing = not very beautiful All Rounders All rounder 1: PMI What do you think of Australian politics? PMI = Positive, Minus, Interesting point I think Australian politics is _(+)_ , however __(-)_. I find it interesting that _____ . Take Aways:

Quick and easy to give an interesting answer Gives a better answer and your listener has more to respond to Applies to MANY situations IELTS, conversations, essay brainstorms, etc.. Transitions words helps to guide and build up your points (helps with vocab & cohesion) Use because. = critical details 3 is the magic number.. Combinations! I think Australian politics could be seen as useful because it is (+ #1), (+ #2) and (+ #3). Conversely, I think that it has a number of drawbacks, such as (- #1), (- #2) and ( - #3). I do find it interesting that .. Great for pretty much any topic, discussion or brainstorm

All rounder 2: Past, Present, Future Good for general topics or discuss the issue of X.. questions Past Present Future Connected to 3 is the magic number Compare & Contrast variation Check facts (past), present (experience) speculation (future) Check use of tense What do you think about telecommunications?

All rounder 3: Spheres of experience Compare and contrast variation How many sphere to include? Depends.. Expand out OR contract in Need to clearly identify spheres (who, where) What do you think about gun control? All rounder 4: Social Domains Explore topic in relation to a (new?) social domain Can help extend a subject in a new direction Stimulates lateral thinking on how issues could be connected or influenced Some examples:

Education Food Entertainment Business Leisure Sport Parklands Family Media Employment Resources Fashion Manufacturing Pets Advanced: Domains can be used creatively to extend, such as.. Classifications: Sports: Basketball, Roller Derby, Netball, Soccer. Opposites: Employment vs Family And in may any other ways - it is up to you! Make a list of as many Social Domains as you can in 1 min Sanitation Law/Legal Social Domains Economics Wealth

Pets Age Medical Art Production Distribution Farming Disability

Wellbeing Music Resources Governance Food Violence Fitness Dance Logistics

Justice Habitat Crime Games Poetry Transport Communicatio n Waste

Shopping Family Time Sanitation Gardening Friends Culture Sustainability

Skills Work Science Mobility Sexuality Leisure Houses Recreation Customs

Spirituality Drugs Creativity Norms Travel Nature Beliefs Industry

Memory Weather Fashion Learning Furniture Geography Religion Education Business

Sub-cultures Gender Health Commerce Rights Accounting Regulations Law/Legal Labour Employment Welfare

Technology Buildings Sanitation Migration Identify Security Ethics Energy Water Air Flora Animals Task: Discuss Pets in relation to (one): Public Holidays, Fashion, Music, or Buildings All Rounder 5:

Super/Sub Helps people understand the various elements and levels within your contribution Clear distinction between importance of super/sub + link to whys (because) Strong articulation of critical thinking, logic & judgements = gives listeners more to respond to Transitions words are critical! What are the main reasons some university students do not complete their studies? Helps with summary, expression & cohesion skills Shows strong organisation and logic skills All Rounders: Summary PMI

Past, Present, Future Spheres of Experience Social Domains Super/Sub What do you think about drugs in sport? (Use one technique fully before moving on) Concepts Concepts: Concepts are a very important part of thinking Identifying a concept allows us to breed other ideas Concepts are the parents of practical ideas For example: A small Australian town has a problem with commuters driving into town in the morning and leaving the cars parked in the street all day. This meant that local shoppers could not find anywhere to park. What is the operating concept of parking meter?

1. A concept could be to get revenue from peoples need to park (That may happen but is probably not the main purpose) 2. Another concept might be to get as many people as possible to use the same parking space in day. (This seems more likely). Now if #2 is the concept then we can practically carry out that concept in another way. No parking meters = save capital costs. You can park anyway you like but you must leave your headlights on. Of course there are some practical flaws with this idea (forgetful people), but it shows that a concept can be practically implemented in different ways You always eat food. But do you ever actually eat food as such? You do not. You eat steak, you eat pizza, you eat strawberries. You always eat some specific type of food and not food in general. Food is a concept.

