PHIL102: Introduction to Critical Thinking and Logic

Course introduction.

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The course touches upon a wide range of reasoning skills, from verbal argument analysis to formal logic, visual and statistical reasoning, scientific methodology, and creative thinking. Mastering these skills will help you become a more perceptive reader and listener, a more persuasive writer and presenter, and a more effective researcher and scientist.

The first unit introduces the terrain of critical thinking and covers the basics of meaning analysis, while the second unit provides a primer for analyzing arguments. All of the material in these first units will be built upon in subsequent units, which cover informal and formal logic, Venn diagrams, scientific reasoning, and strategic and creative thinking.

Course Syllabus

First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

critical thinking classes in college

Unit 1: Introduction and Meaning Analysis

Critical thinking is a broad classification for a diverse array of reasoning techniques. In general, critical thinking works by breaking arguments and claims down to their basic underlying structure so we can see them clearly and determine whether they are rational. The idea is to help us do a better job of understanding and evaluating what we read, what we hear, and what we write and say.

In this unit, we will define the broad contours of critical thinking and learn why it is a valuable and useful object of study. We will also introduce the fundamentals of meaning analysis: the difference between literal meaning and implication, the principles of definition, how to identify when a disagreement is merely verbal, the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions, and problems with the imprecision of ordinary language.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

Unit 2: Argument Analysis

Arguments are the fundamental components of all rational discourse: nearly everything we read and write, like scientific reports, newspaper columns, and personal letters, as well as most of our verbal conversations, contain arguments. Picking the arguments out from the rest of our often convoluted discourse can be difficult. Once we have identified an argument, we still need to determine whether or not it is sound. Luckily, arguments obey a set of formal rules that we can use to determine whether they are good or bad.

In this unit, you will learn how to identify arguments, what makes an argument sound as opposed to unsound or merely valid, the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning, and how to map arguments to reveal their structure.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

Unit 3: Basic Sentential Logic

This unit introduces a topic that many students find intimidating: formal logic. Although it sounds difficult and complicated, formal (or symbolic) logic is actually a fairly straightforward way of revealing the structure of reasoning. By translating arguments into symbols, you can more readily see what is right and wrong with them and learn how to formulate better arguments. Advanced courses in formal logic focus on using rules of inference to construct elaborate proofs. Using these techniques, you can solve many complicated problems simply by manipulating symbols on the page. In this course, however, you will only be looking at the most basic properties of a system of logic. In this unit, you will learn how to turn phrases in ordinary language into well-formed formulas, draw truth tables for formulas, and evaluate arguments using those truth tables.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 13 hours.

Unit 4: Venn Diagrams

In addition to using predicate logic, the limitations of sentential logic can also be overcome by using Venn diagrams to illustrate statements and arguments. Statements that include general words like "some" or "few" as well as absolute words like "every" and "all" – so-called categorical statements – lend themselves to being represented on paper as circles that may or may not overlap.

Venn diagrams are especially helpful when dealing with logical arguments called syllogisms. Syllogisms are a special type of three-step argument with two premises and a conclusion, which involve quantifying terms. In this unit, you will learn the basic principles of Venn diagrams, how to use them to represent statements, and how to use them to evaluate arguments.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 6 hours.

Unit 5: Fallacies

Now that you have studied the necessary structure of a good argument and can represent its structure visually, you might think it would be simple to pick out bad arguments. However, identifying bad arguments can be very tricky in practice. Very often, what at first appears to be ironclad reasoning turns out to contain one or more subtle errors.

Fortunately, there are many easily identifiable fallacies (mistakes of reasoning) that you can learn to recognize by their structure or content. In this unit, you will learn about the nature of fallacies, look at a couple of different ways of classifying them, and spend some time dealing with the most common fallacies in detail.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

Unit 6: Scientific Reasoning

Unlike the syllogistic arguments you explored in the last unit, which are a form of deductive argument, scientific reasoning is empirical. This means that it depends on observation and evidence, not logical principles. Although some principles of deductive reasoning do apply in science, such as the principle of contradiction, scientific arguments are often inductive. For this reason, science often deals with confirmation and disconfirmation.

Nonetheless, there are general guidelines about what constitutes good scientific reasoning, and scientists are trained to be critical of their inferences and those of others in the scientific community. In this unit, you will investigate some standard methods of scientific reasoning, some principles of confirmation and disconfirmation, and some techniques for identifying and reasoning about causation.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

Unit 7: Strategic Reasoning and Creativity

While most of this course has focused on the types of reasoning necessary to critique and evaluate existing knowledge or to extend our knowledge following correct procedures and rules, an enormous branch of our reasoning practice runs in the opposite direction. Strategic reasoning, problem-solving, and creative thinking all rely on an ineffable component of novelty supplied by the thinker.

Despite their seemingly mystical nature, problem-solving and creative thinking are best approached by following tried and tested procedures that prompt our cognitive faculties to produce new ideas and solutions by extending our existing knowledge. In this unit, you will investigate problem-solving techniques, representing complex problems visually, making decisions in risky and uncertain scenarios, and creative thinking in general.

Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

Study Guide

This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary terms. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

critical thinking classes in college

Course Feedback Survey

Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

If you come across any urgent problems, email [email protected].

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Certificate Final Exam

Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate .

critical thinking classes in college

Saylor Direct Credit

Take this exam if you want to earn college credit for this course . This course is eligible for college credit through Saylor Academy's Saylor Direct Credit Program .

The Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam requires a proctoring fee of $5 . To pass this course and earn a Credly Badge and official transcript , you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on the Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam. Your grade for this exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again a maximum of 3 times , with a 14-day waiting period between each attempt.

We are partnering with SmarterProctoring to help make the proctoring fee more affordable. We will be recording you, your screen, and the audio in your room during the exam. This is an automated proctoring service, but no decisions are automated; recordings are only viewed by our staff with the purpose of making sure it is you taking the exam and verifying any questions about exam integrity. We understand that there are challenges with learning at home - we won't invalidate your exam just because your child ran into the room!


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Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a Credly Badge  and can request an official transcript .

Saylor Direct Credit Exam

This exam is part of the Saylor Direct College Credit program. Before attempting this exam, review the Saylor Direct Credit page for complete requirements.

Essential exam information:

  • You must take this exam with our automated proctor. If you cannot, please contact us to request an override.
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  • You will have two (2) hours to complete this exam.
  • You have up to 3 attempts, but you must wait 14 days between consecutive attempts of this exam.
  • The passing grade is 70% or higher.
  • This exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions.

Some details about taking your exam:

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Critical Thinking Cornell Certificate Program

Overview and courses.

Have you ever known a very intelligent person who made a very bad decision?

Critical problem solving is both a discipline and a skill; one that even very smart people can benefit from learning. Careful thought around decisions can help your teams and organizations thrive. And in today’s age of automation, it’s never been a more essential mindset to develop at every level of a company.

In this certificate program, you will practice a disciplined, systematic approach to problem solving. You will learn how to deeply analyze a problem, assess possible solutions and associated risks, and hone your strategic decision-making skills by following a methodology based on tested actions and sound approaches. Whether you’re interested in preparing for a management role or already lead an execution function, you’ll come away better equipped to confidently tackle any decision large or small, make a compelling business case, and apply influence in your organization in a way that creates the optimal conditions for success.

The courses in this certificate program are required to be completed in the order that they appear.

This program includes a year of free access to Symposium! These events feature several days of live, highly participatory virtual Zoom sessions with Cornell faculty and experts to explore the most pressing leadership topics. Symposium events are held several times throughout the year. Once enrolled in your program, you will receive information about upcoming events.

Throughout the year, you may participate in as many sessions as you wish. Attending Symposium sessions is not required to successfully complete the certificate program.

Course list

Problem-solving using evidence and critical thinking.

