In Aug. 2018, ProCon.org presented its 10th annual Critical Thinking Seminar for students attending the Junior State of America's Gene Burd Symposium on Media & Politics at UCLA. Each year we have found that students change their minds on an issue after they take the time to evaluate both sides using a set of criteria designed to stimulate critical thinking.
The example below is from our July 28, 2014 critical thinking seminar. Before and after the session, students were asked "Are social networking sites good for society?" The difference in their votes helps to prove that critical thinking makes a difference.
120 high school students
3 staff and 1 intern
180 minutes of footage
6:17 video created
—LESSON PLAN IDEA FOR EDUCATORS—
OVERVIEW: The seminar revolves around a hotly debated topic, such as the pros and cons of social networking or illegal immigration. The students analyze several pro and con quotations from experts to improve their media literacy. They work together in small groups and engage in a large-group discussion, offering their interpretations and criticisms of the quotes they have read. A rapid-fire brainstorming session follows, during which they build their own lists of pro and con arguments. The impact of the seminar is exemplified by a "before and after" vote on the chosen topic. Students frequently change their positions in the second vote, demonstrating their careful reflection on the arguments from both sides.
Introduction: Explain critical thinking and take a vote on the seminar topic by show of hands (pro, con, or not sure).
The Statements: Explain the criteria for evaluating the arguments, then have students individually read all four quotes.
Small Group Discussion A: Break students into small groups to evaluate the quotes using the provided criteria. Visit each group to facilitate conversation as needed.
Small Group Discussion B: Instruct students to read the three pro and con arguments and come up with their own pros and cons.
Entire Group Discussion: Bring everyone back together to share what their groups discussed.
Independent Scoring Session: Give students a few minutes to reflect on everything they have considered and ask them to score each pro and con quote using the five criteria.
Brainstorming: Ask students to share every pro and con argument that they can think of and write them on the board. Compare the list to the pros and cons on ProCon.org, which will have supporting evidence for each one.
Final Vote: Now that they have analyzed the pros and cons, have students vote again by show of hands and compare the results to the initial vote to see if the class' opinion changed on the topic.
HANDOUT: The 2-page seminar handout includes all the information necessary for teachers to present the program to their own students.