A hamburger is the practical idea. Concepts: pick out the concept 1. Domestic dogs and cats and rabbits come under the concept of pets. That could also include canaries and white mice. How would you define the concept of a pet? a living creature kept at home for no practical purpose other than to be loved Cats catch mice, dogs maybe watchdogs a living creature kept at home for the main purpose of being loved as well as for companionship and security 3. What is the concept of education? (OLD) To develop a curious mind that is cultured and can then learn about anything a lot of subject matter is talk to develop this mind (NEW) To equip people to function in society and to contribute to society

TAKE AWAY: When you believe you have extracted the concept from what is being said, you can check on this by asking it seems to me that the concept here is . Is that correct? Concepts: Vagueness Concepts always seemed rather vague Most people don't consider what concepts are But if you want to generate new ideas, design next steps or understand complexity then you need to develop some skill with concepts When you are dealing with things with which you are familiar you do not seem to meet concepts. When you were dealing with less familiar matters, then concepts become very useful Don't tell me to buy food. Tell me exactly what you want me to buy! TAKE AWAY: Concepts are like underwear. You do not go to uni just in your underwear, although usually you ARE wearing underwear. The underwear is not visible, but is there all the time. It is the same with concepts. They

underlie the practical things we do even if we are not conscious of them Concepts: Levels of concepts Another difficulty of concepts is what level to use? Food is a concept. But so is protein. You could even say steak was a concept because there are many types of steak. Now we have three levels of concept: the very broad to the more specific. How do you know which level to use? There is no magic rule for choosing the level of concept to use Sometimes the very broad is appropriate but be careful! People need food and shelter = This might suggest that any sort of food would do. In the Irish Potato Famine, the British government sent over wheat, which was useless because the Irish did not know who to use, cook or eat it! TAKE AWAY: On the whole, very broad concepts and not much use except a contrast different concepts, such as: Should we want education on the basis of

reward or on the basis of punishment? Here, a very broad concept does serve a purpose. Concepts: Levels of concepts At the other extreme - concepts that are so specific they are almost practical ideas Achievement is a broad concept. Youngsters need achievement. If we narrowed the concept to be success in sports then we might build more sports facilities (practical). But there are many youngsters who are not interested in sport. There may also be cheaper ways of providing achievement. TAKE AWAY: A general rule for concepts is: not too broad and not too specific Try out different levels of concept to find the level that seems to work best. You come to get a feel for the right level Discussing levels of a concept in itself can be interesting!

Concepts: Types of concepts Just is very different levels of concept, there can be different types of concept Pete comes up with the new business idea: to create fast food with no premises (one location). So a central kitchen produces Petes Food. This is food of the standard type, quality and price. Any eating place can have a notice in the window saying; We serve Petes food at Petes prices. What other concepts are involved here? Business concept No need to own real estate use other peoples places Range is limited = product is standard = less wastage = economy of scale Branding concept $ into a brand = not a single restaurant/location More widely available = develop brand loyalty Customer value concept

Reassurance of a brand = quality & predictability (regardless of location, know what food costs) Ambiance may not be guarantees = remedy with inspections & standards to ensure places are suitable Delivery concept key part of a business idea = without delivery the idea is useless Make use of other peoples property Delivery might be daily, or less often if the product can be stored Then maybe business concepts: why would this be profitable business? There are mechanism or delivery concepts: how does this actually get done? There are value concepts: what are the real and perceived values to the buyer, client or customer? There are a information concepts: how do people find out about this?

