Critical Thinking And Writing About Literature In The Present

English Courses

Preparatory Reading and Writing

101A Reading, Reasoning, and Writing

Preparation in English for success in college. Integrates reading, critical thinking, and writing assignments, using materials that present a variety of perspectives from across the curriculum. Strongly recommended: Appropriate skill level demonstrated through the English placement process. 3 hours lecture, 2 hours individualized instruction. (4 units)

101B Reading, Reasoning and Writing

Continues preparation in English for success in college. Integrates reading, critical thinking, and writing assignments, using materials that present a variety of perspectives from across the curriculum. Prerequisite: English 101A. 3 hours lecture, 2 hours individualized instruction. (4 units)

102 Reading, Reasoning, and Writing - Accelerated Course*

Emphasis in the development of thinking, reading, organizing, and writing skills, particularly those required for successful execution of college-level papers in all subject areas. Designed for those requiring minimal preparation for entering English 1A. Strongly recommended: Appropriate skill level demonstrated through the English placement process. 3 hours lecture, 2 hours individualized instruction. (4 units)

* English 102 is an accelerated course that combines two semesters into one. Students need to take this course advisedly. If you do not pass this course, you either have to take another 102 class or you need to start over by taking a 101A and then a 101B before you are eligible to take English 1A. 

115 English Skills - Faculty - Student Tutorial

Preparation in English for success in college or career. Self-paced, individualized instruction in reading comprehension and writing effectiveness. You and your English 115 instructor will tailor a learning plan to give you the support you need to more easily succeed in any class that requires reading and writing. (May be repeated 3 times. May enroll through tenth week of instruction.) (.5-4 units)

Composition and Literature Courses

1A Critical Thinking and Composition

Integrated approach to reading, writing, and critical thinking intended to develop ability to read and write complex, college-level prose. Examination of ideas in relation to individuals' world view and contexts from which these ideas arise. Some research required. Prerequisite: English 102 or 101B or an appropriate skill level demonstrated through English placement process. 3 hours. Transfer: CSU, UC, (CAN 2). (3 units)

4 Critical Thinking and Writing About Literature

Develops critical thinking, reading, and writing skills as they apply to the analysis of fiction, (short stories and novel), poetry and drama. Prerequisite: English 1A with a grade of "C" or higher. 3 hours. Transfer: CSU, UC. (3 units).

7 Critical Thinking and Writing Across Disciplines

Develops critical thinking, reading, and writing skills as they apply to the textual analysis of primary and secondary book-length works from a range of academic and cultural contexts. Emphasis on the techniques and principles of effective written argument in research-based writing across disciplines. Prerequisite: English 1A with a grade of "C" or higher. 3 hours. Transfer: CSU, UC. (3 units)

Assessment and Placement

If you have not taken any English classes at Chabot before, you will probably have to go through the English placement process to find out which English course you should take. Click the English Placement Information link in the left column to go to the Chabot webpage to find out about schedules of tests and contact e-mail and phone numbers for answers to your questions.

Critical thinking

What is critical thinking and how do you do it?

Anyone involved in academic study will have asked this question - often repeatedly - and come up against the problem of getting a swift answer. While you could say that critical thinking is at the heart of academic study, it's more of a process, a way of thinking, understanding and expressing ourselves, than a single definable skill (which is why a Critical Thinking Checklist has been included).

When you're asked to 'engage critically' with texts, to 'critically evaluate' a theory or findings, to develop a ‘critical analysis' in your written work, you're being asked to employ a number of skills and demonstrate a number of qualities, at the same time. Understanding what these are - and learning to use them effectively - is something you develop over time and with the help of tutors, lecturers and peers.

Fundamentally, critical thinking is about using your ability to reason. It's about being active (as opposed to passive) in your learning. It means that when you approach an idea, you do so with scepticism and doubt, rather than with unquestioning acceptance. You're always questioning whether the ideas, arguments and findings you're coming across are the whole picture and you're open to finding that they're not. You're identifying, analysing and, where possible, solving problems systematically.

Arguments, here, are not squabbles between people - though they do evaluate other people's ideas: they are the way in which ideas are developed and organised into a line of reasoning which moves in a logical order to the conclusion and which aims to persuade the reader or listener of the validity of the point of view presented. Being able to discern and create structured, reasoned arguments is central to critical thinking.

"Good critical thinking includes recognising good arguments even when we disagree with them, and poor arguments even when these support our own point of view."
Cottrell, S. (2005) Critical Thinking Skills p47 New York, Palgrave.

What all this means is that:

  • You're constantly evaluating what you read, hear, think, experience and observe. 
  • You're assessing how well ideas, statements, claims, arguments and findings are backed up so that you can make a reasoned judgement about how convincing they are.

