Believing Critically: Re-Envisioning Student Belief Structures as Foundations of Critical Thinking
AuthorBrown, Christopher Michael
AdvisorMcAllister, Ken S.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis project argues that college writing pedagogy can encourage and facilitate critical thinking by enabling students to pursue inquiries grounded in, and guided by, their own strongly held beliefs. Chapter 1 introduces my definition of critical thinking as the practice of examining received knowledge from a distance necessary to question and, if necessary, revise that knowledge. I proceed to show how beliefs, or ideas taken for granted, can serve as foundations for critical thinking. Extending Jeffrey M. Ringer’s notion that belief in the truth of an idea may prompt inquiry into the reality behind that idea, I show how inquiry rooted in belief can entail questioning and revising existing accounts of the realities to which belief lays claim. Chapter 2 shows how James Berlin’s writing pedagogy grounds critical thinking in students’ beliefs by positioning critique of ideology in the discourses of mass media as a necessary step in students’ production of those same discourses. Chapter 3 shows how an assignment called a “conversion narrative” grounds critical thinking in belief by requiring students to explain how their beliefs have changed over time. Working through multiple drafts of their writing, students identify the unstated assumptions on which the logical cohesion of their narratives rest and, based on their findings, revise their narratives to construct a believable and compelling account of conversion. Chapter 4 outlines an assignment called a community profile, in which students analyze a genre of communication used within a community who shares their beliefs, in preparation for creating their own, original document in that genre. Students explain how the rules, conventions, and rhetorical strategies that characterize their chosen genre reflect and reinforce the beliefs of the community who uses that genre. Here, belief is grounded in critical thinking insofar as genre analysis provided students with new insight into their beliefs—specifically, into the ways that fellow believers communicate to achieve shared goals. In Chapter 5, I acknowledge that writing pedagogy that grounds critical thinking in preexisting student beliefs may become complicit with those beliefs. At the same time, I argue that such complicity is likely an inevitable feature of pedagogies that prioritize the teaching of academic inquiry.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English