There are acceptance concepts: what shall people accept this idea? There are competition concepts: what might competitors do and how will this affect us? Concepts: Completeness Concepts are rarely complete Concepts capture the main essence but may not cover all aspects What is the concept of a tree? A way of centralising energy reception(from the sun) and water and nutrients (from the soil) A way of putting together a volume of photosensitive material (leaves) in a more efficient way then spread out on the ground (grass) A way of raising photosensitive material above the ground in a competitive environment (bushes and other trees block the sunlight) Biological organism with long-term viability. Some trees live for 800 years (compare to the life of grass)

Each of these is a valid concept. Not one covers the whole situation completely. Concepts: Completeness What is the concept of a Dalmatian? A dog with the coat of black spots on a white background A striking dog that is friendly and easy to train Of course there is far more to a Dalmatian than this In fact Dalmatians produced a special chemical in the urine which other dogs do not. Concept vs definition The definition of an election might be: the expression of choice by a group of people The concept of an election might be: a mechanism whereby those with the right to choose express their choice in an objective manner and a readiness to

accept the result of that choice the readiness to accept might seem unnecessary but is in fact a key component Concept vs Definition A concept is a label (a word or a phrase) that captures the essence possessed by a class of objects. It is an abstracted essence of a class of objects that is shared by all the members of the class. A definition details the abstracted essence in terms of the genus the objects belong to and specifying the principle or element that differentiates the given class of objects (the species) from the genus. The concept of man - an generally understood idea that corresponds to an (group of) things = refers to the essence that is common to all human beings amidst the great many individual differences that humans posses. The definition of a man the exact meaning or what is a man= a list of different descriptions, characteristics and iterations of what constitutes an adult male human A definition of the concept of man - elaborates the concept by identifying the

genus (animal) and specifying rationality as the differentiating element Example What is the concept of public transport? Is the public part important? Does this apply the concept of use without having to own? Is the key component of public transport the fact that many people are moving in the comparatively small travelling space? (High-density travel? Space saving?) Is the concept pay for use only as required? You do not have to own the bus, garage or maintain it. Transport is now purchasable in small quantities. There are negative concepts, too. Public transport is NOT valuable on demand both as to time and to starting point. There is limited flexibility with regard to choice of destination. There is less privacy. Concepts - Exercise Concepts are tricky

Getting the concept habit is not easy It is worth putting in some effort into developing the concept habit Make an effort to pick up the concept or concepts in one of the following situations. Try to pick up the major operating concept. You can also pick up different types of concepts in each case. Hotels Internet Mobile phones Holidays Banks Advertising Concepts: Compare & Contrast Once you are comfortable dealing with concepts and extracting concepts from what is being said, you can start to compare and contrast concepts.

Some ideas to explore are: How different is this concept from that one? Are the two apparently different concepts actually similar, and just expressions of one broader concept? Has the concept really changed or is this just a variation? Does this concept actually include the other concept (at a different level)? Working with concepts provides a different perspective and perception. Concepts: Summary Concepts are very challenging but very important part of thinking and discussion Concepts are like parents that breed children (ideas) You need to pick out the concepts behind what is being said what is the concept here? There are different levels and types of concepts Concepts can seem vague Concepts are not always complete

Once you pick out concepts you can compare and contrast them Concepts, definitions and descriptions do overlap. Descriptions need to be complete, to define and separate. Concepts seek to distil the essence Thinking about concepts is a skill that needs time and practice Agreeing Agreeing: Special Circumstances How to turn a disagreement into agreement Women believe in psychics and fortune tellers more than men do Believe? Fun? Historical control of women Harry Potter popularity Arranged marriages are a good idea Romance? Soul mate? Free choice?

Isolated communities distinction between arranged and forced Take away: Make an effort to find a special circumstance within a statement that does make sense, and then agree with the statement but only for those circumstances Agreeing: Special Values If I had those values, I would agree with you Similar to special circumstances Telling a lie is never acceptable. Answer is based on values A moral principle you should never lie You can lie for the greater good Consider: Murderer in pursuit of a victim Conflicting values moral principle vs. pragmatism: value of human life Take away: Spell out the different values involved and that you would agree under

one set of values, but not under another set of values. Agreeing: Sweeping generalisations Can be difficult to disagree with All sharks are dangerous No politician can be trusted Men are logical, women are intuitive You can disagree with the generalisation, but still agree with some aspects of it. For the last example, instead use: Women can be as logical as men when necessary but also tend to be more intuitive. Men usually work in groups and logic is a way of convincing others to go along with a Plan. Women tend to act on their own and can rely on intuition as they do not need to persuade anyone else. I agree that women do tend to have more scanning mind that takes in more factors instead of just moving from one point to another. What other statement can you come up with? Think, write and share.

