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Teaching Critical Thinking

Framing Questions

When one wants to explore a topic or solve a problem, framing key questions is an important first step.

Activities and Assignments
Please note: (L) Can be done in large section courses

Five Good Questions

After students read material or hear a presentation about a course topic, ask each student to write five questions to clarify specific ideas in the material or presentation. Have students share their lists with partners or with the class. (L)

Guiding Questions

Identify a broadly defined topic relevant to the course (e.g., “the ethics of human cloning”; “trends in prescribing anti-depressant medications”). Ask each student to write a single question to guide research on the topic. Have some or all students read their questions, then discuss how the kinds of questions asked and the way they are phrased would influence exploration of the topic. (L)

Pre-Research Questions

When giving a research assignment for a speech or paper, ask students to submit a list of questions that will guide their research. Give feedback on the kinds of questions and their phrasing before students begin their research. After students have been seeking information for a week or more, ask them to submit a revised list of questions based on what their research has uncovered thus far.

Goals as Understood

State a goal for social or organizational change related to the subject of the course (e.g., “motivate investment in environmentally friendly technologies”; “improve employment opportunities for citizens in our region”). Ask each student to write a question that expresses her or his understanding of the real problem underlying the goal. Each question must complete the following: “How can [a specified party] [accomplish what]?” Compare students’ questions; note how each would influence the search for solutions. (L)

Whose Questions?

For any of the activities listed above, assign each student a hypothetical identity relative to the topic. Make sure the identities of all parties related to the topic are represented. Then ask students to perform an activity from the perspective of their assigned identity. (e.g., What questions about human cloning might a prospective parent, a person with diabetes, a legislator, a member of the clergy, and an attorney specializing in children’s rights ask?)

Activities and Assignments
  Framing Questions
  Gathering Information
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