Have you ever known a very intelligent person who made a very bad decision? If so, you know that having a high IQ does not guarantee that you automatically make critically thoughtful decisions. Critically thoughtful problem-solving is a discipline and a skill—one that allows you to make decisions that are the product of careful thought, and the results of those decisions help your team and organization thrive.

In this course you will practice a disciplined, systematic approach to problem solving that helps ensure that your analysis of a problem is comprehensive, is based on quality, credible evidence, and takes full and fair account of the most probable counterarguments and risks. The result of this technique is a thoroughly defensible assessment of what the problem is, what is causing it, and the most effective plan of action to address it. Finally, you will identify and frame a problem by assessing its context and develop a well-reasoned and implementable solution that addresses the underlying causes.

Making a Convincing Case for Your Solution

When trying to persuade someone, the tendency is to begin in advocacy mode—for example: “Here's something I want you to agree to.” Most people do not react positively to the feeling of being sold something. The usual reaction is to literally or figuratively start backing up. To make a convincing case, it is more effective to engage with the decision maker as a partner in problem-solving. This makes your counterpart feel less like someone is trying to get them to buy something and more like you are working together to bring about an outcome that is desirable to both parties. Begin by asking yourself: “What is the problem you and the decision maker are solving together?”

By the end of this course, you will have learned how to deeply analyze a problem, possible solutions, and the associated risks as well as the most persuasive and efficient ways of presenting your proposal.

You are required to have completed the following course or have equivalent experience before taking this course:

  • Solve Problems Using Evidence and Critical Thinking

Strategic Decision Making

The ability to make effective and timely decisions is an essential skill for successful executives. Mastery of this skill influences all aspects of day-to-day operations as well as strategic planning. In this course, developed by Professor Robert Bloomfield, Ph.D. of Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management, you will hone your decision-making skills by following a methodology based on tested actions and sound organizational approaches. You will leave this course better equipped to confidently tackle any decision large or small, and you'll do so in a way that creates the optimal conditions for success.

Navigating Power Relationships

Leaders at every level need to be able to execute on their ideas. In virtually every case, this means that leaders need to be able to persuade others to join in this execution. In order to do so, understanding how to create and utilize power in an organization is critical.

In this course, developed by Professor Glen Dowell, Ph.D., of Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management, students will focus on their personal relationship with power as well as how power works in their organization and social network.

Project Management Institute (PMI ® ) Continuing Certification : Participants who successfully complete this course will receive 6 Professional Development Units (PDUs) from PMI ® . Please contact PMI ® for details about professional project management certification or recertification.

Interpreting the Behavior of Others

Applying strategic influence.

Being able to influence others is the most fundamental characteristic of an effective leader, but many people in positions of power don't know specifically how they are influencing others' behavior in positive directions. They let it happen by chance or use their formal authority—getting people to do things because “the boss said so.” But as leaders gets promoted within their organization, using formal authority becomes less effective as they not only need to influence subordinates, but also peers, external stakeholders, and superiors.  In this course, Professor Filipowicz explores the three complementary levels of influence. First, you will explore heuristics, or rules of thumb, that people use in order to make decisions. Next, you will learn how to influence through reciprocity by uncovering what the person you want to influence wants and needs. Lastly, you will learn how to alter the social and physical environment in order to get the change in behavior you want. By the end of this course, you'll have the skills to consistently draw out the desired behaviors from your team and from those around you. 

Leadership Symposium   LIVE

Symposium sessions feature three days of live, highly interactive virtual Zoom sessions that will explore today’s most pressing topics. The Leadership Symposium offers you a unique opportunity to engage in real-time conversations with peers and experts from the Cornell community and beyond. Using the context of your own experiences, you will take part in reflections and small-group discussions to build on the skills and knowledge you have gained from your courses.

Join us for the next Symposium in which we’ll discuss the ways that leaders across industries have continued engaging their teams over the past two years while pivoting in strategic ways. You will support your coursework by applying your knowledge and experiences to relevant topics for leaders. Throughout this Symposium, you will examine different areas of leadership, including innovation, strategy, and engagement. By participating in relevant and engaging discussions, you will discover a variety of perspectives and build connections with your fellow participants from various industries.

Upcoming Symposium: June 4-6, 2024 from 11am – 1pm ET

All sessions are held on Zoom.

Future dates are subject to change. You may participate in as many sessions as you wish. Attending Symposium sessions is not required to successfully complete any certificate program. Once enrolled in your courses, you will receive information about upcoming events. Accessibility accommodations will be available upon request.

How It Works

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Faculty Authors

Risa Mish

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Risa Mish is professor of practice of management at the Johnson Graduate School of Management. She designed and teaches the MBA Core course in Critical and Strategic Thinking, in addition to teaching courses in leadership and serving as faculty co-director of the Johnson Leadership Fellows program.

She has been the recipient of the MBA Core Faculty Teaching Award, selected by the residential program MBA class to honor the teacher who “best fosters learning through lecture, discussion and course work in the required core curriculum”; the Apple Award for Teaching Excellence, selected by the MBA graduating classes to honor a faculty member who “exemplifies outstanding leadership and enduring educational influence”; the “Best Teacher Award”, selected by the graduating class of the Cornell-Tsinghua dual degree MBA/FMBA program offered by Johnson at Cornell and the PBC School of Finance at Tsinghua University; the Stephen Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, selected by the five-year MBA reunion class to honor a faculty member whose “teaching and example have continued to influence graduates five years into their post-MBA careers”; and the Globe Award for Teaching Excellence, selected by the Executive MBA graduating class to honor a faculty member who “demonstrates a command of subject matter and also possesses the creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm essential to meet the unique challenges of an EMBA education.”

Mish serves as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at global, national, and regional conferences for corporations and trade associations in the consumer products, financial services, health care, high tech, media, and manufacturing industries, on a variety of topics, including critical thinking and problem solving, persuasion and influence, and motivating optimal employee performance. Before returning to Cornell, Mish was a partner in the New York City law firm of Collazo Carling & Mish LLP (now Collazo Florentino & Keil LLP), where she represented management clients on a wide range of labor and employment law matters, including defense of employment discrimination claims in federal and state courts and administrative agencies, and in labor arbitrations and negotiations under collective bargaining agreements. Prior to CC&M, Mish was a labor and employment law associate with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City, where she represented Fortune 500 clients in the financial services, consumer products, and manufacturing industries. She is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and state and federal courts in New York and Massachusetts.

Mish is a member of the board of directors of SmithBucklin Corporation, the world’s largest trade association management company, headquartered in Chicago and TheraCare Corporation, headquartered in New York City. She formerly served as a Trustee of the Tompkins County Public Library, Vice Chair of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and member of the board of directors of the United Way of Tompkins County.

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Critical Thinking

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Glen Dowell

Glen Dowell is an Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University. He researches in the area of corporate sustainability, with a focus on firm environmental performance. Recent projects have investigated the effect of local demographic factors on changes in pollution levels, the role of corporate merger and acquisition in facilitating changes in facility environmental performance, and the relative influence of financial return and disruption on the commercial adoption of energy savings initiatives.

Professor Dowell’s research has been published in Management Science, Organization Studies, Advances in Strategic Management, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Management, Industrial and Corporate Change, Journal of Business Ethics, and Administrative Science Quarterly. He is senior editor at Organization Science and co-editor of Strategic Organization, is on the editorial boards of Strategic Management Journal and Administrative Science Quarterly, and represents Cornell on the board of the Alliance for Research in Corporate Sustainability (ARCS). He is also the Division Chair for the Organizations and Natural Environment Division of the Academy of Management.