Take away: You can disagree with the sweeping generalisation but show agreement with some of the implications. Be Aware: 100% vs gradation all/every by and large the majority most many some a few none Apply gradation language unless backed up by fact (reference).

Be aware of opinions presented as fact Consider the meaning of the gradation language the majority = 50.1% or 99.5%? Be Aware: 100% vs gradation Other types of qualifying language hedging 1. Modals: .might, may, can, could, must, would, ought to, will, should 2. Use weaker/stronger verbs Unsound policies led to the financial crisis. (stronger) Unsound policies contributed to the financial crisis. (weaker)

3. Using a combination of these techniques For more ideas on hedging: EnglishHELP>Academic Skills>Hedging Agreeing: Summary Special circumstances Special values Sweeping generalization 100% vs gradation Agreeing: Lets try it! Money is the primary cause of all social issues today. Focus: use some of the agreeing techniques

Disagreeing Disagreeing Is a valuable and important skill It works most effectively when both parties are genuinely trying to explore a subject Can be unpleasant, but it it necessary = truth & to fully investigate an issue objectively & comprehensively Some peoples disagreement can be: rude or aggressive in order to battle and to win to showoff of their ego to demonstrate superiority they have been taught that is was conversation is about they dont know any other way of exploring a subject Disagreeing: Politeness

HARSH, OFFENSIVE & RUDE POLITE & RESPECTFUL You are just stupid. I am not sure I follow your reasoning. You dont know what you are talking about. That is only one point of view. That is the silliest thing I have ever heard. How about this other possibility? That is wrong.

That is poor logic. I think I have some doubts about your conclusion? You obviously havent thought about this. Maybe that is so, and maybe it is not so. I disagree with everything you have said. I can think of an alternative explanation. How stupid can you be? As much as you think that, others may propose another point of view.

You cant possibly believe that. Disagreement is valid it can be gentle or aggressive. Predominately, being polite is better Disagreeing: Errors in logic Example: Across Europe, the number of people in prison range from 89-120 per 100,000 people. In the USA, the number is 750 per 100, 000, which is 6 x times more than Europe. Does this mean that people in the USA are less law abiding? Discuss This preposition does not necessarily follow from the statistics. What other conclusions did you come up with? It may mean that in the USA the police are better at catching criminals. It may mean that in USA the more types of crime are treated by prison sentences. It may mean that in USA people stay longer in prison. It may be that since 95% of criminal cases in the USA are settled by plea bargaining, the number ending up in prison is higher.

By seeking alternatives, you can show that the number of people in prison does not necessarily mean a greater amount of crime. This is just one possible explanation. Disagreeing: Errors in logic Take Away: 1. When someone offers a conclusion, think of an alternative explanation for how something seems to follow 2. You can disagree with the logic of how something seems to follow = challenge that necessity/conclusion 3. It is best to offer an alterative when you do this, which makes your challenge much stronger Extension: For ideas on how to identify other errors in logic and fallacies see: Ideas

