How to be Critical presentation

Report
STAY AHEAD
AUTUMN PROGRAMME 2011
How to be critical
Sara Steinke
Aims of the session
• Introduce a range of skills to help you be
critical in your thinking, reading and writing
• Opportunities to put critical reading and
writing skills into practice
• Reflect upon your present strengths in critical
thinking, the areas for improvement that you
are hoping for and the strategies that work
best for you
Think about the following
1. What do you think is meant by critical
thinking?
2. In which learning and teaching situations
have you used critical thinking in your first
term at Birkbeck?
3. Think about the feedback that you have
received. What are your strengths in critical
thinking, and what are the areas for
improvement that you are hoping for?
Definition of a ‘critical thinker’
• Intellectually independent
• Distinguishes between theory,
facts and opinions
The Thinker (Auguste Rodin, 1902)
• Recognises and resists manipulation
• Reads ‘between the lines’
• Distinguishes between emotive and neutral
vocabulary
• Sees connections between subjects
Critical thinking at university
• Takes place across a variety of study skills and
learning/teaching situations
for example, reading, note-taking, writing essays,
exams, revision, presentations, learning styles,
lectures, seminars, presentations
• Involves thinking analytically about yours and
other peoples work/ideas
• Critical thinking is ‘messy’, topics are not seen
as ‘black or white’
Consider the following
What factors were
involved in your
decision to study a
particular course at
Birkbeck?
a) Job opportunities
/promotion
b) Desire to return to
learning
c) Financial concerns
d) Time constraints
e) Course subject
f) Other reasons
S = What are the strengths of the/your writing?
Is there an understanding of the soundness of the key
arguments?
W = What are the weaknesses of the/your writing?
Is there a consideration of the flaws of the key
arguments?
O = What opportunities does the/your writing suggest
for an the topic? How do the key arguments provide a
further insight into the topic?
T = What threats does the/your writing pose for the
topic? How do the key arguments challenge the
existing understanding of the topic?
Critical reading
You have been asked
to read an article in
preparation for a
lecture.
What questions might
you ask of the article in
order to undertake a
critical reading?
1. What is the main
argument of the article?
2. What are the reasons
given to justify the
argument?
3. What evidence has been
used?
4. What do you know about
the author?
5. What audience is the
author addressing?
6. What sources has the
author used?
Academic writing styles
• descriptive
/ instructional
• analytical /
evaluative
• argumentative /
persuasive
• personal /
own experience
1. What do you think is
meant each of these
writing styles?
2. Rank them in order of
importance for critical
reading and writing
See Cottrell (2008: 210-216)
What is wrong with this piece of
critical writing?
From Cottrell 2088: 209
Mount Pepe is going up – it’s going to take
everything with it when it goes. And I mean
everything – villages, farms, trees, the lot. It’s
frightening to think of how powerful a volcano
can be. Think of the damage they cause!
Remember Pompeii and Mount Etna!
What is right with this piece of critical
writing?
In order to assess whether it is necessary to
evacuate the villages on Mount Pepe, three main
factors need to be taken into consideration. The
first, and most important, of these is the element of
safety. According to seismic experts currently
working on the volcano, there is likely to be a major
eruption within the next ten years (Achebe 2007)
According to Achebe, the eruption is likely to
destroy villages over a radius of 120 miles (Achebe
2008, p.7).
Critical writing
Write one paragraph (6-8 sentences, containing
a topic sentence, supporting sentences and
concluding sentence) using critical writing skills.
Discuss the consequences of the increase in
university tuition fees for students?
Reflective/active learning
1. Write down the three most important
things that you have learnt/thought about in
this session? Why were they important to you?
2. Are there any areas of improvement that
you need to take action on? If so, what are
you doing to do to improvement this aspect
of your learning?
Recap of the session
• Identified a range of skills to help you be
critical in your thinking, reading and writing
• Practiced critical reading and writing skills
• Reflected upon your present strengths in
critical thinking, the areas for improvement
that you are hoping for and the strategies that
work best for you
Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study
Skills Handbook, 3rd Edition
(London, Palgrave) chapter 12
‘Critical analytical thinking’
pp.275-292
Cottrell, S. (2005) Critical
Thinking Skills (London,
Palgrave)
http://www.palgrave.com/skills4study/
pdfs/critical%20analysis%20.pdf
(transcript of the audio file)
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck
/services/facilities/support/criticalthinking
(several online resources available
on the Birkbeck Library website)
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck/
http://www.palgrave.com/skills4 get-ahead-stay-ahead/skills/criticalthinking
study/mp3s.asp#Critical
(a 12 minute audio file based on (a 5 minute interactive tutorial
Cottrell’s Critical Thinking Skills supporting this Get Ahead Summer
programme)
book)

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