Professor Dowell teaches Sustainable Global Enterprise and Critical and Strategic Thinking. He is a faculty affiliate for the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and a faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

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Robert Bloomfield

Since coming to the Johnson Graduate School of Management in 1991, Robert J. Bloomfield has used laboratory experiments to study financial markets and investor behavior. He has also published in all major business disciplines, including finance, accounting, marketing, organizational behavior, and operations research. Professor Bloomfield served as director of the Financial Accounting Standards Research Initiative (FASRI), an activity of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and is an editor of a special issue of Journal of Accounting Research dedicated to Registered Reports of empirical research. Professor Bloomfield has recently taken on editorship of Journal of Financial Reporting, which is pioneering an innovative editorial process intended to broaden the range of research methods used in accounting, improve the quality of research execution, and encourage the honest reporting of findings.

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Allan Filipowicz

Allan Filipowicz is clinical professor of management and organizations at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Professor Filipowicz’s research focuses on how emotions drive or impede leadership effectiveness, at both the intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. Within this domain, he studies the relationship between emotions and risky decision making; the influence of humor on both leadership and negotiation effectiveness; the impact of emotional transitions in negotiations; and the relationship between genes, chronotype (morningness–eveningness) and performance. His work has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, Journal of Operations Management, International Journal of Forecasting, Creativity Research Journal, Journal of Circadian Rhythms, and Scientific Reports.

Professor Filipowicz teaches Managing and Leading Organizations (recently winning a Best Core Faculty Award), Negotiations, Executive Leadership and Development, Leading Teams, and Critical and Strategic Thinking. He has taught executives across the globe, from Singapore to Europe to the US, with recent clients including Medtronic, Bayer, Google, Pernod Ricard, and Harley-Davidson. Professor Filipowicz received his PhD from Harvard University. He holds an MBA from The Wharton School, an MA in International Affairs from the University of Pennsylvania, and degrees in electrical engineering (MEng, BS) and economics (BA) from Cornell University. His professional experience includes banking (Bankers Trust, New York) and consulting, including running his own boutique consulting firm and four years with The Boston Consulting Group in Paris.

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Key Course Takeaways

  • Respond decisively and consistently when faced with situations that require a decision
  • Assess the context of the problem
  • Summarize your analysis of the problem
  • Analyze potential solutions from multiple perspectives
  • Build a compelling business case for your solution
  • Improve your ability to exercise influence in your organization and activate your network to achieve goals
  • Establish responsibilities and accountabilities to ensure effective follow-through on decisions made

critical thinking classes in college

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critical thinking classes in college

What You'll Earn

  • Critical Thinking Certificate from Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management
  • 60 Professional Development Hours (6 CEUs)
  • 38 Professional Development Units (PDUs) toward PMI recertification
  • 30 Professional Development Credits (PDCs) toward SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification
  • 30 Credit hours towards HRCI recertification

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Who should enroll.

  • C-level executives, VPs, managers
  • Industry leaders with 2-10+ years experience
  • Mid-level professionals looking to move into leadership roles
  • Engineers and designers leading projects
  • Consultants or analysts
  • Anyone whose work involves devising, proposing, and defending evidence-based solutions

critical thinking classes in college

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Critical Thinking reviews

In this class, students will learn how to think more critically by questioning assumptions and biases and being aware of fallacies. Students will learn to interpret and write deductive and inductive arguments and apply to real-life situations.

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This is a pass/fail course. Students are required to complete all 13 Challenges (formative assessments), 4 Milestones (summative assessments), and 1 Touchstone (project-based or written assessments) with an overall score of 70% or better.


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Introduction to Critical Thinking

This introductory-level course is designed to help learners define and identify critical thinking and reasoning skills and develop those skills. Critical thinking is an intellectual model for reasoning through issues to reach well-founded conclusions. It may be the single most valuable skill that one can bring to any job, profession, or life challenge. Being able to ask the right questions, critique an argument, and logically dissect an issue occur constantly in the workplace and our lives.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Define critical thinking, reasoning, and logic
  • Understand the process of systemic problem-solving
  • Identify and overcome barriers to critical thinking
  • Articulate common reasoning fallacies
  • Engage in critical thinking as it pertains to the workplace

Student Testimonial

"I will be able to implement some of the elements of reasoning questions that are relevant to critical thinking. I feel confident in identifying fallacies as well. The material was well presented."  -- Marie, Introduction to Critical Thinking

Course Dates and Times

Course hours: 7 hours  .

This workshop is offered through our continuing education online partner.

Register for Introduction to Critical Thinking

Critical thinking for college, career, and citizenship

Subscribe to the center for universal education bulletin, diane f. halpern dfh diane f. halpern diane f. halpern is the dean of social sciences, emerita at the minerva schools at kgi and a past president of the american psychological association and the society for teaching of psychology. diane has published hundreds of articles and many books including, thought and knowledge: an introduction to critical thinking (5th ed., 2014); sex differences in cognitive abilities (4th ed.), and women at the top: powerful leaders tell us how to combine work and family (co-authored with fanny cheung). her other recent books include psychological science (5th ed. with michael gazzaniga and todd heatherton) and the edited book, undergraduate education in psychology: a blueprint for the future of the discipline..

May 26, 2016

Editor’s note: In the “ Becoming Brilliant ” blog series, experts explore the six competencies that reflect how children learn and grow as laid out by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff in their new book  “ Becoming Brilliant .”

Education is about the future—students learn in schools and other places based on two underlying assumptions: (a) What they learn today will be recalled sometime in the future when the knowledge is needed, and (b) today’s learning will transfer across time, place, and space. Teachers are preparing students for higher levels of education, careers that may not even exist today, and the increasingly complex world of citizenship—voting intelligently, recognizing, and supporting good options for societal problems. With the amount of information increasing exponentially and new information often replacing what we formerly believed to be true, the twin abilities of learning well and thinking critically are essential skills for students at every level.

But what does it mean to think critically?

Critical thinking is using the skills or strategies that that are most likely to lead to a desired outcome. It is purposeful, reasoned, and goal-directed. It is the sort of thinking we should be engaging in when deciding what and whom to believe, which of two job offers to accept, or whether vaccinations really do cause autism. It is different from, but often relies upon, simple recall (e.g., what does five plus seven equal?), unsupported opinions (e.g., I like vanilla ice cream), and automated actions (e.g., stopping at a red light).

Critical thinking has two main components: understanding information at a deep, meaningful level, and overcoming fallacies and biases. For example, suppose you are learning about a new theory. You could learn to recite the definition of the theory with little meaning (e.g., photosynthesis is a process used by plants to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water using sunlight) or you could process it at a deeper level. There are many learning activities that facilitate deep level processing. For example, you could write out the theory in your own words, explain it to someone who is not familiar with it, and provide evidence for (and possibly against) the theory. What is it explaining? What theory is it replacing (if applicable)? What is its history? How could it be applied to an everyday problem?  If you could answer these questions, the theory would become easier to recall, and you could use it to generate new theories or see flaws or strengths in other theories. Argument analysis is another example of deep processing. Critical thinkers learn to identify the conclusion, the evidence, and reasoning used to support the conclusion. They also look for assumptions, counterevidence, and limiting conditions (times when the conclusion may not apply).

Some educators prefer to consider critical thinking as “debiasing” or recognizing and resisting fallacies. Suppose someone asks you if children become brilliant because of their nature or nurture. This is an example of the “either-or” fallacy, and anyone who is trained to recognize it can avoid its pitfalls. Similarly, critical thinkers recognize when correlational data are being used to make causal claims. For example, an article in the Los Angeles Times told readers that if they want their children to get good grades they should make sure that their kids’ friends get good grades. But after reading the article, it was apparent that children with good grades had friends with good grades, and children with poor grades had friends with poor grades. But nowhere did it show that kids with poor grades would improve by friending kids with good grades. The data were correlational, which any critical thinker should recognize.

