Michael Robbins, professor of English

Michael Robbins, tenured professor of English composition, is using the Jessie and Eugene Drey Endowment of English-Speaking Union Chair in English and Humanities to investigate shifting Valencia’s approach to ENC1102 (Composition II) to a critical thinking and argumentation course. He says “We currently focus on using literature to teach research method in Composition II; this does not align well with other college and university programs, nor do I think it allows us to better teach higher level analytical skills to students.” His goal is to develop a model for Composition II using critical thinking and argumentation course work. He continues, “It is my hope that this will assist in better teaching students how to foster more accepting attitudes of diverse views and perspectives.”

“As a faculty member, I would like to better learn how to integrate both critical thinking skills into the learning objectives for Composition II. Specifically, I’d like to develop my ability to explain what critical thinking entails to the student, but most importantly how to efficiently practice critical thinking—that is, to move away from what Gerald Nosich [professor at Buffalo State, member of ‘the critical thinking community’] describes as black-and-white thinking, and get the student engaged in the practice of synthesizing and accepting multiple views, and analyzing what those views mean.”

He will assess the project by comparing a baseline Composition II course (literature-based) with a Composition II course that utilizes course material focused on critical thinking and argumentation (specifically, he will use Gerald Nosich’s book Learning to Think Things Through and Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say).

The objective will be to collect qualitative data from student essays, assessing whether the material reflects critical thinking skills (such as establishing personal views, valuing alternate views, and basing views on researched material). “I will compare this to what I am able to learn by attending the Thirty-fifth International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform.

“In ENC1102, students are required to demonstrate the following skills: Information Literacy, Critical Thinking, and Written Communication. My ability to better teach critical thinking skills, as well as our use of course material focused on critical thinking and synthesizing alternate views, will be clearly focused on both Critical Thinking and Information Literacy. The students will be able to better articulate their own views, as well as synthesize the views of others.”

Professor Robbins teaches at the Osceola campus.

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