Channel (PBS Ideas Channel) on YouTube Disagreeing: Interpretation Linked to Errors in Logic Mainly used when statistics are presented as with the impression that one interpretation is the ONLY possible version. You look for other possible interpretations for the explanation. Example 1: In Sweden, almost 50% of babies are born to unmarried mothers. In Iceland the the figure is 66%. Someone might use these statistics to argue that this means: marriage is not regarded very highly, OR there are low moral standards, OR this represents a breakdown of families BUT another possible interpretation is that couples do not get married until there is a real baby-reason for getting married. The statistics do not tell whether the couples do

get married after the baby is born. Disagreeing: Interpretation Example 2: Statistics in Australia show that people born under the Zodiac sign of Gemini are more likely to have car accidents than any other sign. How can this fact be explained? Discuss other possible interpretations. Rather unlikely that the accident rate for ALL Zodiac signs would be equal To explore this interpretation: you would like to know whether this finding is significant across different periods and in different locations (countries?). The size of the difference would also be important. What possible interpretations did you come up with? One possible interpretation is that those with a Gemini birthday reach a legal age of driving in Winter (June in Australia) and so start driving in difficult conditions and weather. Disagreeing: Selective

Perception Selective perception means perceiving things in such a way as to support a pre-formed idea The mind has a fixed pattern = only notices things that fit that pattern Examples: A wife who finds out her husband is having a affair looks back over the whole marriage and picks out only those points which suggest that he did not truly love her. A fierce feminist would be ready to pick on any male behavior evidence to indicate male chauvinism. Classic use of selective perception = stereotypes and prejudices (racism) Disagreeing: Selective Perception 1. Can be difficult to challenge because what is said may be correct. You have no way of knowing what has NOT been said, or what has been LEFT OUT.

A person who tells you all the instances where an employee seems to be lazy may choose NOT to tell you all the instances where the same person HAS worked exceptionally hard. Outside of white Australians, African migrants commit the most crimes in Australia. If you believe that a certain race commits more crimes, you will only notice instances of that race committing crimes. You may not see that crime occurs more often in certain economic groups and that there happens to be more of that race in these groups. Disagreeing: Selective Perception 2. Selective perception works BOTH ways 1. All Asians are good at Math 2. At one time, 50% of the employees at NASA were Indian and 26% of the employees at Microsoft were also Indian. 2. Indians are especially intelligent or skilled at computer work

There is a big software industry in India (esp. around Bangalore) and there are many good computer training institutes So Indians going to the West were likely to end up in such jobs PLUS the shortage of IT specialists in the West meant that special visas are more available to Indians with these skills Disagreeing: Emotions Emotions follow on from prejudice and stereotypes Emotions are most commonly expressed with adjectives There are subjective and objective adjectives Is the person really being objective, or is there an emotional tinge? Nina is so independent. Nina is so different. Nina is so subversive. Drugs are evil. Drugs are useful. Drugs are fun. Subjective adjectives add nothing to the logic of a discussion, but do indicate the speakers strength of feeling Objective adjectives have a place: A heavy bag could cause back strain.

You can tell emotional content by the subjective adjectives used When someone uses a lot of adjectives, they often feel very strongly about something Disagreeing: Emotions Opinion adjectives such as lazy, useless, dishonest, careless, dangerous immediately suggest the opinion is very emotional (negative) Strip the adjectives from the opinion = the opinion collapses This means that the opinion is there ONLY as a vehicle for the emotions. Everyone is free to express emotions BUT a listener does not have to be persuaded by the emotions or agree with them It is when emotions enter the logic of an opinion that they become dangerous BUT, if emotions are clearly labelled as such, there is no danger. This is what I feel about the matter A listener may still ask WHY these emotions are in place

Disagreeing: Different Experience Different personal experiences lead to different opinions If your personal experience differs from a speakers, you may well find yourself disagreeing with the speakers conclusions A person who lives in a country with a monarch/royalty, will view nation state differently than those from countries with a government or dictatorship structure. A person who has gone through a divorce will have a different experience of marriage than someone who has never been divorced. There is not right or wrong or more valid experience TAKE AWAY: In disagreeing, point out that your experience is different My experience of studying at Griffith University is obviously not that same as yours. I found that Disagreeing: Different Experience