If you are thinking critically, and I hope you are, you may be wondering: Can we teach students to be better thinkers? The answer is a resounding “yes.” There is a large amount of research literature (reviewed in my book, “Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking”). In one project that I conducted with a doctoral student, who is now Dr. Lisa Marin, we went into very low-performing high schools in California. There were several studies, some that involved parents and some in which classes were assigned at random with different critical thinking instruction. We found that when critical thinking skills were deliberately taught (not as an ancillary to other content), students improved in their abilities to think critically. There are many studies showing substantial gains in critical thinking in college students, the military, and other populations as well. Critical thinking can be taught at any grade, as long as it is taught in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

Finally, critical thinking has a self-reflective component. Good thinkers consider the steps of problem solving, how they are mentally approaching a problem, and the quality of their conclusion or solution.  

Those who care about the future for today’s children understand that the jobs of the future will require the ability to think critically. So let’s be sure that our students are ready for college, careers, and citizenship by including deliberate instruction in critical thinking. It is probably the most difficult topic to teach and learn, but it is also the most important.

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Critical thinking, learning objectives.

  • Define critical thinking

Thinking comes naturally. You don’t have to make it happen—it just does. But you can make it happen in different ways. For example, you can think positively or negatively. You can think with your heart and you can think with rational judgment. You can also think strategically and analytically, and mathematically and scientifically. These are a few of multiple ways in which the mind can process thought.

What are some forms of thinking you use? When do you use them and why?

As a college student, you are tasked with engaging and expanding your thinking skills. One of the most important thinking skills is critical thinking. Critical thinking is important because it relates to nearly all tasks, situations, topics, careers, environments, challenges, and opportunities. It’s a “domain-general” thinking skill—not a thinking skill that’s reserved for a one subject alone or restricted to a particular subject area. Critical thinking is used in every domain, from physics to auto mechanics. It is often employed to problem solve when we are puzzled by something or to reveal that there is an error in common ways of thinking about things. Thus, critical thinking is essential for revealing biases.

For example, Galileo used a common form of reasoning called reductio ad absurdum  (Latin for “reduce to absurdity) to show that the physics of his day was mistaken. People at that time believed that the heavier something was, the faster it would fall. Galileo knew this common conception was mistaken and he proved it both empirically and conceptually. Here is how he proved it conceptually. Suppose you have two objects, one heavier (call it B) than the other (call it A). Suppose the heavier object falls faster. When you put the lighter object under the heavier object (c), the lighter object should slow down the heavier object. On the other hand gluing together both objects results in a heavier object (c), which should fall even faster than (b). See diagram here . The contradiction proves by reductio ad absurdum that the assumption must be false. This is just one example, but the form of reasoning (reductio ad absurdum) is the same across every domain—from science to religion to auto mechanics. The form of reasoning is just this: assume for the sake of the argument that A is true. If we can then show that A leads to a contradiction (literally where two statements are asserted that cannot possibly be true), then we prove that A is false.

Great leaders have highly attuned critical thinking skills, and you can too. In fact, you probably have a lot of these skills already. Of all your thinking skills, critical thinking may have the greatest value.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do. It means asking probing questions like, “How do we know?” or “Is this true in every case or just in this instance?” It involves being skeptical and challenging assumptions, rather than simply memorizing facts or blindly accepting what you hear or read.

Imagine, for example, that you’re reading a history textbook. You wonder who wrote it and why because you detect certain biases in the writing. You find that the author has a limited scope of research focused only on a particular group within a population. In this case, your critical thinking reveals that there are other sides to the story.

Who are critical thinkers, and what characteristics do they have in common? Critical thinkers are usually curious and reflective people. They like to explore and probe new areas and seek knowledge, clarification, and new solutions. They ask pertinent questions, evaluate statements and arguments, and they distinguish between facts and opinion. They are also willing to examine their own beliefs, possessing a manner of humility that allows them to admit lack of knowledge or understanding when needed. They are open to changing their mind. Perhaps most of all, they actively enjoy learning and seeking new knowledge is a lifelong pursuit.

This description may well be you!

No matter where you are on the road to being a critical thinker, you can always more fully develop and finely tune your skills. Doing so will help you develop more balanced arguments, express yourself clearly, read critically, and glean important information efficiently. Critical thinking skills will help you in any profession or any circumstance of life, from science to art to business to teaching. With critical thinking, you become a clearer thinker and problem solver.

The following video from Lawrence Bland presents the major concepts and benefits of critical thinking.

You can view the transcript for “Critical Thinking.wmv” here (opens in new window) .

Supporting Claims with Evidence

Thinking and constructing analyses based on your thinking will bring you in contact with a great deal of information. Some of that information will be factual, and some will not be. You need to be able to distinguish between facts and opinions so you know how to support your arguments. Begin with the following basic definitions:

  • Fact: a statement that can be supported by objective evidence such as observation, argument, or research.
  • Opinion: a statement whose truth depends on someone’s desire(s) rather than objective evidence. Opinions that cannot be supported by objective evidence are at most subjectively true.

Of course, the tricky part is that most people do not label statements as fact and opinion, so you need to be aware and recognize the difference as you go about honing your critical thinking skills.

You probably have heard the old saying “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” which may be true, but conversely not everyone is entitled to their own facts. Facts are true for everyone, not just those who want to believe in them. For example, “mice are mammals”  is a fact since it has been established by scientific research. In contrast, “mice make the best pets” is an opinion (since best means whatever one likes the best—and that is a matter of one’s subjective desires).

Facts vs. opinion

Determine if the following statements are facts or opinions based on just the information provided here, referring to the basic definitions above. Some people consider scientific findings to be opinions even when they are convincingly backed by reputable evidence and experimentation. However, remember the definition of fact—verifiable by research or observation. Think about what other research you may have to conduct to make an informed decision.

  • Oregon is a state in the United States. (How would this be proven?)
  • Beef is made from cattle. (See current legislation concerning vegetarian “burgers.”)
  • Increased street lighting decreases criminal behavior. (What information would you need to validate this claim?)
  • In 1952, Elizabeth became Queen of England. (What documents could validate this statement?)
  • Oatmeal tastes plain. (What factors might play into this claim?)
  • Acne is an embarrassing skin condition. (Who might verify this claim?)
  • Kindergarten decreases student dropout rates. (Think of different interest groups that may take sides on this issue.)
  • Carbohydrates promote weight gain. (Can you determine if this is a valid statement?)
  • Cell phones cause brain tumors. (What research considers this claim?)
  • Immigration is good for the US economy. (What research would help you make an informed decision on this topic?)

Defending against Bias

Once you have all your information gathered and you have checked your sources for currency and validity, you need to direct your attention to how you’re going to present your now well-informed analysis. Be careful on this step to recognize your own possible biases (metacognition). Facts are verifiable statements; opinions are statements without supporting evidence. Stating an opinion is just that. You could say, “Blue is the best color,” and that would be your opinion. In contrast, suppose you were to conduct research and find the use of blue paint in mental hospitals reduces patients’ heart rates by twenty-five percent and contributes to fewer angry outbursts from patients. In that case, the statement “blue paint in mental hospitals reduces patients’ heart rate by twenty-five percent” would be a fact supported by objective evidence.

Not everyone will accept your analysis, which can be frustrating. Most people resist change and have firm beliefs on both important issues and less significant preferences. With all the competing information surfacing online, on the news, and in general conversation, you can understand how confusing it can be to make any decisions. Look at all the reliable, valid sources that claim different approaches to be the best diet for healthy living: ketogenic, low-carb, vegan, vegetarian, low fat, raw foods, paleo, Mediterranean, etc. All you can do in this sort of situation is conduct your own serious research, check your sources, and write clearly and concisely to provide your analysis of the information for consideration. You cannot force others to accept your stance, but you can show your evidence in support of your thinking, being as persuasive as possible without lapsing into your own personal biases.

critical thinking:  clear, reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do, often as a result of challenging assumptions

opinions:  statements offered without supporting evidence

  • College Success. Authored by : Matthew Van Cleave. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking. Provided by : Critical and Creative Thinking Program. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Thinking Critically. Authored by : UBC Learning Commons. Provided by : The University of British Columbia, Vancouver Campus. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • College Success. Authored by : Amy Baldwin; Modified by Lumen Learning. Provided by : OpenStax. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Thought-experiment-free-falling-bodies. Provided by : Wikimedia Commons. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Critical Thinking.wmv. Authored by : Lawrence Bland. Located at : . License : All Rights Reserved

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Developing Critical Thinking

  • Posted January 10, 2018
  • By Iman Rastegari

Critical Thinking

In a time where deliberately false information is continually introduced into public discourse, and quickly spread through social media shares and likes, it is more important than ever for young people to develop their critical thinking. That skill, says Georgetown professor William T. Gormley, consists of three elements: a capacity to spot weakness in other arguments, a passion for good evidence, and a capacity to reflect on your own views and values with an eye to possibly change them. But are educators making the development of these skills a priority?

