Critical Thinking in Expository Writing

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Critical Thinking in Expository Writing Paul Nerney Centre for English Language Communication National University of Singapore

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Critical thinking as “a form of indoctrination” (Postman 1992)? Critical thinking as teacher narrated and student regurgitated knowledge? Source: Google images. nd . Images for ‘critical thinking’, http://www.google.com.sg/search?as_q=&hl=en&tbm=isch&btnG=Google+Search&as_epq=critical+thinking . Accessed April 18, 2011. Source: Google images. nd . Images for ‘critical thinking’, http://www.google.com.sg/search?as_q=&hl=en&tbm=isch&btnG=Google+Search&as_epq=critical+thinking . Accessed April 18, 2011. Introduction: A puzzle

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Two questions addressed in the talk Can we integrate critical thinking into content subjects ? How can we embed critical thinking into the production of texts ? Questions not addressed in the talk What are effective ways to help students set goals that linearize the inherent recursive nature of writing ? What are effective ways to help students construct planning and drafting strategies to carry out these goals ? What are effective ways to help students review the success with which they have implemented their planning and drafting strategies?

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Focus of the talk: A response to the second question Building critical thinking into expository writing assignments as you design writing prompts that introduce a writing assignment to students Outline of the talk Critical thinking as a process of problematizing other scholars’ analyses of real world situations Context for embedding critical thinking into writing assignments through an overview of five genres of academic writing with a focus on expository writing Example an of a writing prompts for expository writing assignment

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A definition of critical thinking Critical thinking is a process in which students Analyze how other scholars have analyzed a socially significant real world situation to understand and respond to it in ways meant to help their community meet its needs and Problematize these other scholars’ analyses to construct new understandings and responses that help the community better meet its needs.

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Types of factual writing for observing and interpreting the world Particular General Focus on events Recounts Procedures Focus on things Descriptions Reports Focus on exposition Exposition Observing the world/recording observations as facts/organizing facts into coherent accounts Interpreting facts in coherent accounts to construct understandings of the world

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Birds are vectors of disease—”bad. ” Exposition: Justification why conclusions are true or to be acted upon Conclusion/Thesis (No, they should not.) Bird ownership encourages an illegal trade in exotic birds- “immoral.” Problem/Issue (Should people be allowed to keep birds as pets?) Reasons Evidence Outbreaks of bird flu– “specific instance” Evidence Figures from the Straits Times about smugglers caught at the Woodlands customs checkpoint– “statistics”

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Birds are vectors of disease—”bad. ” Opportunities for embedding critical thinking into expository writing assignments based on expository sources Conclusion/Thesis (No, they should not.) Bird ownership encourages an illegal trade in exotic birds- “immoral.” Testing an old conclusion against new data/information Testing a conclusion assumed to be true for a situation but not yet tested Testing unargued theses Yes, they should. Yes, they should, unless…(a condition modifying the “yes” response). No, they should not, unless…(a condition modifying the “no” response). Problem/Issue (Should people be allowed to keep birds as pets?) Reasons Evidence Outbreaks of bird flu– “specific example” Evidence Figures from the Straits Times about smugglers caught at the Woodlands customs checkpoint– “statistics” Discovering unstated assumptions underlying the analysis of a problem Discovering evidence that challenge a conclusion/thesis or a supporting reason

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Birds are vectors of disease—”bad. ” Example of embedding critical thinking into an expository writing assignment that has students discover the unstated assumptions of a source reading Conclusion/Thesis (No, they should not.) Bird ownership encourages an illegal trade in exotic birds- “immoral.” Problem/Issue (Should people be allowed to keep birds as pets?) Reasons Evidence Outbreaks of bird flu– “specific example” Evidence Figures from the Straits Times about smugglers caught at the Woodlands customs checkpoint– “statistics” Discovering unstated assumptions underlying the analysis of a problem

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