Course Catalog Information
Logic and Reasoning-Honors
Methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments of all types. Uses both informal and formal techniques. Identifies informal fallacies and introduces elementary symbolic logic.
A-F (allow student to choose S/U option)
Honors eligibility required.
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Honors Course Information
This course introduces formal and informal logic and critical thinking skills. The course is designed so that the students teach themselves the material as much as possible, either outside class in reading and homework assignments, or in class in small groups, with the instructor available to coach, troubleshoot, and encourage.
My teaching style is highly interactive, with relatively little lecture and ample discussion. E.g., rather than always developing examples of concepts myself, I ask students to suggest potential examples and we hone them together. Rather than providing mnemonics, I ask students to come up with their own ways of absorbing and remembering the material and to share them with their peers. In short, students are encouraged to actively engage with the classroom material, and not permitted to think of class time as a time when they are passive and the teacher is active.
As you see from the syllabus, although I do cover a sequence of topics, I do not set the pace in advance. This method works very nicely with small groups of honors students. We can linger longer on topics that are more interesting to this group of students, or more difficult for this group of students, and move on quickly from topics that are easily grasped by this group. We can also be responsive to current events and issues, for example, applying the critical thinking skills we learn to news stories that come up during the semester.
I encourage finding ways to apply the critical thinking and logical skills we learn to real life problems -- like making a medical decision, or deciding the expected utility of buying an extended warranty for an electronic product; and I encourage students to identify for themselves times when the skills we are acquiring might be useful, in their majors and in their lives as a whole.
A guiding question at the beginning of the course is: What kind of person do they want to be? This is a very different question than the question of what they want to do, as a profession, and they have remarkably thoughtful answers. They often mention qualities of character or roles that are important to them, and as we go we discuss ways in which logic and critical thinking can help them become the type of person they wish to be.
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For learning logic and critical thinking, regular practice and self-teaching is crucial. For this reason, there is homework due every class day. The students grade half the homework themselves, from the book's answer guide, thus encouraging them to identify mistakes immediately and work out an alternative method of tackling the assignment. This method encourages self-reliance.
Other homework assignments might ask them to identify an argument form we have discussed in a magazine or newspaper article, or analyze a problem using the skills we learn in class.
Writing Intensive Course Information
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