"Some teachers embrace critical thinking pedagogy with enthusiasm and they make it a high priority in their classrooms; other teachers do not," says Gormley, author of the recent Harvard Education Press release The Critical Advantage: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in School . "So if you are to assess the extent of critical-thinking instruction in U.S. classrooms, you’d find some very wide variations." Which is unfortunate, he says, since developing critical-thinking skills is vital not only to students' readiness for college and career, but to their civic readiness, as well.

"It's important to recognize that critical thinking is not just something that takes place in the classroom or in the workplace, it's something that takes place — and should take place — in our daily lives," says Gormley.

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Gormley looks at the value of teaching critical thinking, and explores how it can be an important solution to some of the problems that we face, including "fake news."

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iT unes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.

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An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills Before College

Here are six ways high school students can sharpen their critical thinking skills for college success.

Learn to Think Critically Before College

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When teens read books that challenge norms, it can shed light on how the mind of a critical thinker works.

Holding politicians accountable, choosing the right friends and doing advanced math. Depending on who you ask, these actions may require a common denominator: the ability to think critically.

In college , students make important decisions, get exposure to different world views and hone skills in their academic fields of interest . Students can prepare to make the most of their college experience by becoming better critical thinkers while still in high school.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Scholars sometimes differ in how they describe and define critical thinking.

Daniel Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia , says someone using the term could mean one of two things. They could mean thinking at times when others might not, like when someone considers the writer’s viewpoint after reading a newspaper commentary. Or, they could mean thinking sharply when solving problems or completing tasks, Willingham says.

“The way you would want to approach these two types of critical thinking really differs,” Willingham says. “If there were a formula for getting kids to think critically, we’d be using it in schools.”

David Hitchcock, professor emeritus of philosophy at McMaster University in Canada, wrote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on critical thinking and "came to the conclusion that it’s not really a specific kind of thinking. It’s just good thinking. It’s reflective thinking, careful thinking, rational thinking.”

And it's important regardless of how one may choose to describe it, experts say.

“Given that critical thinking allows you to arrive at beliefs and actions that are beneficial, it seems that it is actually vital to anyone,” says Eileen Gambrill, professor of the graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley ’s School of Social Welfare.

Ways to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Here are six ways high school students can develop critical-thinking skills before college:

  • Build your domain-specific skillset.
  • Conduct experiments.
  • Question your presumptions.
  • Read books written by critical thinkers.
  • Start a critical thinking club.
  • Talk to peers with different perspectives.

Build Your Domain-Specific Skillset

People who view critical thinking as someone’s ability to use problem-solving skills to complete tasks can become better critical thinkers by improving their fundamental understanding of the subject they are studying, Willingham says.

“Think about the different domains that students study – science, literature and math , for example. These domains have different definitions of what it means to understand something," he says. You sort of have to respect those distinctions among the domains.”

Conduct Experiments

High school students who complete lab assignments as part of science courses are familiar with experimentation. Hitchcock outlines that as one of numerous mental processes that make up the critical thinking process.

Experimenting involves seeking answers, which requires open-mindedness. Hitchcock recommends that students investigate topics they find interesting.

“If you’ve got an issue that’s important to you personally, inquire into it in a personal way,” he says. “Don’t get in the habit of jumping to conclusions. Consider alternatives. Think it through.”

 Question Your Presumptions

“Most of us are ignorant about things,” Gambrill says. “Anything that students assume they know, they can start questioning.”

Students have presumptions, which form over time when they accept something they hear as truth. Critical thinkers challenge ideas presented by leaders, such as teachers and politicians, Gambrill says.

“Authoritarians love people who can’t think critically,” she says.

Read Books Written by Critical Thinkers

Reading books that challenge norms can help high school students understand how the mind of a critical thinker works. Doing so can help them realize that knowledge “is in a constant state of flux,” Gambrill says.

Gambrill recommends “Teachers Without Goals, Students Without Purposes” by Henry Perkinson, a book that challenges traditional notions of education and teaching.

Start a Critical Thinking Club

“Critical thinking is, in fact, very dangerous,” she says. “Asking questions is often viewed as a really bad thing, when in fact it is the essential thing.” 

Some students may be worried about asking critical questions in a classroom setting. Gambrill recommends they start a student-run club at their high school to facilitate conversations driven by open-mindedness. 

Teachers can also create classroom atmospheres that encourage students to ask critical questions, she says.  

Talk to Peers With Different Perspectives

Much like in college, students in high school can meet peers who have opposing viewpoints. Considering alternative viewpoints can help students become better critical thinkers, experts say.

“Cultivate conversations with people who think differently,” Hitchcock says. “Try to understand the thought processes of people who come at issues in a different way than yourself. Get an appreciation for the variety of ways you can think about something."

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6 Best Critical Thinking Courses, Classes and Lessons Online

We’ve counted the votes. These are our best 6 Critical Thinking online courses, classes, certificates and training programs. The list was created after carefully comparing 27 Critical Thinking courses and going through 2 of them ourselves. We chose these Critical Thinking programs based on various factors such as duration, price (free vs paid), instructor, difficulty level and the number of students enrolled. Take the first step to becoming an expert.

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The Best Critical Thinking Courses in 2021

Master cognitive biases and improve your critical thinking, philosophy and critical thinking | edx, master your decision-making, and critical thinking skills , critical thinking, critical thinking – welcome to critical thinking, introduction to critical thinking.

critical thinking classes in college

This course will help you explore the fundamentals of Critical Thinking. It will guide you how to effectively master cognitive biases. A certificate is available at the end of the course.

The Master Cognitive Biases and Improve Your Critical Thinking course is taught by Kevin deLaplante, a PhD, Philosopher, and Founder of the Critical Thinker Academy. So far, more than 13,803 students have signed up for the class, which can be found on Udemy.

Skills you will learn

  • Understand the basic principles of Critical Thinking
  • Master cognitive biases
  • Improve your quality of thinking and decision-making
  • Discover essential strategies for neutralizing or minimizing the negative effects of cognitive biases

This online course in great for students who want to learn about the foundations of critical thinking, as well as, anyone who is wants to improve their decision making skills.

Platform: Udemy Duration: Almost 3 hours

critical thinking classes in college

This curriculum will teach you all about Critical Thinking. It will introduce you to the principles of philosophical inquiry. A certificate is available.

The Philosophy and Critical Thinking course is taught by Professor Deborah Brown and Dr Peter Ellerton, and is available on edX. As of the moment, there are more than 95,967 students have enrolled so far.

  • Learn the basic principles of philosophical inquiry
  • Develop practical skills in identifying, analyzing, and constructing cogent arguments
  • Discover various factors contributing to solutions to the central problems of philosophy
  • Know how to effectively converse about philosophical topics

This course is intended for beginners who are interested in critical thinking, as well as, anyone who wants to improve their decision-making skills.

Platform: edX Duration: 6 weeks

critical thinking classes in college

This online course will teach you everything about Critical Thinking. It will guide you how to make better and more rational decisions, and analyze problems better. At the end of the course, a certificate of completion is available.