Chloe and Donna

Second year Geography

View Chloe and Donna's student perspective

Transcript

To me critical thinking means that when I read something I don't just agree with it and I'm not just a sponge basically; I'm not just absorbing whatever I am taking in and saying ‘yeah I agree with that'. Even when I read two things saying completely different things, the arguments are polar opposites, and I have agreed with them both and I've thought, I can't agree with them both. It is easy to get lulled into just agreeing with what an academic says because they write it so persuasively and they write it so eloquently but what you need to do is establish what you think about a particular topic. So, before you start the reading, think to yourself ‘what is my point of view on this?' and think do you agree with what that author is saying or is the author using a narrow set of examples to back up their arguments? Don't be afraid to criticise people who are published, even if it's your own lecturer's book, if you don't agree with what they've written don't be afraid to say that because what that shows is that you are thinking critically.

Kalim

Third year English literature

View Kalim's student perspective

Transcript

So I think one thing that's important throughout all courses is critical thinking and analysing arguments. It's not an entirely new thing coming to uni but it's definitely something that I found I needed to improve and use a lot more at uni. I found that A level was a bit like GCSE in a sense, in that you had to jump through hoops and you had clear like learning objectives. Whereas at university that's not so obvious - it's not like you just have to do these things, you have to write an essay that does this and does that. There's more freedom in what you can choose to do and it's all judged by a similar kind of method of how strong your argument is, how sound your logic is or your reasoning and also how well you've evidenced things and researched things. I think since I've been at university I've learnt to make less generalisations in essays and also not just that, but to learn that things I didn't think were generalisations, are actually generalisations and you can be a lot more specific about things and it should be. And it's hard, it's really hard that's why essays take me so long to write because I love to speak about things in seminars and think about things but it's really hard constructing a really well argued, robust argument and really well expressed. It's a really hard thing to do and I think you've got to accept that and give yourself enough time to be able to do it. I'd like to say it gets easier as you go along, it doesn't necessarily get easier, I think you get better at it but it still is hard.

Milan

Second year History and Film Studies student

View Milan's student perspective

Transcript

In terms of developing my critical thinking, I look at the subject or topic matter and then I try to understand the basic background first. When I go to the reading I have to keep reminding myself whilst reading what the angle is of the author who has written this. Why have they said this? What are they attempting to make us question while reading it? Are they right in what they say ? Are they wrong in what they say? And at the end of the reading you should be able to have kept those things at the back of your mind and have developed your own critical thinking which may agree with what the author has said or completely the opposite but it really depends on looking at the angles of the text, the subject matter and what the subject matter means to you.

How can I criticise what the experts say?

Initially, students often feel anxious about criticising ideas, evidence etc. that they come across in their reading or in lectures. Some may feel that it's disrespectful to criticise or challenge what established academics present in their work. What you need to remember here is that you're not being critical in the sense of being negative (although you might be!). And you're certainly not rubbishing ideas without any back-up to what you say.

Critical thinking is not just about what you think, it's about what you think and argue. You're being critical in the sense of analysing ideas, observations, experience and reasons, exploring the evidence and carefully considering whether something makes sense and is accurate.

Maybe you'll be considering whether ideas or findings can be applied in a particular context and, if so, how useful or effective this would be. A lot of the time you'll be drawing on what other academics have to say about a subject, comparing or setting these authors' ideas and reasons against each other in order to come up with your critique of the subject.

When will I need critical thinking skills?

At university you will need to demonstrate your critical thinking skills in a variety of areas:

  • Critical reading - When reading, you need to ask questions about the text. This will keep you focused, and help you to develop an understanding of the text. If you have not done so you may find it helpful to visit, Reading strategies
  • Evaluating arguments -When reading a text containing an argument, you need to evaluate whether it makes sense and is well supported. To practise this skill visit the Evaluating arguments page in this section.
  • Critical writing - When writing, you need to make sure that your writing is clear and your argument is well structured. For help with this, visit Critical essay writing.

There's a lot of overlapping and interdependence of skills in these areas, eg effective critical writers apply their critical reading skills to their own, as well as other people's work. And it's hard to see how you could evaluate an argument if you haven't been able to discern, in your reading, exactly what the line of reasoning is.

Don't expect to become an instant expert in critical thinking. Just as critical thinking itself is a process, becoming a critical thinker is a process.

Remember - it's always all right to ask for help in understanding exactly what is being asked of you. Everyone has to learn the key academic study skills they use to think, read and write critically.

Doubting what you hear, think, believe, observe, read and experience is central to being a successful critical thinker. Keep asking those questions!

Explore ideas and observations you come across by ‘talking through' your responses, questions and criticisms with other students, friends - anyone who'll listen! (Talking into a dictaphone can work well, too.)

Copyright © Moira Wilson 2009 All rights reserved

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