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College Preparation Program: IN FOCUS Seminar

Critical Thinking for College and Beyond

This class introduces students to the types of critical thinking, writing, and speaking that will prepare them for college classes and beyond. We will think very pragmatically about how to interpret texts and images and how to construct successful critical arguments, as well about what goes into composing persuasive college-level essays. But we will also think in broader terms about the ways critical thought and interpretation can enrich our lives as scholars, creators, and citizens.

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  • Dates: June 19 - 30, 2017
  • Instructor: David Wittenberg, PhD is an Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa
  • Enrollment Capacity: 24

Methodology

Assigned texts will include readings in classical and modern rhetorical theory along with contemporary models of literary, cultural, and political analysis. Each day, the class will include an in-depth "mini-lecture" about the assigned readings, an interactive seminar-style discussion of critical and philosophical topics raised, close analysis of selected texts and images, and small-group workshopping and peer-reading of each other's critical writing. The approach will be both eclectic and "hands-on," with students discussing and writing about examples from literature, visual arts, popular culture, architecture, film, politics, and journalism.

Objectives

Students who attend this seminar will:

  • Become familiar with the structure, logic, and historical development of critical thinking and interpretation.
  • Be introduced to methods of critique used in both introductory and upper-level college classes.
  • Learn effective strategies for writing strong, persuasive essays at the college level.
  • Develop skills for critical reading, viewing, and thinking about the world we live.

A Typical Classroom Session

While this session would be a half day held on the Evanston campus, some days will be full days with field trips offsite or on-campus activities. A detailed daily schedule will be provided before the program begins.

9:30–10:15 a.m.:

"The rhetorical structure of arguments (logic, audience, and appeal)": interactive mini-lecture and discussion about assigned readings

10:15–11:15 a.m.:

Hands-on exercises analyzing and critiquing examples from contemporary journalism and media

11:15–11:30 a.m.:

Break

11:30–12:30 p.m.:

"Riffing Off the Other Critic": brief in-class essay assignment and peer-reading/analysis in small groups

12:30–12:45 p.m.:

"Critical Viewing of Film and TV": seminar-style discussion

Possible Field Trips:

  • Film screening and discussions at the Northwestern Library media center/theater.
  • Walking tour and critical discussion of commercial architecture in Evanston. 
  • Visit with guest academics from the Chicago/Northwestern community.

Applicants

This seminar is approppriate for high school students who are interested in college-level critical interpretation and writing. No previous knowledge or background of any of these issues is required.