Critical reasoning/Readings/Orientation

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Orientation to the course

What can I expect to gain from this course?

The course has been designed to give you the opportunity to explore the basic tools of critical reasoning and to empower you to think for yourself.

The ability to think critically is of great value in helping you deal competently with ethical, social and political problems in the work situation and everyday life. In most humanities courses at universities lecturers expect students to understand cultural diversity, to critically evaluate information and knowledge claims and to make responsible decisions. However, students are rarely given the opportunity to acquire these abilities in a systematic way.

The aim of this course is thus to give you the opportunity to acquire critical thinking tools to critically analyse and evaluate knowledge claims. If you work diligently you will acquire the skills to develop a critical attitude to cultural stereotypes and biases. These tools are crucial to making informed decisions so that, when you are faced with difficult situations in your professional or even private lives, you will be able to make appropriate reasoning choices.

In this course you will be asked to use a “hands-on” approach. This means that you will have to actively participate in the learning process by answering questions, participating in activities and even by contributing to the curriculum. In this way, you will develop the competencies needed by an initiate into the community of critical thinkers. Such competencies will help you not only to understand what critical reasoning is about, but also to apply your knowledge and skills to make and to justify choices in difficult situations you may encounter in your work environment, your home life and in interaction with your community. Remember that the skills and knowledge you obtain in the course, Critical Reasoning, can also assist you with your studies of other disciplines, such as Psychology, History, English, Political Science, Communication Science, Health Care, Development Studies, Sociology and Public Administration.

Course overview

The course is divided into six topics. These topics are designed in such a way as to provide you with the opportunity to focus on realistic approaches to solving real-world problems. The Readings, Resources and Activities that comprise the course will act as your coach or mentor and will stress the interrelatedness of the skills you acquire in this course with the skills needed in everyday life. Together with other course participants should take great care to look at the world from multiple perspectives instead of looking at it through only a personal set of biased lenses.

As a student of the OER University, you will often have to do self-analysis and self-evaluation.

Below we provide a very brief overview of the topics covered in the different stages. Although these topics are interrelated, they are also autonomous and each one stands on its own feet, so to speak. This means that you could start with any topic. For instance you could start with Topic 3, explore
Topic 2 and then Topic 4, and so on.

Topic 1: Introduction to critical reasoning

In Topic 1 you are given the opportunity to explore what critical reasoning is and what it means to think for yourself. This topic sets the foundation for everything that follows and should take about 10 hours to complete.

Topic 2: Obstacles to clear thinking

Topic 2 gives you the opportunity to gain insight into a number of common faults (fallacies) in reasoning; you will begin to understand what they are and why they should be avoided. You will get the opportunity to reflect on your own thinking and will start on your journey to develop a critical attitude towards all kinds of stereotypes and biases. Topic 2 should take about 20 hours to complete.

Topic 3: Analysing arguments

Topic 3 is designed as an active space where you can try out your newly acquired skills in identifying and analysing arguments. You will be given the opportunity to deconstruct the components of an argument, discuss the structure of an argument and analyse simple and complex arguments. You need to spend about 25 hours on Topic 3.

Topic 4: Evaluating arguments

In Topic 4 we look at different types of arguments and you will be given ample opportunity to practise your competence at evaluating different kinds of arguments. You need to spend about 25 hours on Topic 4.

Topic 5: The use of arguments in different kinds of writing

In Topic 5 we consider how arguments are constructed. As an initiate, you will construct your own arguments. We will also explore key aspects of writing good critical essays. The competencies acquired here will be of great value to you throughout your studies. On Topic 5, you need to spend about 20 notional hours.

Topic 6: Preparing for formal recognition at Unisa (optional)

Topic 6 is optional. Having worked through Topics 1 to 5 you will have acquired knowledge and skills that you could use in a variety of situations. Topic 6 is targeted at students interested in further studies with Unisa. It provides guidelines on how to prepare for formal recognition of your critical reasoning studies for credit towards a Unisa qualification. It will take about 20 hours to complete.