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Introduction to the course

Welcome to the University of Auckland's Critical Thinking course. I'm Tim Dare. And I'm Patrick Girard. And we'll be teaching this course.
Welcome to the University of Auckland’s Critical Thinking course. I’m Tim Dare. And I’m Patrick Girard. And we’ll be teaching this course. There are two things that we hope you will learn from this course. First– how to tell good reasoning from bad reasoning and how to apply that to your own reasoning and to the reasoning of other people. And second– how to construct chains of reasoning or arguments that are logical and, therefore, more likely to convince people. We’ll be focusing on the first of these tasks. But we’ll do a bit of the second, as well. And to some extent, the two skills come together.
If you can tell good reasoning from bad, you’re more likely to be able to construct good, logical chains of reasoning. But before we begin, here is some information about the course. The course will last eight weeks. Each week contains a set of activities in which we introduce relevant material. Some activities are based on videos and some on articles. And there are corresponding exercises which go with them. The first week discusses what critical and logical thinking are. and shows you some common obstacles to good reasoning. In weeks two to four, we give you the fundamental logical tools to evaluate arguments. In weeks five to seven, we will see how these tools are applied in science, law, and morality.
In week eight, we will go over a case study, consolidating what you’ve learned in the course. You could do the course by what we might call the minimal route– just watching the videos and reading the articles. But to really develop proper logical and critical thinking skills, you will want to be much more involved in the course, to complete the quizzes, to work on the various exercises and activities that we’ve prepared for you. And we’d really like you to participate in the discussion forums. We encourage peer learning. And much of that will take place in the discussion forums. We’ll keep an eye on those forums. But they won’t be extensively moderated.
So it’s up to you to keep the tone friendly, respectful, and inclusive so that everyone feels comfortable contributing. Make sure your comments are constructive and respond to the content of the arguments, not to the individual. We’ll see that one of the common errors is what we call the ad hominem fallacy– attacking the person, not the argument. And of course, we don’t want to do that. The point of promoting a friendly, respectful, and inclusive tone is to encourage you to become involved and to feel free to say what you think. So do take that opportunity. And while Tim doesn’t know what trolling is, I do. And it won’t be tolerated. Well, that’s the formalities out of the way.
In the next clip, we’re going to explain what critical thinking is. We’ll talk about the problems, of course, that critical thinking might address and what you learn from the course. So get ready for an interesting trip through the tangle of logical and critical thinking and to learn some important things along the way.
This course aims to help you develop and improve your logical and critical thinking skills and to identify common obstacles to effective logical and critical thinking. The key concepts are illustrated with real-life examples via a combination of videos, articles and interactive exercises. The course supports peer learning through discussions that encourage the sharing of ideas and experiences from a wide variety of contexts.

Course structure

We begin with an introduction to logical and critical thinking and common obstacles and fallacies.
In Week 2 Patrick introduces arguments. We learn to identify premises and conclusions – components of a good argument – and by the end of this week we’ll be able to construct an argument in standard form.
In Week 3 we will learn how to distinguish between deductive and non-deductive arguments and about validity, invalidity, strength and weakness.
In Week 4 we examine good and bad arguments in more detail, learning how to tell when an argument is sound or cogent, and how to evaluate an argument.
Weeks 5-7 examine three familiar areas – science, law, and morality – that call upon our logical and critical thinking skills in ways appropriate to the particular demands of those areas.
Finally in Week 8 we will apply the lessons of the course to an argument “in the wild”, seeing how the skills we have developed over our eight-week journey can be used in our own lives.
There will also be opportunity to interact with your course facilitator or the lead educators.

The teaching team

Course communication

  • Comments and discussion: Please use the comments sections to engage with fellow learners and share your experiences. The educators may also join discussions and conversations at least once every week. If you follow them you can see all their posts. (You will learn about the ability to ‘follow’ people alongside FutureLearn guidelines on the use of social learning tools in the next step.)
In the comments sections on this course you’ll see a search bar. You can search to see if other learners have been talking about a particular topic on a step, and if not then you can be the first to discuss it.
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Logical and Critical Thinking

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