2021年4月14日 4 14, 2021 EVENT REPORT TALK workshops
EVENT REPORT: Critical Thinking in Political Theory: Addressing Incommensurability
Access the recording of the event here.
Speaker: Allyn Fives is a lecturer in political theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He specialises in moral and political philosophy, with a particular interest in moral conflict, pluralism, political realism, and issues of power including parental power and the rights and liberties of children. He was Chair of the University’s Research Ethics Committee (2013- 2017) and is Director of the MA in Politics and Sociology.
Format: Zoom workshop (link will be sent to all registered participants the day before the workshop)
Global Faculty Development Workshop: ‘Critical Thinking in Political Theory: Addressing Incommensurability’ with Dr. Allyn FivesAccess the recording of the event here.
Report by Cecilia Grandi-Nagashiro
On April 14, 2021, GFD had the pleasure of hosting a seminar on critical thinking by Dr. Allyn Fives who is a lecturer in political theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Dr. Allyn started his talk by explaining how faculty is developed in Galway University, in which the objective of their faculty preparation course is to encourage deep learning beyond strategic learning, along with reinforcing the idea of constructive alignment. He then talked about his learnings while teaching, in this context he highlighted three main things he has learned over the years, the role of knowing students, addressing expectations, and the value of introducing interactive activities in his teaching.
He then talked about his area of expertise, political theory, and how in this field, there are two main ways to approach issues, political and philosophical. These two main ways are expected students to master when learning about political theory. In this context, he highlighted the learning outcomes of his course: demonstrate critical thinking, identify concepts and questions, and analysis of practical problems. The core of all these three requirements is critical thinking which he defined as meta-cognitive awareness, i.e. thinking about thinking. Then, he mentioned that when teaching critical thinking, his main request to students is for them to be in control of the way they think. The pedagogy of this is to promote and encourage proper critical thinking. Moreover, as part of the course activities, he encouraged his students to interpret chapters of books, and the other one is to apply critical thinking to normative judgment. For example, about justice and political power.
In his experience, he learned that introducing critical thinking in a systematic way was crucial for the success of his course. The systematic approach he has been applying in his teaching has three main parts, first to understand the difference between knowledge and belief, second to know how to analyze the strength of an argument, and third, to apply these two skills to analyze an argument. To illustrate his previous points he introduced an activity where participants were asked to discuss two claims and explain why they thought these were right or wrong. Then participants discussed for 5 minutes and shared their outcomes.
He used the outcome of this exercise to introduce the issue of incommensurability, which commonly emerges when teaching critical thinking. In the classroom, regarding incommensurability, we assume that there can be different kinds of truths but these cannot be considered knowledge. The second assumption has to do with the co-construction of knowledge and how learning is impacted by it. He then introduced another quick exercise to show how we deal with incommensurability and reconcile seemingly opposing views.
Subsequently, he talked about his experience of teaching incommensurability in political thinking with a colleague and how their findings will be soon published. Here, he highlighted some of his findings while collaborating in this topic, which was the birth of the concept of epistemic toleration while trying to reconcile incommensurability between ideas. Which, he then applied in his course by asking the students to use this perspective to engage in discussions about different ideas. Finally, he mentioned that at the moment his colleague and him are aiming at new learning outcomes based on asking students to find different approaches to critical thinking. Likewise, to close his talk, he mentioned that he hopes his research on multiple revisions of his course can become a useful learning resource for the students in the future.