The Process: Thinking, Solving, Reading, Writing

I said in a previous post that critical thinking and writing are basically the same.

I probably first started thinking that critical thinking and composition/writing belonged in the same bucket when I took a Writing Across the Curriculum course at UIUC. My course was taught by Maria Lovett, then a grad student who taught undergrad composition via filmmaking. Her theory was that every message we create, be it linguistic, visual, or other, requires that we use one basic mental skills set in order to create and send it. I’ve described that skills set as I see it in the post I just mentioned. Those skills also allow us to learn, read, and solve problems.

In order to plan my class days for the coming semester, I have mapped out some more specific (but still pretty general) ways that basic skills set can be taught. The Gang of Seven has decided to teach via three papers over the course of the semester. The content, genre, and style of the papers is up to each individual instructor, but the learning objectives are the same as those of any first-semester college composition course. (I’ll check and see if I can post the Course Reference File online. If I can, I’ll create a separate post for it and link to it from here.)

Today, I’m posting the current version of my map for the course. In a late-start 121 class (of which I will have two in the fall), I have 26 class periods. I can split that up into three cycles of eight periods, with two periods at the end of the semester for final exam prep. In each cycle, the first class period will always be used to introduce the cycle, and the last period will always be used for an in-class essay on “What I Learned.” (I also have one regular-start 121 class, which includes four additional class periods. Those will be dedicated to teaching reading and discussion skills and notetaking skills.) My semester will look something like this:

Cycle 1: Writing an Autoethnography on a Topic

  1. Syllabus and course policies
  2. Recording What I Know
  3. Paying Attention to My Own Behavior
  4. Tracing Connections (librarian visit)
  5. Composing My Thoughts
  6. Using Templates
  7. Peer Reviews and Rewriting
  8. What I Learned

Cycle 2: Responding to Others’ Writing About Themselves in Relation to a Topic

  1. Intro
  2. Making Sense of What Others Say
  3. Summarizing What Others Say
  4. Summarizing What Others Say
  5. Tracing Connections
  6. Tracing Connections (librarian visit)
    • assigned Writing Center visit
  7. Rewriting
  8. What I Learned

Cycle 3: Persuading Others on a Topic

  1. Intro
  2. Using Process 1
  3. Using Process 2 (librarian visit)
  4. Strategies and Principles of Persuasion
  5. Persuasive Writing
  6. Peer Reviews and Rewriting
  7. Peer Reviews and Rewriting
  8. What I Learned

The map given above is shorthand for a longer map, which is also fairly general. The longer map develops core ideas in association with another text I am assigning this semester, and it goes like this:

The Study of Language

“To learn to think more clearly, to speak and to write more effectively, and to listen and to read with greater understanding­—these are the goals of the study of language. . . .

“To understand how language works, what pitfalls it conceals, what its possibilities are is to understand a central aspect of the complicated business of living the life of a human being. To be concerned with the relation between language and reality, between words and what they stand for in the speaker’s or the hearer’s thoughts and emotions, is to approach the study of language as both an intellectual and a moral discipline.”  (S. I. Hayakawa & Alan R. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action. New York: Harcourt, 1991: x)

The Thinking/Learning/Reading/Writing Process

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(Derived from John Dewey, How We Think. Image courtesy of Chip Bruce.)

“The Process” in 3 Iterations

Process #1

Writing an Autoethnography About Me and My Food

“Autoethnography is a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings.” (“Authoethnography,” Wikipedia, 8 July 2012)

Recording What I Already Know About Myself

  • Brainstorming
  • Bubble charts
  • Lists
  • Freewriting
  • Journaling
  • Mapping
  • Reflection (what I think/feel about myself and my decisions)

Paying Attention to My Own Behavior

  • Predicting (what I think I do, how I think I make decisions)
  • Food diary (what I eat)
  • List food acquisition sources (people, stores, garden, etc.) and what I traded for food (money, affection, labor, etc.)
  • Reflection (what I think/feel about what I found out about myself and my decisions)

