Critical Thinking (Coursera #1)

premises, not premiseI am enrolled in the Coursera Course “Critical Thinking in Global Challenges” by Professor Mayank Dutia, Dr. Celine Caquineau from Edinburgh University. It is  good to see how a MOOC is run and the course contains great videos and some very stimulating reading materials. I can already see how I can apply these skills to improve my students’ essay writing skills. Critical thinking means to gather and assess information in a logical, balanced and reflective way to reach conclusions justified by reasoned arguments based on the available evidence…. That to me sounds exactly like what a good IB History Essay should be like.

critical thinking

I hope to write some more posts about what I am learning. Here is the first one:

Essential Concepts in Critical Thinking

  • Fact: something which can be demonstrated to be true
  • Assertion: something that is held to be true, but which has not been, or cannot be, actually demonstrated to be true
  • An argument: a series of logical statements, leading to a fair conclusion, with reasons offered to support the conclusion.
  • A valid argument: is based on one or more premises (starting points), which may be facts, observations, or assumptions.
  • Premise: a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion.

Premise 1 + Premise 2 + Premise 3 > Logical reasoning  > Conclusion

For example:

  • Antibiotics kill bacteria, but not viruses (premise 1).
  • The common cold is the result of infection by a virus (premise 2].
  • Therefore, the common cold cannot be cured by antibiotics (reasoning and conclusion).

The validity of an argument depends upon its premises, and the logical reasoning. If any of the premises are wrong, or if the reasoning is faulty, then the argument cannot be valid.

The strength of an argument depends on the evidence that supports it. Evidence is the proof (facts, observations, results of experiments) that supports the argument.

A convincing argument will often be supported by several different lines of evidence — for example, observations of natural phenomena and results of experiments. On the other hand, an argument that is supported by little or no evidence, is unconvincing.

Finally an opinion is weaker than an assertion, it is a statement of something that is believed to be  true, but it is subjective and it is dependent on the point of view of the person who is making the  judgement. Different people may have different opinions on things, at the same time,  and people can change their opinions. It is always important to understand when someone is  expressing his or her opinion, instead of stating a fact that is demonstrably true.

In critical thinking, it is a valuable skill to put forward your own arguments in a persuasive and logical way, and to hear and take on board the arguments of others.