GE372Research and Writing Instructor: Neal Peters Week One—Thinking About Thinking
What’s happening today?12/7/09 Introductions—you, me. Pep talk—how to succeed in class Course description/ syllabus Review of major assignments/ Course Overview Lecture In-class writing assignment
Instructor Information Neal Peters, MFA Eastern Washington University. Phone: (208) 665-5067 Email: NJPeters@itt-tech.edu Email is the best way to contact me.
Who are You Introduce yourself—what are you studying at ITT and what’s a good book or movie you’ve read/seen recently.
The Pep Talk –Reading materials for the week should be read BEFORE class. In-class work cannot be made up. I didn’t make this rule up, they did. Because this is an 11-week course, papers should not be turned in late. I know that sucks…but sometimes that’s life.
I also understand that sometimes life happens. If you are running behind, at least turn in your assignment late. Better late than never. To help incentify you to turn in papers on time, late papers will be automatically reduced one letter grade. But at least turn in the assignment. A “B” is better than an “F.” What should I expect of my instructor? •How much preparation time should I spend out of class? At least one hour out of class for every hour spent in class. That means you will probably work at least four hours reading and writing per week in addition to class. •Why do I need an English class? I’m offended that you would ask such a question. •How should I take notes? Everyone should develop his or her own notetaking style. Ask me if you want advice on this. I’m a big fan of composition books. They’re durable, and they keep all my notes in one place. Some people like legal pads or loose-leaf notebooks or using laptops. Discover what works for you. You’re in college. Get used to taking notes. •In-class laptop use is acceptable for note taking only—no email or games or your cousin’s latest YouTube post or whatever else. And please no texting during class. I know that sucks but we might as well maximize the time we’re together. •If you are ever struggling in class with the material or assignments, please see me. I am available at class breaks, after class, and via email/phone. Let’s watch a video about why you shouldn't use a laptop in class: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zuDXzVYZ68
Typical class structure Classes will include a mix of lecture/discussion, in-class writing and group projects. Students will have read the assigned material BEFORE class. 10-minute break at the top of ever hour.
Plagiarism Fight the temptation—you will be caught. I have a zero tolerance for plagiarism. See your handbook for official ITT plagiarism policies. The key to successful writing is to start early and revise revise revise revise revise. Don’t procrastinate. There are many resources available to you—LRC, Library, your instructor. If you are struggling, see me. I am here to help. Let’s look at the syllabus.
Today’s Exciting Discussion Topic:Thinking About Thinking Today we’re going to explore how to examine the problem solving you perform every day. We’ll look at the two phases of problem solving: creative thinking and critical thinking. Contrary to what you currently believe or what you have been taught: (insert car salesperson voice here) Thinking abilities are not fixed—you can become better thinkers and develop better thinking habits.
Thinking About Thinking Critical and creative thinking are activities awe should engage in every day. They are not only reserved for homework assignments or for particular situations at work. We enrich our own lives as well as those of people around us by fully engaging our minds in even the simplest tasks. However simple thinking seems to be (like breathing, for instance), analyzing the thinking process helpsus do it better.
Thinking About Thinking Things to think about during today’s lecture: Is thinking an activity that is done automatically, without conscious effort, or one that we can direct? Is daydreaming a kind of thinking? Do exceptional thinkers experience mental blocks, lapses in concentration, and confusion the same way average thinkers do? What do you think? Can thinking skills be acquired, or does one have to be born with it? What do you think?
Thinking About Thinking Read about Claude and Agatha on pp1-2
What is thinking? Thinking is a purposeful mental activity over which we exercise some control. Daydreaming is a good example of pre-thinking—it’s not really thinking. Our mind’s movements become thinking only when we direct them. There are, of course, many different purposes in thinking…duh. Thinking does not always have to be conscious. The unconscious mind can join in purposeful mental activity. Insights often come to us when we are no longer working on a problem but have turned away from it to other activities. I’m sure everyone has experienced this…
What is thinking? So… Thinking is any mental activity that helps us formulate or solve a problem, make a decision, or fulfill a desire to understand. It is a searching for answers, a reaching for meaning. Thinking includes: careful observation, remembering, wondering, imagining, inquiring, interpreting, evaluating, judging, etc.
The importance of thinking Successful problem solving and issue analysis require factual knowledge. I.e., familiarity with the historical context of the problem or issue and an understanding of relevant principles and concepts. To be a problem solver, you will need both factual knowledge and a proficiency in thinking. Facts alone will not cut it.
Brain and Mind at Work Thinking occurs in patters that we can study and compare to determine their relative objectivity, validity, and effectiveness. This knowledge can be used to reinforce good thinking habits and to overcome bad ones.
The Production Phase In this phase, the mind produces various conceptions of the problem or issue, various ways of dealing with it, and possible solutions or responses to it. Good thinkers produce both more ideas and better ideas than poor thinkers. Good thinkers tend to see problems from many perspectives before choosing any one before turning to judgment.
The Judgment Phase In this phase, the mind examines and evaluates what it has produced, makes judgments, and, where appropriate, adds refinements. Good thinkers handle this phase with care. Good thinkers base their conclusions on evidence rather than their own feelings. Sensitive to their own limitations and predispositions, good thinkers double-check the logic of their thinking and the workability of their solutions in this stage.
Good Thinking is a Habit Effective thinking is mostly a matter of habit. Some people might be born with better thinking skills than others, but everyone works at it, even seemingly natural born thinkers. Beethoven wrote fragments of notes in notebooks, often reworking and polishing them for years. His first ideas were so clumsy that scholars marvel at how he could have developed such great music from them. Your best approach is not to assume that your work habits fit your needs but to experiment a little and find out what works best for you. What you find may not make a dramatic difference, but even modest improvements in proficiency will continue to pay dividends over the years.
Good Thinking is a Habit Consider time An hour of prime time will often get better results than two or three hours of the wrong time. When are you most productive? Do your homework then. You know yourself best. Consider place Where do you work best? Alone? In a parked car? At the coffee shop? At the library? At the kitchen table with a laptop? Consider conditions Soft music? A dog at your feet? Sunglasses? A walk around the lake? Emotion and interest help you apply creativity to projects. Emotion also can get in the way of creative solutions on difficult issues. Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake. -Wallace Stevens
Learning to Concentrate Many people have the notion that concentration means a constant, unbroken line of thought. They imagine that scientists, writers, inventors, and philosophers start from point A and move smoothly to point B without distraction. This notion is incorrect. Remember: Concentration is not so much something done to prevent distraction and interruption as it is something done to overcome distraction and interruption when they occur. To concentrate means to return our attention to our purpose or problem whenever it wanders.
Coping with Frustration All thinkers have their fair share of frustration: Confusion, mental blocks, false starts and failures happen to everyone. Good thinkers, however, have learned strategies for dealing with their frustration while poor thinkers merely lament it—thus allowing themselves to be defeated by it. See examples on p 10. Two columns.
In-class Writing exercise Write a two page, double spaced paper that describes how you solved a problem. Any problem. Provide specific examples and details of how you used both creative and critical thinking.
Homework for next timeThere will be a quiz on this next time—as long as you complete the reading you will perform well on the quiz Chapter 2, "Establish a Foundation," pages 21-39 in The Art of Thinking. In the ITT Tech Virtual Library: • Hereen, Fred. “The Lynching of Bill Dembski.” American Spectator 33, Issue 9 (2000): 44-50. • Shipman, Pat. “Being Stalked by Intelligent Design.” American Scientist 93, Issue 6 (2005): 500-502. Anyone need help with the ITT virtual library? See me now. Maybe we should go there just in case.