Tracing Connections

  • Origins (where my food comes from) and trade value (what is exchanged)
  • Transport (how my food gets to me from its origin) and trade value (what is exchanged)
  • Manufacturers (who “adds value” to my food before I get it) and trade value (what is exchanged)
  • What it’s worth to me (what I am willing to trade for what I get)
  • Reflection (what I think/feel about what I found out about where my food comes from and what gets traded for it)

Composing My Thoughts

  • Audience (who I want to communicate with, what they already believe about people and their food)
  • Message (what I want to say about myself and my food)
  • Goals (what I want my audience to believe or understand after reading my composition)
  • Tools (appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos)

Using Templates

Expository writing

  • Purpose
  • Form

First paragraph

  • Purpose
  • Form

Second paragraph

  • Purpose
  • Form

Etc.

Final paragraph

  • Purpose
  • Form

Citing sources

  • Purpose
  • Form

Presentation style

  • Purpose
  • Form

What I Learned (pick one or two)

  • About writing
  • About learning
  • About making knowledge or identifying facts
  • About how to communicate with others
  • About how others communicate with me
  • About society (how people negotiate standards/ethics for living, making, trading, consuming)
  • About my role and my choices in society
  • About myself, how I think and feel, my standards/ethics

Process #2

Responding to Others’ Writing About Themselves and What They Make/Consume (Not Just Food)

“. . . [F]aith in reason is not only a faith in our own reason but also—and even more—in that of others. Thus a rationalist, even if he believes himself to be intellectually superior to others, will reject all claims to authority since he is aware that, if his intelligence is superior to that of others (which is hard for him to judge), it is so only in so far as he is capable of learning from criticism as well as from his own and other people’s mistakes, and that one can learn in this sense only if one takes others and their arguments seriously. Rationalism is therefore bound up with the idea that the other fellow has a right to be heard, and to defend his arguments.” (Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2., 5th ed. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press, 1966: 238.)

Making Sense of What Others Say

  • Brainstorming
  • Bubble charts
  • Lists
  • Freewriting
  • Journaling
  • Mapping
  • Reflection (what I think/feel about this writer and her/his choices)

Summarizing What Others Say

  • Writing summary paragraphs
  • Writing summary essays

Tracing Connections

  • Writing essays that compare/contrast the writer’s view/experience with my view/experience
  • Writing essays that compare/contrast the writer’s view/experience with another writer’s view/experience

What I Learned (pick one or two)

  • About writing
  • About learning
  • About making knowledge or identifying facts
  • About how to communicate with others
  • About how others communicate with me
  • About society (how people negotiate standards/ethics for living, making, trading, consuming)
  • About my role and my choices in society
  • About myself, how I think and feel, my standards/ethics

Process #3

Persuading Others About the Ethics of Making and Consuming

“There are two ways, recognized in all ages, by which social order may be brought about: persuasion and compulsion.” (Glen R. Morrow, “Plato’s Conception of Persuasion.” In The Philosophical Review, Vol. 62, No. 2 [Apr., 1953]: 234. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.)

Using Process #1

Using Process #2

Principles of Persuasion

  • Audience (who I want to communicate with, what they already believe about my topic)
  • Message (what I want to say about my topic)
  • Goals (what I want my audience to believe or understand after reading my composition)
  • Tools (appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos)

Strategies of Persuasion

  • Persuasion Strategy worksheet
  • Writing proposals for persuasive writing

Persuasive Writing

Writing persuasive essays

What I Learned (pick one or two)

  • About writing
  • About learning
  • About making knowledge or identifying facts
  • About how to communicate with others
  • About how others communicate with me
  • About society (how people negotiate standards/ethics for living, making, trading, consuming)
  • About my role and my choices in society
  • About myself, how I think and feel, my standards/ethics
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