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GSR 984: Thinking Critically - Professional Skills for Global Citizens

Why GSR 984?

It is the theory that decides what we can observe. Or modified slightly, It is our theories and thinking that decides what we can observe." - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

GSR 984: Thinking Critically is a non-credit course for all Masters and Ph.D. students on campus.  This seven-week course will be offered from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on Monday afternoons in the 2015 winter term. The course provides a multidisciplinary and multicultural setting for graduate students to develop the creative and critical thinking skills required for professional practice. 

GSR984 focuses on foundational frameworks of thinking (often invisible to us) that are used for almost everything we do in our personal and professional lives. The key theme, creative and critical thinking involves a process of thinking about thinking in which identifying our assumptions and reflecting to enhance learning and thinking, are built into every session. Each session includes reflective activities to help ensure that the course content and activities remain grounded in the realities of work and life. 

By taking GSR 984 you will:

  • Identify a number of professional skills you need to focus on as you develop your professional and personal goals.
  • Become aware of your conceptual frameworks and develop thinking skills, to identify assumptions and biases in your and other’s thinking.
  • Develop an appreciation of differences in the thinking in diverse disciplines and how to interact within multidisciplinary groups.
  • Learn to appreciate the importance of group dynamics for problem solving and learning.
  • Develop a personal understanding of how disciplinary excellence requires reflection on how you think, what you believe, and how you act

About this Course

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." - Henri Bergson, French Philosopher and Educator
Course Overview

GSR 984 provides a multicultural and multidisciplinary environment in which graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are expected to develop new and unique understandings and skills for their professional and personal lives. Meeting weekly with peers from disciplines across campus in face-to-face small groups, students collectively engage in problem solving of case studies to explore a wide range of professional issues and challenging questions. GSR984 focuses on foundational frameworks of thinking (often invisible to us) that are used for almost everything we do in our personal and professional lives. The key theme, creative and critical thinking, involves a process of thinking about thinking in which identifying our assumptions and reflecting to enhance learning and thinking are integrated into each session. 

Through multidisciplinary and multicultural discussions students uncover their own knowledge frameworks and assumptions. They discover ways in which personality, human thinking, social contexts, cultural beliefs, and fields of study subtly but deeply shape our ways of knowing and acting, often without our awareness. Students develop mutual appreciation of each other’s’ vantage points that enrich their own academic fields, research, friendships, and future professional practice.

The course works to meet concerns expressed by Tri-Council Granting Agencies and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies about the need to include a wide range of professional skills within Canadian graduate programs to enable graduate students to excel in responsibly engaging and leading our complex global communities into the future, to making a difference.

For more information on course topics and discussions, check out our course blog at: Beyond Disciplinary Excellence

If you want to read more about this course and foundational skills, download the  Current issue (PDF icon) Full Course Overview: GSR 984.

Course Instructors & Community of Practice

The format, content, goals, facilitation, and administration of GSR 984 have been discussed and developed via a Community of Practice (CoP). A Community of Practice is a flexible organization made up of a wide range of individuals interested in a common purpose. The GSR 984 CoP benefits from the input of a wide variety of expertises from communities within and outside of the University of Saskatchewan. Other guest facilitators may also lead and participate in some of the discussions.

Course Instructors: Trisha Dowling (Professor, Western College of Veterinary Medicine) & Kim West, Educational Development Specialist, The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness

Graduate Student Facilitator: TBA

Course Requirements & Evaluation
  • Attend all seven sessions (1:00-4:00 p.m., on Monday afternoons in Term 2, 2015). 
  • Come prepared, by reading and interacting with the on-line material (posted on Blackboard) before class.
  • Participate in the group discussions.
  • Write a short, focused reflection exercise after each session (~20 to 30 min maximum).
  • Write a reflective essay at the conclusion of the course.
Ask Our Students

In past years, graduate students have found GSR 984 an exciting opportunity for exploring, challenging, and expanding their ways of knowing and communicating. Visit our Accolades tabs to find out what our graduates have to say about this course, and why you should consider taking it to further your professional career. You can also watch the short video to learn what six of the more than 200 graduate students who have participated in GSR 984 say about their transformative experience in the course:

Please note: if you are using Internet Explorer, you must hover your cursor directly above this note to view the video controls. If you are not able to view the video, try using either Safari or Firefox.

Registration 

Registration for GSR 984 is open!

Who should apply?

Current Masters or PhD students and post-doctoral fellows at the University of Saskatchewan are encouraged to apply. The course will be offered from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on Mondays in the 2015 winter term. 

Visit our Accolades tab to find out what our graduates have to say about this course and why you should consider taking it.  The "About this Course" tab will help you learn more about whether this course is a good fit for you. 

How to apply

Interested students must submit an application to the Gwenna Moss Centre to receive permission to register in GSR 984. Applications are processed in the order they are received and spaces are limited.  Registrations for the winter 2015 term are currently being accepted.

Please download the application form below.  Read the form carefully. If you are not a current graduate student or post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, or your information is incomplete on the application form, we will be unable to process your application.

You will be notified via email whether or not your application has been successful.  Instructions on how to register for the course through PAWS will be provided to successful applicants.

The application form below is downloadable as a fillable PDF. Please download the PDF, open it in Acrobat (not Preview), save it, then email your application form to:

gmctecourses@usask.ca

Application Form

Timetable

DateDescription
Jan 19Introduction and discussions of primary processes in human thinking.
Jan 26How unexamined societal and cultural structures influence our thinking and behaviour.
Feb 2How personal assumptions about talent, intelligence, and failure shape our learning and creativity.
Feb 9How ‘innate’ personal preferences (personality) shape how we think about questions/problems.
Feb 23How culturally and societally constructed concepts, such as leadership, influence how we approach our profession and other aspects of our lives.
March 2Challenges and barriers to the application of objective reasoning. 
 March 9Developing a reflective professional portfolio.  Assessment of course.  Summary reflection exercise for whole course.

