Critical Skills in the Humanities

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PRESENTATION

Author(s) Mario von der Ruhr

Abstract

The presentation has two aims, viz., (i) to share with participants the results of recently conducted (formative) in-class exercises testing humanities’ undergraduates’ knowledge of English composition, citation conventions, and critical reasoning skills, and (ii) to stimulate reflection on how the students’ competence in these basic skills might be enhanced at Level 4, in particular.

Outline

The session will take the form of a PowerPoint presentation with (i) examples from the preparatory classroom discussion around grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, deficient punctuation, inaccurate referencing, and fallacious reasoning, (ii) sample questions from the four rubrics of the individual 20-minute, formative in-class exercise to which the cohort’s understanding of (i) was subsequently applied, and (iii) some general statistics about the outcome of the classroom test. Participants will be engaged by eliciting their (voluntary) responses to particular logic exercises and by sharing their own approaches to assessing and enhancing the critical skills of their respective undergraduate cohorts. The presentation links into the overall theme of the conference (Teaching Excellence) in so far as reflection on the assessment of our undergraduates’ existing critical skills is a propaedeutic to designing modules in such a way that these skills may be properly honed/enhanced. Unless they are already doing so, delegates may be able to devise a similar in-class test to their own cohorts.

Key Words

critical skills, humanities, logic, reasoning,

Key Messages

– Informal evaluation of students’ writing, referencing, and critical reasoning skills in the form of a class-test administered at Level 4 allows for more targeted (remedial) action – Critical thinking involves “metacognition”, i.e., thinking about thought, and thus reflection on (valid and invalid) argument patterns. This suggests that students might benefit from an introduction to (informal) logic embedded in, for example, compulsory Level 4 modules.

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