Course Exam—PHIL 252 (Critical Thinking)

PHIL 252 (Critical Thinking) is a three-credit introductory philosophy course that teaches students how to evaluate different arguments and theories. It also teaches students how to accurately apply those arguments and theories and how to draw sound conclusions based around the evidence that the given situation provided. PHIL 252 has no prerequisites.

Critical Thinking is made up of ten units, one assignment weighing fifteen percent, one assignment weighing twenty percent, a critical essay worth twenty-five percent, and a final exam weighing forty percent. The ten units within this course focus on topics such as the language of argumentation, analyzing arguments, syllogistic reasoning (major premise, minor premise, and a conclusion), non-deductive arguments (premises that provide probable, but not conclusive, support for the conclusion), conceptual theories and definitions, fallacies, and empirical theories.

Jill Hunter, the course coordinator for PHIL 252 (Critical Thinking), PHIL 152 (Basics in Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing), PHIL 333 (Professional Ethics), and PHIL 334 (Professional Ethics in Heritage Resources Management), has been with Athabasca since 1989. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 1989 with a Master of Arts degree in philosophy with a specialization in ethics and political philosophy. If you are interested in learning more about PHIL 333, read my Course Exam Article.

Ms. Hunter states, “Through the examination and application of basic methods and principle of logic and sound reasoning, PHIL 252 is designed to develop and improve the skills to successfully analyze and evaluate different kinds of arguments and theories that we encounter in everyday life. Students develop the skills necessary to not only critically assess material they encounter but also to improve their own written work by providing well-reasoned, evidence-based arguments in support of their own positions. Critical thinking skills students develop and improve through taking this course are so fundamental and form the basis for many of our daily decisions, judgements, and activities that doing it well can also be the basis for life long success in general.”

She continues, “There are three assignments and a final exam (which are cumulative).  Each of the assessments tests students’ ability to apply the skills of analysis and evaluation they have learned in the course to written passages. Further, the assignments build the on each other allowing for step-by-step skill development. Also, as with any university course, to be successful, students will need to set aside sufficient time weekly to diligently complete all the readings and exercises. The amount of time may vary depending on the individual student but the key to successfully completing the course is to stick to the study schedule that is included in the course manual.”

When asking for advice for someone currently enrolled in the course or about to enroll, she states “Set aside time weekly to complete the assigned readings and exercises and stick to the study schedule outlined in the course manual. Read comprehensively! Since the course focuses on the analysis and evaluation of arguments and theories in written passages comprehensive reading is extremely important. If you are not already a comprehensive reader you will likely become one by the end of the course. Do all the readings and exercises- It is very important to not only do the assigned reading in the course but it is also extremely important to complete all the exercises. Doing the exercises provides the necessary practice of applying the methods and principles of logic you have learned in the course to written passages. The exercises serve a similar purpose in PHIL 252 as the exercises in a math course and they prepare you to successfully complete the assignments and final exam. Get help if you are having difficulty with the course content! Sometimes students wait too long before contacting their tutors when they need some guidance with the course material. If the answers to selected exercise questions are confusing or unclear, or if you are having difficulty understanding key concepts, please contact your tutor. They are there to help.”

Last, Hunter states “Since critical thinking skills are so fundamental and play such an important role in most of our daily decisions, judgements, and activities I would recommend this course to every university student. This course fosters the development of invaluable skills for the successful completion of any university level course, as students are required to analyze and evaluate what they read and they must provide well-reasoned evidence-based arguments in their own assignments, essays, and course work. The importance of critical thinking skills is widely recognized by AU faculty so it is not surprising that you will find PHIL 252 included in many different programs across the university.”

From personally taking this course I can tell you that it was quite challenging. I believe that the challenge stemmed from having no previous philosophy experience; this course was a completely new subject for me. Though despite the challenge, I believe that this course (and critical thinking in general) is extremely important, as it teaches you to properly analyze arguments, to avoid using fallacies in your arguments, and to accurately draw conclusions. One resource that I found helpful in understanding the different fallacies was Wireless Philosophy on YouTube. However, this is not a course where you will want to ignore the textbook. I attempted that and it resulted in me not doing very well in the course overall. If you set aside enough time to dedicate to the course, though,  I believe that your marks will reflect that.

Whether this course is already a program requirement of yours or if it is just a general interest, it will have you learning interesting and practical concepts that could be used in everyday situations.