An MIT Take on Critical ThinkingThe latest bulletin from the Open Courseware (OCW) project at MIT alerted me to a seminar on Argumentation and Communication given by Prof. Cherie Abbanat (Urban Studies and Planning) this past fall. The courseware Prof. Abbanat has posted online could be quite helpful to someone wanting to work independently on honing critical thinking skills.
In her syllabus, Prof. Abbanat summarizes the aim of the seminar:
This Communication and Argumentation seminar is an intensive writing workshop that focuses on argumentation and communication. What does it mean to make an argument? What are the different types and styles of arguments that you can make? What are the different forms of writing that you need to learn in order to be successful here at MIT and when you move into the professional world?One of the early assignments is indicative of the approach to writing that Prof. Abbanat teaches. The assignment involves analyzing an op-ed essay using these questions:
- What is the thesis of the article?/li>
- What types of evidence does [the author] use to support his thesis?
- Can you categorize the evidence used?
- What research does he do for this project?
- What research does he rely on others for in order to make his points?
- What are the conclusions?
- How well are his conclusions supported by the evidence he presents?
- Can you find holes in logic?
- Can you take issue with some of the evidence he relies on?
In addition to the course description, syllabus, calendar, list of readings, and assignments, Prof. Abbanat provides pdf files with lecture notes and guidelines for various types of writing that are a regular feature of most knowledge workers' lives. The lecture notes address:
- Effective oral presentations
- Preparing briefings and memos
- Arguments and debates
- How to Analyze an Argument
- Guidelines for Decision Memos
- Guidelines for Effective Informational Memos
- Guidelines for Writing Effective Essays
- Guidelines for Effective Briefings