10 thoughts on “Teaching for Critical Thinking

  1. I like this sentence from Postman that you quote: “All authorities get nervous when learning is conducted without a syllabus.” There seems to be growing pressure to articulate clear, quantifiable learning outcomes on syllabi. I’m not quite sure how to do this, though. “To open up new ways of looking at the world”? “To generate excitement about radical ideas”? It sounds weird — and not very quantifiable.


    1. Hi Jeff,
      Postman’s book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, is probably one of the best I’ve read around critical thinking. He works on the premise that there’s an interesting tension between needing a literate and numerate workforce but not having it so ‘intelligent’ as to criticize authority and the implicit and explicit rules that dominate our lives. I had to use syllabi, of course, but I injected a lot of critical ideas into my courses around psychiatry, ‘mental illness’, the role of politics in our lives, incarceration, sociology, art, ideology and many other ‘issues’. To me a syllabus was just a framework, a structure upon which I built a critical superstructure of ideas and approaches to problems, social and cognitive. I didn’t teach to the textbook, either, and usually sought out a textbook that I could easily take issue with by way of disabusing my students of the blind trust we sometimes put in the written word.
      Thanks for your comment, Jeff. If there’s anything I miss about work it’s the opportunity to engage in intelligent discussion. Dan Hinman-Smith and I have a bit of a book club going. The book we’re reading at the moment is Charles Taylor’s Sources Of The Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Want to get in on it?


  2. Hi Roger,

    Thank you, once again, for an insightful look in to critical thinking.

    As a student in Business Administration (I know, I know…what was I thinking?), critical thinking, especially with the International student diversity represented in our classrooms, appears to fly out the window.

    It appears to be more about, “How do I get an A, with the least amount of work”. Though this perspective is not isolated to the International student body, there does appear to be a ‘group think’ machine, in more evidence with specific cultural influences.

    Question authority? Question how, what, why we are being taught?

    As I enjoy your writing, and the paths of inquiry it leads me to, how do I cite the work you have posted on this site? I would like to share the sociological perspective with my marketing classmates, whether they appreciate it or not!



    1. Well, I suppose it depends on the nature of the paper or project for which you intend to use the citation. The title of the piece is Teaching for Critical Thinking. I’m the author. The date is 2012, at least that’s when I published it on my blog. Generally, the URL is sufficient for most things but if you want a ‘proper’ citation, it depends on the style you’re using. APA? Chicago? MLA?


    2. Hi Roger – I just found your blog here, and discovered you’re on quite the journey.

      I was a student of yours about 10 years ago (first year Sociology at NIC). I particularly remember sage words you offered when I visited your office hours, fretting about a paper. You smiled and said: ‘work smart, not hard’ — those words saw me through a PhD and have stayed with me now that I’m a Prof working in the UK. Students now come to my office, riddled with anxiety and I have to refer back to ‘this first year Sociology Instructor who once told me…’

      You were truly inspiring to me during those NIC days and indeed still today. Keep well ๐Ÿ™‚

      -Jen Bagelman


      1. Well, hello Jen. I went to the Newcastle website to see if there was a picture of you and sure enough there was. Great to hear from you and thank you so much for the kind thoughts.
        Yes, I am on a bit of a ride. This one has an end in sight, but if I’m lucky the end won’t happen for a few years yet. I’m still enjoying my life. It’s quite grand, really. I live with my gorgeous and intelligent wife, Carolyn, who looks after me. When I was really ill she had to be my full-time caregiver. I couldn’t even change my clothes and having a shower was very difficult. I spent most of my time in my recliner, lying on the couch or in bed. Carolyn did everything for me. I started blogging about my myeloma experiences in late October, 2019. I have probably 46,000 words in total so far.
        Your research interests are fascinating. So, it seems you’re still working with indigenous people in this area. Is that right? I looked at your publication list. I’ll see if I can read some of your work…do some proofreading! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I retired eight years ago, but it seems ya can’t take the teacher out of me just yet.


  3. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for clarifying Author & Date.

    We are using APA.

    From my understanding the URL can be sufficient, but if it is a published work, with a possible DOI, then I should try to establish and state this as well.


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