Acknowledgements

The format, content, goals, facilitation, and administration of GSR 984 have been discussed and developed via a Community of Practice (CoP). A Community of Practice is a flexible organization made up of a wide range of individuals interested in a common purpose. The GSR 984 CoP benefits from the input of a wide variety of expertises from communities within and outside of the University of Saskatchewan. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of several key individuals within the Community of Practice, without which the GSR 984 course would not be what it is today:

Richard Cassidy, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Richard Cassidy, professor emeritus and one of the original developers of GSR 984, passed away on June 19, 2013. 

Richard’s inspiration and passion, insightful design, hard work, and humour guided GSR984 for 16 years. His collaborative leadership engaged many liked-minded colleagues. Faculty and community leaders joined Richard as facilitators for various sessions with students to probe together our “thinking about thinking.” His initiative, pedagogy, and humanity touched more than 500 graduate students.

John Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology

Gerry Seniuk, Retired Chief Judge of Saskatchewan

Dr. Jayne Hudson, Retired School Principal with Expertise in Consensus Decision Making

Accolades 

In 2006 a number of former GSR 984 students were asked to offer their perspectives their experience with GSR 984. These students took GSR 984 from 2 to10 years ago, and have different disciplinary and work experiences, as indicated below. Many of the outcomes identified by the students were tranformative, and included such aspects as: exposed and challenged previous assumptions; developed recognition of the importance of multidisciplinary discussions of ideas; learned about the limitation of human thinking; developed new perspectives and skills that continue to influence research, work, and everyday living.

Disciplinary Background of Former Students Providing Statements:

  • Sociology, PhD student, U of S
  • Exploration Geology, PhD, Perth, Australia
  • Commerce, PhD, new faculty at Wilfred Laurier University
  • Chemistry, PhD, Weyeth Pharmaceutical, Virginia
  • Education and Accountant, PhD student, U of S
  • Philosophy, PhD student, Laval University
  • Engineering, Environmental Activist, MSc student, U of S
  • Private Business and Education, MEd, U of S
  • Geography, PhD student, Waterloo University
  • Geochemistry, PhD, Technology Transfer Consultant, Universität Potsdam, Germany

Summary of Statements From Students (click to expand)

Interdisciplinary Impact
  • GSR 984 stood out as highlight -collectively learning had broader implications than what my sub-discipline was focused on and produced unexpected and enlightening results
  • bringing together people from many disciplines to discuss an issue forces one to re-examine one's assumptions
  • provides an experience that is not otherwise available
  • innovative approaches that start with a novel multidisciplinary interpretation of the framework
  • emphasis on discussion certainly helped me to learn and also to unlearn a lot of things
  • faced with a room full of peers from wide-ranging disparate disciplines, different cultures and dissimilar life paths and tasked with discussing issues with the eye of a critical thinker, permanently altered my conscious world
  • communication and understanding and thinking across disciplinary and cultural borders are keys and warrants for success, progress and conflict prevention
Class Format
  • chances to get to know people one would generally not have the chance to come into contact, let alone learn from and with, were invaluable
  • case study and discussion format used for the classes facilitated learning
  • the format of the class was a very effective vehicle for getting us to think about thing
  • course material valuable, memorable, and worthy of sharing with my peers
  • provocative and stimulating in their approach of not lecturing, but presenting ideas, questions and setting up open discussions
  • one of the most interesting things is that the discussions did not end in the classroom
  • develops a community of critical thinkers who feel safe and empowered to share their experiences and knowledge.
Effect On Thinking
  • learned decisions are based on our beliefs and personalities
  • refreshing to learn something new about the way we think
  • challenged my thinking on complex issues
  • an eye opener - how knowledge is created
  • immensely invaluable to me in terms of thinking " outside the ethnocentric box”
  • enabled me to be far more critical, objective and yet considerate of other disciplines
  • even with my background in philosophy, I found it very rich and stimulating
  • challenged my accepted beliefs
  • permanently altered my conscious world
  • all students should be encouraged to assess how their historical, cultural and personal worldviews have been shaped by powerful forces
  • learned to question what we may not have even considered ethical issues in the past
  • I gained valuable understanding and significantly broadened my horizon
  • recognition of parallelism between scientific and societal or ideological developments was an eye-opener
Impact on Studies and Work
  • learning can be fun at the same time
  • I have constantly thought about how it applies in my research
  • In my research, I have applied concepts I have learned about critical thinking and to complex issues especially in ethics and standard setting in the accounting domain
  • learned that you needed to make these different assumptions explicit when writing up your research
  • expanded my range of thinking and removed an ethnocentric (i.e. interest or field of research group) lens, which I believe has benefited my research
  • an invaluable addition to any education - "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
  • the new ideas and approaches to problem solving that were presented have stuck with me and guided many of my decisions and personal research interests
  • made an early impact in my career
  • good to foster team work and leadership abilities
  • think critically during my studies but also in my research with the Aboriginal Education Research Centre (AERC) and my self-employment within the film industry
  • as an educator I will affect thousands of other people over time and will continue to seed attention to critical thinking or “thinking about our thinking”
  • taken my new knowledge of historical worldviews, personality, the effect of language, leadership, racialization, ethics and all the other topics into my work
  • “Critical thinking” has helped me realizing that a university degree is not about recording and reproducing data but it is more about learning how to solve problems by means of communication as leader, team member or colleague
  • an indispensable asset for a successful career with a responsible approach
  • benefited from it both in life and at work

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