The Master your Decision-Making, and Critical Thinking Skills course is taught by Sivakami S, an Experienced Business Leader, Research, and Doctoral Scholar. Currently, there are over 5,129 students registered for this course.

  • Discover effective de-biasing techniques
  • Understand cognitive biases
  • Learn the concept of logical fallacies
  • Master how to render better judgement

I suggest you take this course if you want to learn the essential fundamentals of Critical Thinking, as well as, leaders, managers, and anyone who wants to gain skills in rendering better judgement and decisions.

Platform: Udemy Duration: Almost 5 hours

critical thinking classes in college

This Udemy course will give you a solid introduction to Critical Thinking. It will teach you how to properly identify fallacies and construct effective arguments. Upon completion of the course, a certificate is available for you to download.

The Critical Thinking course is taught by Systems Innovation, and is available on Udemy. So far, there are 427 students enrolled in this class.

  • Learn the fundamental process of reasoning
  • Know about formal and informal logic
  • Improve thinking quality through properly assessing, analyzing, deconstructing, and reconstructing reasoning

This online course is intended for students who is interested in learning the basic principles of critical thinking, as well as, anyone who want to learn efficient decision-making skills.

Platform: Udemy Duration: Almost 4 hours

critical thinking classes in college

If you’re looking for a comprehensive introduction to Critical Thinking, this is the right course for you. It will teach you to think reflectively and independently in order to make thoughtful decisions. By the end of the course, you will be able to effectively render better judgement.

The Critical Thinking – Welcome to critical thinking class is taught by Mike Figliuolo, and is available on LinkedIn Learning. This is a very popular course, and at the moment there are more than 312,745 students enrolled.

  • Understand the basic concepts of Critical Thinking
  • Discover essential tools in being a better decision maker
  • Learn about cognitive biases
  • Know how to properly think the problem through and render better judgement

This specialization is intended for students who have interest in learning the foundations of Critical Thinking.

Platform: Skillshare Duration:

critical thinking classes in college

This curriculum covers the fundamentals of Critical Thinking. It will teach you how to properly deal with skepticism. Don’t forget to download the certificate.

The Introduction to Critical Thinking course is taught by Gordon Bonnet, a Skeptic, Blogger, Novelist, and Teacher. As of the moment, there are more than 146 students registered for this class, which can be found on Udemy.

  • Learn how to distinguish fallacies from truth
  • Know how to efficiently recognize a valid argument
  • Determine how to easily disregard biases and misconceptions
  • Develop practical skills in crafting a good argument

If you’re interested in developing and improving your decision-making skills and critical thinking, i suggest you take this course.

Platform: Udemy Duration: Almost 6 hours

We wish you good luck and lots of fun studying Critical Thinking. How did you like our list of the best Critical Thinking online courses and classes? Are we missing a good resource? Let us know. Thanks for going through our list!

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Hone your reasoning and argumentation skills and improve media literacy and writing

Join us for the Critical Thinking Summer Institute, a premier program for motivated high school students seeking to enhance their critical thinking skills and explore cutting-edge topics in today’s media landscape. Led by expert instructors, our program offers a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of critical thinking, including the application of logic and probability theory to evaluate arguments and the responsible and creative use of AI. Enrolled students will also have the opportunity to earn credit in Phil 9 (Principles of Critical Reasoning) and participate in an exclusive workshop on media literacy and journalism, run by industry-leading experts from the prestigious University of Queensland. In this workshop, you will learn to assess media, with a particular focus on new media, and gain firsthand experience in preparing an article for publication. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to hone your critical thinking skills, gain invaluable experience in media literacy and journalism, and prepare for success in the digital age!

Critical Thinking Summer Institute Program

Curriculum overview.

Students in the Critical Thinking Institute will participate in lectures and informal discussion sections run by UCLA Faculty and Teaching Assistants. Students will also participate in a media literacy and publishing workshop. Planned topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The psychology of reasoning
  • The relationship between reasoning and logic
  • Deductive and inductive logic
  • Constructing and evaluating arguments
  • How to ask a focused research question
  • What is news and what makes a great story
  • Preparing an article for publication

Students will learn to apply what they’ve learned in the course by working with the program staff and their peers on short problem sets and a final research article.

Application Requirements

Application deadline: June 1, 2024 | Enrollment deadline: June 15, 2024

Applications are reviewed and admission to the program is granted on a rolling basis starting February 15 th . Applying at your earliest convenience, prior to June 1 st , is highly recommended.

The program has application requirements for admission. Eligible applicants who successfully submit all requirements will be reviewed and notified via email of an admission decision within 3 weeks.

Applicants are required to provide the following during the online registration process:

  • If your school transcript utilizes a different grading system, please submit your transcript as is. If available, please attach a translation/equivalency guide.
  • If your school has a translation/equivalency guide, please also include it with your transcript. If you do not have a translation/equivalency guide, please still submit your most up-to-date transcript as is for staff to review.
  • Value statement : At the time of registration, ALL applicants will be prompted to submit a few short sentences reflecting on their pursuit of participation in a UCLA Precollege Summer Institute. Please note that students are strongly discouraged from relying on ChatGpt/AI tools for their application responses and are encouraged to submit original and authentic answers.

Virtual Program

The Critical Thinking Summer Institute will be conducted virtually (online). All meeting times will take place in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), unless otherwise noted on program schedule and syllabus. Participants must log-in to virtual sessions at the times indicated on the program schedule.

Students in the virtual program will not be offered housing.

Coursework & Grading

Philosophy 9; 5 units

Grading Basis

Students will receive a letter grade upon completion. However, if you would like to change your grade type to Pass/No Pass (P/NP), please contact your instructor. To receive a “Pass” notation, students must earn a letter grade of C or better. See  University Credit, Grades and Transcripts for more information about academic credit.

In order to successfully complete the program, students must not have more than  3  excused or unexcused absences.


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Qualified students attending grades 9th – 11th in Spring 2024 in the state of California may be eligible for  Summer Scholars Support , a need- and merit-based scholarship offered by the UCLA Summer Sessions Office. Students must be 15 years old by the first day of Summer Sessions 2024 on June 24th in order to participate in a Precollege Summer Institute and/or apply for Summer Scholars Support. A limited number of full and partial scholarships are available to support enrollment in SCIP/eSCIP, one Summer Course, or a Precollege Summer Institute.

Summer 2024 deadline to apply: March 15.

UCLA Department of Philosophy Scholarship

The UCLA Department of Philosophy offers full or partial, need-based scholarships. The award is not intended to cover travel costs and may not cover textbooks or other course materials. The final award amount will reflect the fees of the Critical Thinking Summer Institute in which the applicant is enrolled.


In order to be considered for the UCLA Department of Philosophy Scholarship , students must meet the eligibility requirements of the Summer Scholars Support scholarship .

  • You are attending grades 8 – 11 as of Spring 2024 in a California high school (international or out-of-state students are not eligible) ;
  • You have not received UCLA Summer Scholars Support in the past;
  • You will be a continuing high school student in Fall 2024 (current seniors graduating in Spring 2024 are not eligible) ;
  • You have a family annual adjusted gross income (AGI) of $100,000 or less;  and
  • You are enrolled in the 2024 Critical Thinking Summer Institute.


Students interested in applying for the UCLA Department of Philosophy Scholarship must submit the Summer Scholars Support Online Application . There are no additional application requirements.

Please review the Summer Scholars Support page for full information related to eligibility and the application process before submitting an application form.

Summer 2024 deadline to apply: TBD

Program Dates:  July 8, 2024 – July 26, 2024

Program Type: Virtual

Program Eligibility: 9th-12th grade in Spring 2024*

Application deadline:  June 1, 2024

Enrollment deadline:  June 15, 2024

*All participants must be at least 15 years of age by the first day of Summer Sessions 2024 on June 24th, no exceptions allowed.

