How to encourage better thinking in the classroom?

Apropos of the Tenured Radical’s tips, the  philosophy teaching blog In Socrates’ Wake has been offering its own teaching suggestions for graduate TAs, where I found an interesting set of meta-questions for those looking to teach their students how to elaborate and refine their thought, either in discussion or in writing (courtesy of David Hunter). 

The questions themselves model the process of elaboration pretty well, but I also appreciated the headings used to organize the questions in this document: Clarity and Precision; Accuracy; Relevance and Significance; Fairness; Depth; Thinking Together; Flexible Thinking; Creativity; Commitment to Good Reasoning; Seeking Greater Understanding; Reflection; Questioning.  These provide a pretty good picture of the values I’d think a good teacher would be trying to impart to a roomful of college students.  And, of course, part of the challenge is to show in your own teaching practices how you simultaneously respect such notions as “flexible thinking” AND “accuracy,” when a student challenges your formulations. 

Any suggestions for those who wish to improve the quality of discussion in their classes?

DM

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