Guest Blog by Bruce Reider, DJIMO Faculty/CGSC
Kevin Drum, blogging in Mother Jones on 16 June, writes provocatively about the links between teaching, critical thinking, and writing (“Public vs. Private Universities: A Reply from the Trenches”). Link below.
In my opinion Mr. Drum describes precisely what CGSC ought to expect from its faculty. “For students to really engage with the material they’re reading in books and hearing about in lectures, someone smart and knowledgeable has to lead a small-group discussion. For them to learn how to make an argument and defend it against objections, they have to write lots of papers, be able to work on them with someone who knows how to write and also knows the subject matter, and have them graded by someone in a position to make serious comments so they can do better next time.” Mr Drum makes four key points. First, the teacher must be able to lead small-group discussion. Leading and facilitating a small-group discussion is an art. Second, the students need to develop and hone their critical thinking skills and ability by writing, lots of writing. Writing forces the student to put their thoughts on paper and to purposefully chose the right words to make a point and defend it. Third, the teacher must not only know the subject matter but also how to write. Writing is hard work; most of us improve only through practice. If the teacher is not a good writer, how can they help the student become a better writer? Finally, Mr. Drum points out the importance of feedback. Feedback is more than simply putting a grade on an assignment. Feedback should provide the student a critique of their work that focuses on the logic and reasoning of their argument.