The schedule and syllabus are subject to change. Enrolled students will be given updated materials closer to the program start date.

Fees and Payment Info

The program fee includes the unit fees for the UCLA coursework offered as part of the program and thus varies by UC student status. In addition to the program fee, students are assessed other campus and administrative fees during the summer. This is a summary of fees that commonly apply to the selected student type.

Actual tuition and fees are subject to change by the University of California. Visit the fees, payment, and financial aid section for important disclaimer, as well as more details on fees, payment instructions, and information on delinquency, refunds, and financial aid.

Meet your instructors

John kardosh.

John Kardosh is completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at UCLA. His research focuses on the history and psychology of logic and reasoning. John has worked with organizations both in the US and abroad to help integrate critical reasoning into the K-12 curriculum. Outside of his academic work, John dabbles in software development. John is also passionate about teaching: he has won the Department of Philosophy’s Yost Prize for teaching excellence, as well as UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Assistant award.

Image of John Kardosh

Calvin Normore

Professor Calvin Normore is Brian P. Copenhaver Professor of Philosophy, UCLA, Emeritus Macdonald Professor of Moral Philosophy, McGill University, and Honorary Professor of Philosophy, the University of Queensland. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and former President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association. His Ph.D. is in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. He has held regular academic positions at Princeton, the University of Toronto, and (since 1998) at UCLA and irregular ones at the University of Alberta, York University, Columbia, U.C. Irvine, the Ohio State University and Yale. From 2008-2011 he also held the William MacDonald Chair of Moral Philosophy at McGill University. He specializes in the History of Philosophy and works (if you call it work) in such diverse areas as metaphysics, the philosophy of time, political philosophy, and logic. He is firmly convinced of philosophy’s breadth and its ties to other disciplines.

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Yael Leibovitch

Dr. Yael Leibovitch is a researcher and lecturer with the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project (UQCTP). She has a Master of Teaching from the University of Toronto’s, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and a PhD in Education from the University of Queensland. The focus of her research and educational programs is the intersection between critical thinking, writing, and dialogue. In her work at the UQCTP, Yael has contributed to the design and implementation of a range of projects that promote critical and creative thinking, collaborative reasoning, and communication. These include programs such as: the Higher Education Enabling Program with the Australian Institute for Police Management; the Effective Thinking and Writing Course for the UQ Enhanced Studies Program; the Clinical Reasoning bridging course for UQ Medicine postgraduates; and the Writing and Critical Thinking masterclass for educators. In addition, Yael spent over a decade as a high school Philosophy and Reason teacher and teacher-educator. During this time, she helped develop the expertise of teachers to design educational experiences that prepare students for the demands of the 21st century.

critical thinking classes in college

Critical Thinking Summer Institute FAQ

Are there any required supplies or materials for the institute.

All required readings will be available for free on our Bruin Learn course page. In our section on argument evaluation, we will learn to find and evaluate arguments using a variety of tools. One of these tools is a web application. A personal computer or tablet for practicing the web application outside of class would be helpful, but not required.

Still have questions? Check out the general Summer Institutes FAQ.

Critical thinking definition

critical thinking classes in college

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

We understand that it's difficult to learn how to use critical thinking more effectively in just one article, but our service is here to help.

We are a team specializing in writing essays and other assignments for college students and all other types of customers who need a helping hand in its making. We cover a great range of topics, offer perfect quality work, always deliver on time and aim to leave our customers completely satisfied with what they ordered.

The ordering process is fully online, and it goes as follows:

  • Select the topic and the deadline of your essay.
  • Provide us with any details, requirements, statements that should be emphasized or particular parts of the essay writing process you struggle with.
  • Leave the email address, where your completed order will be sent to.
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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

Critical thinking refers to deliberately scrutinizing and evaluating theories, concepts, or ideas using reasoned reflection and analysis. The act of thinking critically implies moving beyond simply understanding information, but questioning its source, its production, and its presentation in order to expose potential bias or researcher subjectivity [i.e., being influenced by personal opinions and feelings rather than by external determinants ] . Applying critical thinking to investigating a research problem involves actively challenging assumptions and questioning the choices and potential motives underpinning how the author designed the study, conducted the research, and arrived at particular conclusions or recommended courses of action.

Mintz, Steven. "How the Word "Critical" Came to Signify the Leading Edge of Cultural Analysis." Higher Ed Gamma Blog , Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2024; Van Merriënboer, Jeroen JG and Paul A. Kirschner. Ten Steps to Complex Learning: A Systematic Approach to Four-component Instructional Design . New York: Routledge, 2017.

Thinking Critically

Applying Critical Thinking to Research and Writing

Professors like to use the term critical thinking; in fact, the idea of being critical permeates much of higher education writ large. In the classroom, the idea of thinking critically is often mentioned by professors when students ask how they should approach a research and writing assignment [other approaches your professor might mention include interdisciplinarity, comparative, gendered, global, etc.]. However, critical thinking is more than just an approach to research and writing. It is an acquired skill used in becoming a complex learner capable of discerning important relationships among the elements of, as well as integrating multiple ways of understanding applied to, the research problem. Critical thinking is a lens through which you holistically interrogate a topic.

Given this, thinking critically encompasses a variety of inter-related connotations applied to college-level research and writing * :

  • Integrated and Multi-Dimensional . Critical thinking is not focused on any one element of research, but rather, is applied holistically throughout the process of identifying the research problem, reviewing of literature, applying methods of analysis, describing the results, discussing their implications, and, if appropriate, offering recommendations for further research. The act of thinking critically is also non-linear [i.e., applies to going back and changing prior thoughts when new evidence emerges]; it permeates the entire research endeavor from contemplating what to write to proofreading the final product.
  • Humanize Research . Thinking critically can help humanize the research problem by extending the scope of your analysis beyond the boundaries of traditional approaches to studying the topic. Traditional approaches can include, for example, sampling homogeneous populations, considering only certain factors related to investigating a phenomenon, or limiting the way you frame or represent the context of your study. Critical thinking can help reveal opportunities to incorporate the experiences of others into the research, creating a more representative examination of the research problem.
  • Normative . This refers to the idea that critical thinking can be used to challenge prior assumptions in ways that advocate for social justice, equity, and inclusion and which can lead to research having a more transformative and expansive impact. In this respect, critical thinking can be a method for breaking away from dominant culture norms so as to produce research outcomes that illuminate previously hidden aspects of exploitation and injustice.
  • Power Dynamics . Research in the social and behavioral sciences often includes examining aspects of power and influence that shape social relations, organizations, institutions, and the production and maintenance of knowledge. This approach encompasses studying how power operates, how it can be acquired, and how power and influence can be maintained. Critical thinking can reveal how societal structures perpetuate power and influence in ways that marginalizes and oppresses certain groups or communities within the contexts of history , politics, economics, culture, and other factors.
  • Reflection . A key aspect of critical thinking is practicing reflexivity; the act of turning ideas and concepts back onto yourself in order to reveal and clarify your own beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives. Being critically reflexive is important because it can reveal hidden biases you may have that could unintentionally influence how you interpret and validate information. The more reflexive you are, the better able and more comfortable you are about opening yourself up to new modes of understanding.
  • Rigorous Questioning . Thinking critically is guided by asking questions that lead to addressing complex concepts, principles, theories, or problems more effectively and to help distinguish what is known from from what is not known [or that may be hidden]. In this way, critical thinking involves deliberately framing inquiries not just as research questions, but as a way to focus on systematic, disciplined,  in-depth questioning concerning the research problem and your positionality as a researcher.
  • Social Change . An overarching goal of critical thinking applied to research and writing is to seek to identify and challenge sources of inequality, exploitation, oppression, and marinalization that contributes to maintaining the status quo within institutions of society. This can include entities, such as, schools, courts, businesses, government agencies, religious centers, that have been created and maintained through certain ways of thinking within the dominant culture.

