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Assignment #1
by Adam Cavnar - Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 5:43 PM

How is the concept of critical thinking presented in this week’s material different from conceptions of critical thinking you have previously encountered?


Much of what is presented in the readings aligns with my previous overall conceptions about critical thinking.  My assumptions have always been that it is a learnable skill that requires conscious attention / meta-cognition.  We often see that some people are better at it than others – there must be a reason for that.   I suspected that there was a vocabulary with which I was not yet familiar (hence taking the course).  I do see CT as the most important and most transferable skill one could possess.  What I did not anticipate was the connection to feeling and / or desires. However, when looking at the main functions of the mind this certainly makes sense. 


 When you post your first weekly assignment, tell us a little about yourself – Your name, title, school, affiliation, your motivation for taking the course and what you hope to learn in the course. We want to be on a first name basis throughout the course.


I am Adam Cavnar.  I work at Columbus Academy a large (1,100 students) independent, country day school just outside Columbus Ohio.  I spent the past 7 years serving as the school’s Academic Dean but have recently decided to relinquish those responsibilities, get back my summers, and return to the classroom(s) for the final few years of my career.  I am lucky to work at a school that values talent, passion, and affords teachers the room to change and grow.  For example, I am working on developing a Philosophy course for GOA (Global Online Academy).  Also, as Critical Thinking became a major pillar in our recent Strategic Plan, I am taking this course so that I can help lead the discussion as we move forward.  I hope to become conversant in CT, use my class a model and help shape the school’s direction in this initiative.


IAlso read p. 26 from How to Improve Student Learning. This was developed and used by Drs. Paul and Elder in their critical thinking courses – all students were required to sign off on this form” # 13:

Use a “student understanding” form.

It is important that students clearly understand what instructors expected of them.

We therefore recommend the use of a “student understandings” form. This form

should be given to students during the orientation to the course, with an explanation

of each item. Students then initial each item as you explain it, indicating their

understanding. Here are sample items one might include in such a form:

Student Understanding

1. I understand that there are intellectual standards in this course and that I am

responsible for monitoring my own learning.___X___

2. I understand that the class will focus on practice not on lecture.___X___

3. I understand on a typical class day I will be working in a small group and that I will

be responsible to take an active part in advancing the assigned work of the


4. I understand that I will be held regularly responsible for assessing my own work

using criteria and standards discussed in class.___X___

5. I understand that if at any time in the semester I feel unsure about my “grade,” I

may request an assessment from the instructor(s).___X___

6. I understand that I must keep a journal, using a special format and including 20

entries in the course of the semester.___X___

7. I understand that there are 27 short written assignments, one due for several class


8. I understand that if an assignment is due for a class day and it is not completed,

then I am not prepared to do the “in-class” work of the day and will be asked to

leave. I understand that I may return to class once the assignment is


9. I understand that there is an oral exam that is a mastery exam. I understand that all

entries must be passes to pass the course.__X____

10. I understand that there is a final exam in the course.____X__

11. I understand that I must do A Self-Evaluation, in which I “make a case” for

receiving a particular grade using criteria provided in class and citing evidence

from my work across the semester.___X___

12. I understand that the work of the course requires Consistent classroom attendance

and active participation.___X___

13. I understand that the class will not be graded on a curve. I understand that it is

theoretically possible for the whole class to get an A or an F.__X____

14. I understand the basis of the final grade as outlined in the syllabus.___X___

15. I understand that since the final grade is not based on points and is not

mathematically calculated; the percentages outlined in the syllabus are

approximations to suggest emphasis, not precise figures. In assigning my final grade

the professor will lay all of my work out before her and match my work as a whole

against criteria passed out in class and using the weighting above.


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