Critical thinking

Grants awarded to strengthen undergraduates' analytical skills

The Critical Thinking Program has awarded funding to nine faculty members to support the development of courses designed to promote undergraduates' reasoning and analytic abilities.

The program, now in its fifth year at Tufts, holds workshops during the academic year for faculty interested in exploring strategies for teaching their subject matter in ways that incorporate the explicit teaching of thinking skills. The grants are offered as an incentive for faculty to revise courses or develop new ones that are infused with these skills. Faculty awarded stipends work in consultation with Susan Russinoff, director of the Critical Thinking Program.

The 2002 award recipients and their projects are:

Mark Hernandez, assistant professor of Spanish. "The U.S.-Mexico Borderlands" is a new interdisciplinary seminar that explores the genesis of the borderland region and its salient issues from the early 16th century through the late 20th century as represented in historical narratives and documents, literature, film and music. Students from history, anthropology and sociology, international relations and cultural studies will look critically at a broad array of issues.

Henry Kim, assistant professor of economics. "Topics in International Finance" is a new seminar course that uses case studies to help students gain a deeper understanding of economic issues, including international risk sharing, regional monetary arrangement and global capital flows. Seminar participants will engage in debates and individual research projects.

Gary Leupp, associate professor of history. In the new course, "History of U.S. Imperialism in Asia," an examination of the interplay of economics, politics, culture and military action, students acquire and use the critical analytical skills required for any academic study of history.

Margaret Lynch, lecturer in biology. A revision of the course "Plant Biotechnology" examines the debate between agrobiotechnology and environmental organizations concerning the risks and benefits associated with genetically modified organisms. Particular attention will be paid to evaluating the scientific rigor of experimental design, data collection and interpretation of experimental results.

Gary McKissick, assistant professor of political science and community health. "Issues in American Public Policy" has been revised to engage students more fully in thinking critically about public policy. Students will explore what public policy is and how it is made, with attention paid to the tensions between the "rational" and "socially constructed" perspectives. Students will strengthen their ability to think about standards of evidence, problems of measurement, causal argumentation and how evidence is and should be used to advance policy objectives.

Lynne Pepall, associate professor of economics. A new course, "Economics of Advertising," brings an analytical perspective to a familiar topic. The course focuses on the incentives firms have to engage in advertising and its role in the economy. In addition to gaining an understanding of the phenomenon of advertising, students will look at various examples of ads with a critical eye, detecting informal fallacies.

Jeffrey Taliaferro, assistant professor of political science. "International Relations," which introduces students to the major themes, concepts and theoretical debates in the field, is revised to foster more critical and analytic thinking skills, helping students to construct strong arguments and providing the analytic tools necessary to conduct research. Students will participate in a simulation of an historical debate.

Tina Wasserman, Visual and Critical Studies. "Haunted by History: The Holocaust and Vietnam in the Cinematic Imagination," a new course, critically reviews two traumatic and catastrophic events of the 20th century as they have been depicted through film.

Adriana Zavala, assistant professor of art history. "Latin American Cinema" is a new course that looks at the development of national film industries in Latin America, with an emphasis on Mexico, Brazil and Cuba. Students will learn to analyze how films work as visual media and how the visual aspects of film inform storytelling.