In writing a research paper, the act of critical thinking applies most directly to the literature review and discussion sections of your paper . In reviewing the literature, it is important to reflect upon specific aspects of a study, such as, determining if the research design effectively establishes cause and effect relationships or provides insight into explaining why certain phenomena do or do not occur, assessing whether the method of gathering data or information supports the objectives of the study, and evaluating if the assumptions used t o arrive at a specific conclusion are evidence-based and relevant to addressing the research problem. An assessment of whether a source is helpful to investigating the research problem also involves critically analyzing how the research challenges conventional approaches to investigations that perpetuate inequalities or hides the voices of others.

Critical thinking also applies to the discussion section of your paper because this is where you interpret the findings of your study and explain its significance. This involves more than summarizing findings and describing outcomes. It includes reflecting on their importance and providing reasoned explanations why the research study is important in filling a gap in the literature or expanding knowledge and understanding about the topic in ways that inform practice. Critical reflection helps you think introspectively about your own beliefs concerning the significance of the findings but in ways that avoid biased judgment and decision making.

* Mintz, Steven. "How the Word "Critical" Came to Signify the Leading Edge of Cultural Analysis." Higher Ed Gamma Blog , Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2024; Suter, W. Newton. Introduction to Educational Research: A Critical Thinking Approach. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012

Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., and Lian Niu. “Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of College Teaching and Learning 8 (February 2011): 25-41; Bayou, Yemeserach and Tamene Kitila. "Exploring Instructors’ Beliefs about and Practices in Promoting Students’ Critical Thinking Skills in Writing Classes." GIST–Education and Learning Research Journal 26 (2023): 123-154; Butcher, Charity. "Using In-class Writing to Promote Critical Thinking and Application of Course Concepts." Journal of Political Science Education 18 (2022): 3-21; Loseke, Donileen R. Methodological Thinking: Basic Principles of Social Research Design. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012; Hart, Claire et al. “Exploring Higher Education Students’ Critical Thinking Skills through Content Analysis.” Thinking Skills and Creativity 41 (September 2021): 100877; Sabrina, R., Emilda Sulasmi, and Mandra Saragih. "Student Critical Thinking Skills and Student Writing Ability: The Role of Teachers' Intellectual Skills and Student Learning." Cypriot Journal of Educational Sciences 17 (2022): 2493-2510.Van Merriënboer, Jeroen JG and Paul A. Kirschner. Ten Steps to Complex Learning: A Systematic Approach to Four-component Instructional Design. New York: Routledge, 2017; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. "Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing." Higher Education Research & Development 42 (2023): 244-259.

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High School Classes Colleges Look For

Find the right college for you..

If you’re in high school and thinking about college─and you should be─you should know that the courses you take matter. That’s because college admissions officers want to see a solid foundation of learning you can build on in college.

To create that foundation, take at least five solid academic classes every semester. Start with the basics, and then move on to challenging yourself in advanced courses. The courses listed below should prepare you for success in college and beyond.

English (Language Arts)

Take English every year. Traditional courses, such as American and English literature, help improve your writing skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary.

two female students in front of a computer

Algebra and geometry help you succeed on admission tests and in college math classes. Take them early so that you'll have time for advanced science and math, which will show colleges that you're ready for higher-level work.

Most colleges want students with three years of high school math. The more competitive colleges prefer four years. Take some combination of the following:

  • Trigonometry
  • Precalculus

Science teaches you how to think analytically and apply theories to reality. Colleges want to see that you’ve taken at least three years of laboratory science classes. A good combination includes a year of each of these:

  • Chemistry or physics
  • Earth or physical science

Competitive schools expect four years of lab science courses, which you may be able to get by taking advanced classes in these same areas.

Social Studies

Improve your understanding of local and world events by studying the cultures and history that helped shape them. Here’s a suggested high school course plan:

  • U.S. History
  • U.S. Government
  • World History and Geography

Foreign Languages

Studying a foreign language shows you're willing to stretch beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years of study in the same foreign language, while others prefer more.

The arts help you recognize patterns, learn to notice differences and similarities, and exercise your mind in unique ways.

Some colleges require or recommend one or two semesters in the arts. Choices include studio art, dance, music, and drama.

Advanced College Courses

To ready yourself for college-level work, enroll in challenging high school courses , such as honors classes, AP courses, or IB-program courses. Find out about taking college classes in high school or at a local college.

Get Help Choosing Courses Admissions Officers Want to See

Use College Search to research the academic requirements of your preferred college to ensure you’re on the path to admission. Also, you can meet with a school counselor or teacher to ask questions about choosing classes and staying on track for college.

Do colleges look at specific classes?

Yes. Colleges look at the specific classes you take in high school. Admissions officers want to know whether you took all the core courses, including math, science, foreign language, English, and social studies. They also take note of whether you progressed to higher-level classes in the core subjects. Then they look at your elective courses to get an idea of your interests.

What is the minimum GPA for college?

Most colleges don’t have a specific GPA requirement because high schools calculate GPA differently from colleges. For admissions, many colleges will r ecalculate student GPA so there’s consistency across applications. College admissions officers consider more than just a student’s GPA. They look at SAT scores and whether a student is taking college classes in high school, among other factors.

What classes do most colleges require?

Most colleges are looking for students with a foundation of courses in the core subjects. College admissions officials look at your core course levels from your first year through your senior year. They want to see if you advanced to more challenging material in these subjects as you progressed through high school.

What types of elective courses do colleges look for?

Most colleges aren’t looking for certain types of elective courses. Instead, admissions officers look at your elective courses for some insight into your interests. The variety of elective courses you choose conveys something about your willingness to learn about different subjects.

Are college admissions officials looking for AP courses on my high school transcript?

College admissions staff are looking to see if you’ve challenged yourself and taken the most rigorous courses your school offers. That could be Advanced Placement® courses, honors courses, or other advanced courses. A student who’s successful in rigorous courses in high school is likely to be prepared for challenging work in college.

How do colleges view online high school?

You should check with your preferred colleges to get more information about how those colleges view online high schools.

Are extracurricular activities important to colleges?

Yes. Though extracurricular activities aren’t the most important thing college admissions officials look at, they do factor into their decision. The clubs and organizations you belong to communicate a lot about your interests. If you do volunteer work, college admissions officials are going to take note of where you volunteered and for how long. For example, volunteering for four years at a local animal shelter shows dedication to something you enjoy that helps your community.

When should a high school student start to research college admissions requirements?

The sooner, the better. Researching college admissions requirements as a first-year student allows you to create future class schedules with those requirements in mind. You may discover one of your preferred colleges likes applicants to have at least three years of foreign language study. Making a long-term plan means you’ll be well prepared to apply to colleges by the start of your high school senior year.

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    Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture. —Francis Bacon, philosopher. Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for college students, but it should also be a lifelong pursuit.

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  18. Critical Thinking Summer Institute

    Program Dates: July 8, 2024 - July 26, 2024. Program Type: Virtual. Program Eligibility: 9th-12th grade in Spring 2024*. Application deadline: June 1, 2024. Enrollment deadline: June 15, 2024. *All participants must be at least 15 years of age by the first day of Summer Sessions 2024 on June 24th, no exceptions allowed.

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    "Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature." Journal of College Teaching and Learning 8 (February 2011): 25-41; Bayou, Yemeserach and Tamene Kitila. "Exploring Instructors' Beliefs about and Practices in Promoting Students' Critical Thinking Skills in Writing Classes."

  22. High School Classes Colleges Look For

    To ready yourself for college-level work, enroll in challenging high school courses, such as honors classes, AP courses, or IB-program courses. Find out about taking college classes in high school or at a local college. Get Help Choosing Courses Admissions Officers Want to See. Use College Search to research the academic requirements of your ...