Bright Ideas

Awards Support Teaching the Art of Thinking

The Critical Thinking Program has awarded funds to ten faculty members to develop innovative courses to promote undergraduates' reasoning and analytic abilities.

"Because critical and creative thinking skills are common to many subject areas, students who take a course that emphasizes these skills will transfer them to the study of other subjects," said Susan Russinoff, director of the program. The support was offered as an incentive for faculty to explore strategies for teaching their subject matter in ways that incorporate the explicit teaching of thinking skills. This year's award recipients and their projects are as follows:

* Laura Baffoni Licata, lecturer in Italian. A revision of "Italian 34, Masterpieces of Italian Literature III," is designed to encourage students to develop analytic and critical-thinking skills through the examination and interpretation of major works of modern Italian literature, specifically, modern Italian poetry, from various theoretical standpoints.

* Stephen Bailey, associate professor of anthropology. A new course, "Extreme Environments," focuses on problems of biological adaptations to challenging environments, including Arctic cold, high altitude, megacities and outer space. Students gain an understanding of the scientific method by using empirical data to develop and test scientific theories and hypotheses.

* Kerry Chase, assistant professor of political science. A revision of "Political Science 90G, Globalization and National Politics," incorporates exercises and readings to encourage students to think analytically about causal relationships between political and economic factors.

* Patricia DiSilvio, lecturer in Italian. A revision of "Intermediate Italian I" is constructed around grammatical themes in correlation with supplementary readings and lab assignments that enhance students' reasoning and analytical abilities.

* Lynn Frederiksen, lecturer in dance. "Canaries in the Mind: Digging for the Body in the Metaphor" is a new "bodies-on" course that searches for origins of linguistic metaphors in the way the human body moves and relates to the world. Various aspects of the performing arts, including dance, theater, music and film, will be examined to highlight the relevance of metaphor and its impact on our perception and expression in our daily lives.

* Jonathan Kenny, professor of chemistry. "Critical Thinking in General Chemistry Courses for Scientists and Non-Scientists" teaches general chemistry from an environmental perspective. The goals are to create a more engaging introduction to the field and to teach students the kinds of thinking that are crucial to doing science-the use of metaphor, the construction of models and hypotheses, the testing of hypotheses and inductive versus deductive reasoning.

* Elizabeth Lemons, comparative religion. A revision of "Philosophy of Religion" will encourage students to identify their own cultural and religious biases so that they can think clearly about topics in Western and Eastern religious traditions, including the relationship between faith and reason, the nature of ultimate reality and the problem of suffering and evil.

* John McDonald, associate professor of music. A revision of "Music 113, Seminar in Composition," is a critical linking of logic and music that incorporates a collection of puzzles, paradoxes and exercises that encourage composers to think and write about all stages of the creative process.

* Donna Mumme, assistant professor of psychology. A new course, "Early Socialization and Learning: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do," uses the popular press and scholarly research for a critical look at our thinking about early socialization. Students will learn to uncover and evaluate the common assumptions made by the general public by examining research on peer interactions, genetics and socialization.

* J. Michael Reed, assistant professor of biology. "Critical Thinking about Environmental Topics," a revision of "Environmental Biology and Conservation," a large lecture course, incorporates regular break-out sessions focused on problem solving and understanding and evaluating the social and ecological consequences of proposed solutions.







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