module specification

IF3050 - Critical Thinking (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Critical Thinking
Module level Foundation (03)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 150
90 hours Guided independent study
60 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Learning reflection
In-Course Test 80%   In-class test
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Variable All day
Autumn semester North Variable All day

Module summary

This module provides a theoretical and practical introduction to the analysis, evaluation and production of argument.  It will introduce students to the process of developing and supporting ideas and beliefs by evaluating how others do this and by supporting them going through the process themselves.  The module will explore the importance of different points of view and the complexity that surrounds many issues.  It will provide opportunities for students to relate their understanding of critical thinking and their reasoning skills to academic practices in general and, more specifically, to their pathway studies.

Module aims

This module aims to:  
1. clarify what is meant by critical thinking, reasoning and argument
2. explore the importance of examining knowledge critically in academic practice
3. provide the opportunity for students to  apply their understanding  to academic practices in their particular pathways
4. develop students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills so that they are able to assess, appreciate and defend a variety of beliefs and values, in particular:

  • encouraging students to consider the importance of different points of view
  • encouraging  students to recognise the complexity surrounding many issues
  • developing  a rational approach to analysing and evaluating argument
  • developing the skills needed to form and defend well-reasoned arguments, both orally and in writing


The following skills will be taught using a variety of academic reading and audio-visual sources initially based on general themes.  As the module progresses the sources may become more pathway-specific and there will be opportunities for students to develop and practice critical thinking skills in their own areas of interest.  After an initial introduction to critical thinking, the module will follow a circular syllabus, beginning with the analysis, evaluation and construction of short, simple arguments and building up to longer more complex arguments.

Indicative Syllabus:
The meaning of critical thinking, reasoning and argument.  The importance of critical thinking in academic study in HE.

Recognising and analysing argument. 

  • Distinguishing between argument and non-argument
  • Identifying basic argument elements and argument indicators.
  • Recognising and using the language of reasoning.
  • Analysing longer, more complex arguments.

Evaluating argument:

  • Comparing different points of view
  • Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments
  • Assessing the reasonableness of reasons and assumptions
  • Assessing the credibility of claims and sources
  • Assessing the reliability of  evidence
  • Evaluating support  for conclusions 
  • Identifying and explaining flaws and  weaknesses in reasoning
  • Expressing coherent evaluation of argument in writing and orally

Constructing and developing argument:

  • Basic reasoning skills
  • Writing an argument
  • Developing an argument
  • Use of language skills
  • Presenting an argument orally

Challenging and defending argument

Learning and teaching

The module is delivered through taught classes, seminars and debates.   Class work will include individual, pair and group work and will involve producing, presenting and discussing oral and written work.  Group discussions, tutorials and formative feedback will give students the opportunity to reflect upon progress and discuss strategies for developing skills and ideas (60 hrs); Preparation for assessment; self directed study (90 hrs).

Module information including module booklet, timetable, class notes, practice activities, feedback, links to external resources, assessment details and additional resources to support study will be on the VLE.  Students may also be expected to post comments and have on-line discussions through the VLE.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:

1. recognise and analyse argument, identifying a range of argument elements
2. assess the reasonableness of reasons and assumptions, the credibility of claims and sources and the reliability of evidence and examples in order to evaluate argument
3. assess the extent to which argument supports conclusions and identify flaws, weaknesses and strengths in reasoning, in order to evaluate argument.
4. compare the credibility of different arguments
5. construct coherent well-structured arguments that demonstrate an understanding of critical thinking theory, competent reasoning skills and an ability to use the language of reasoning
6. demonstrate the ability to express well-reasoned arguments orally and in writing.
apply an understanding of critical thinking to general academic practices and specific subject practice

Assessment strategy

Assessment for this module will be through a written online submission of 20% and a written in-class test 80%. Students must receive a pass overall.

Formative assessment will take place throughout the module through short written and oral tasks, both group and individual. Feedback will be given by the tutor in group work, in tutorials, on homework tasks and on web learn. Peer assessment will also be used for formative feedback. Following discussion, students will then work with others on the module and with the tutor to revise their work.

Summative assessment for this module will take place through a short submission earlier in the module and a written in-class test at the end of the module.  Students taking a reassessment in the examined component will do so by means of an equivalent coursework submission.


Class resources, practice activities and assessment practice materials will be posted on the VLE.  A general reading list will cover the scope of the course, but students will be encouraged to use the practice activities and links to external resources posted on the VLE, as well as applying the skills practised in class to academic reading and writing in their other areas of study as well as their day to day life.

Brink-Budgen Van Den R. (2000) Critical Thinking for Students, How To Books
Cottrell, S. (2005) Critical Thinking Skills, Palgrave Macmillan
Thomson, A ( 2002) Critical Reasoning – a practical introduction, Routledge

Additional reading:
Bowell, T & Kemp, G (2005) Critical Thinking: a concise guide, Routledge.
Fisher, A. (1998) The logic of real arguments, CUP
Goatly, A (2000) Critical Reading and Writing: an introductory course book, Routledge
Shand, J. (2000) Arguing Well, Routledge