HINT: There is different experience AND different interpretations of experience For example: 1. As a young doctor, I found that the nursing staff took very good care of the patients. 2. As a young doctors, I found that the nursing staff had little time for the patients. At first, these two sets of experience seem contradictory It could then turn out that in the second case, the hospital was understaffed and the nurses were overworked = little time for patients Disagreeing: Extrapolations Airline Extrapolation: Engines shut down. Extrapolations = taking a trend forward and assuming it will continue Example: Ecologist have to do this all the time with Global Warming Extrapolations: sometimes might be right, sometimes might be wrong 1. The number of students entering university is rising in most countries. Can we extrapolate that to a world in which everyone has a tertiary education and there

are not enough jobs to go around? 2. The Chinese economy is growing 8% per year (much faster than other countries). Can we extrapolate that to make China the dominate economic power in the world? TAKEAWAY: like sweeping generalisations, extrapolations need to treaded with caution. There maybe some element of truth, but they are unlikely to work out as claimed. Very often, counter forces come in to influence or oppose the trend. Disagreeing: Possible & Certain This is one of the most important points about disagreement You maybe willing to accept something as a possibility but very unwilling to accept it as a certainty It is possible that raising the school leaving age will reduce juvenile crime. It would be difficult to accept this as a certainty. It is possible that the higher suicide rate among men after the break-up of a relationship

is due to the break-up being more of a surprise to men than it is to women. TAKE AWAY: When disagreeing with something that has been put forward as certainty, you can indicate to level of possible at which you are prepared to accept the statement. o It is possible that China may become a dominate economic power in the next 50 years. o It is just possible that a human colony will be established on the moon or a planet. o It is very likely that HIV will become the major problem in Africa. Disagreeing: Differ or disagree Disagreement implies a regard for the truth = truth concern You do not want to let anyone get away with something which is either untrue or offered as true without being proved to be so What spaghetti sauce do you like? It is a matter of choice. If someone suggested sprinkling ground coffee on spaghetti, you would probably reject this as plain wrong - but it is still a food, edible and possible If, however, someone suggested using diesel fuel on spaghetti, you

would certainly reject this not only in terms of taste, but also it may be poisonous Disagreeing: Differ or disagree TAKE AWAYS: So in disagreeing you may be implying one of several things

That is simply wrong That is possible but not certain That is only one of many alternatives That fits your experience That fits your values That is right for you but not for me That is based on emotions and prejudice That is based on selective perception The conclusion does not follow That is one possible view of the future It is too abrupt simple to say I disagree! This wide range of disagreement should, as far as possible, be spelled out. Once this is done the disagreement can be explored. Disagreeing: Summary Do not disagree for the sake of disagreeing or just to show cleverness

Disagree politely and gently, rather than aggressively and rude Disagreeing can be used to point out: a fact or statement is simply wrong errors in logic/show that one conclusion does not necessarily follow from what went before Selective perception and particular interpretations of statics or events Where emotions (prejudices and stereotypes) are used Show different personal experience Sweeping generalisations (you should almost always pick up & challenge these!) It is very important to challenge certainty ad to suggest possibility instead Distinguish between having a different opinion and disagreeing with an opinion Disagreeing: Lets try it! At what age should parents start teaching their children about sex?

Focus: use some of the disagreeing techniques Conclusion Overview 3. Agreeing 1. All Rounders oPMI oPast, Present, Future oSphere of Experience oSocial Domains oSuper/Sub 4. Disagreeing oSpecial Circumstances oPoliteness oErrors in Logic

oSpecial Values oSweeping Generalisations oInterpretation o100% vs Gradation oEmotions oSelective Perception oDifferent Experiences oExtrapolations 2. Concepts oWhat is a concept

o Types of concepts oPick out the concept o Concepts vs definitions o Completeness oVagueness oLevels of concepts oPossibility & Certainty oDiffer & Disagree o Compare & Contrast What was the most useful or interesting aspect of this workshop for you? Thank you Good luck having more amazing discussions!!

References De Bono, E. (2004). How to have a beautiful mind. Sydney, Australia: Random House Australia.

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