This innovative course provides a supportive and challenging setting for graduate students to develop the creative and critical thinking skills required for professional practice. The use of a small group discussion format in a multicultural and multidisciplinary environment will help students 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 built into every 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. Many of the discussions will challenge our conventional wisdom and thus may sometimes seem uncomfortable, even confusing. Consequently, each session will contain reflection activities (for both facilitators and students) to help ensure that the course content and activities remain grounded in the realities of work and life.
If you want to read more about this course and foundational skills, download Full Course Overview: GSR 984.
The Learning Goals associated with GSR 984 will help you:
- 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.
This course is a major initiative toward meeting the concerns the Tri-Council Granting Agencies and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies have recently expressed 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.
The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." - Henri Bergson, French Philosopher and Educator
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)
In past years, graduate students have found GSR 984 an exciting opportunity for exploring, challenging, and expanding their ways of knowing and communicating.
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:
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You must register for this course in PAWS. It is under Graduate Studies (GSR) courses in 2012-13 Term 2. The CRN is 27290, Thinking Critically Professional Skills for Global Citizens.
This course is open to graduate students registered at the University of Saskatchewan. Post-doctoral fellows or other interested persons at the University of Saskatchewan may also apply to register through contacting the Gwenna Moss Centre.
There is no fee associated with GSR 984. The course appears on your transcript as a 0-credit unit course with a grade of "credit" or "fail."
Post-doctoral fellows or other interested persons at the University of Saskatchewan are asked to contact the Gwenna Moss Centre if they would like to register.
The course meets face to face on Wednesdays, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m., from Jan. 9 to Feb. 13.
There is no fee associated with GSR 984.
GSR 984 classes will be held Wednesdays evenings in Term 2, 2013 from 7 to 10 pm in the Graduate Commons, which is located in the former Emmanuel and St. Chad Chapel on the corner of Wiggins and College Dr. Total time expectations for all activities are not more than 30 hours. There will be no marked assignments but there will be a requirement for a weekly reflection activity that will short and focused, and will occasionally have some peer and facilitator feedback. Recognition of completion of this non-credit course will appear on transcripts.
To receive credit, students are required to attend all six sessions (exceptions discussed below), read and interact with the on-line pre-class material, and participate in the group discussions. In addition, reflective writing will be part of the course and each student will be provided with a journal. What you write in your journal will be private. Refeltive writing is discussed at some length in the online material, and each class will have two short periods devoted to reflective writing. At the end of the course you will be requred to write a 1-2 page unsigned reflective summary of the course, which you will hand in. If special circumstances prevent a student from attending a class the student must inform one of the facilitators (prior to the session if possible). Under these circumstances the student will still be expected to read the on-line pre class material, briefly discuss the class with someone who attended, write a one page summary of the class content, and complete the reflective exercise. Only under very unusual circumstances will students be allowed to miss more than one class. If circumstances do arise that prevent you from attending several classes, please discuss you situation with a facilitator and we can arrange to take your name off the class list to ensure that you will not receive an “Incomplete” or some other grade for the course on your transcript.
Expectations of Participation and Commitment
GSR 984, is designed around student-centred practices that encourage students to take greater control of their learning. In GSR 984, graduate students meet in interdisciplinary groups to discuss and explore their thinking on topics related to the application of their disciplinary skills. The primary goal is to cultivate deeper thinking about fundamental frameworks rather than the accumulation of more technical knowledge. Free and wide-ranging discussions are critical for the goals of this course. The discussions will be facilitated by a number people with expertise in different disciplines, thus exposing students to a wide range of expertise and ideas. To ensure effective discussion in class, all grading has been eliminated. There are no marked assignments or tests, and no final marks. GSR 984 participants attend voluntarily. The discussion leaders are volunteers. Commitments must be made by both participants and the discussion leaders to facilitate the exchange of ideas, to challenge thinking and to stimulate effective learning. The GSR 984 leaders welcome suggestions that may enhance the achievement of these goals.
The expectations of participants in GSR 984 include timely attendance and participation in each 3-h session, and prior reading of any required material to ensure that discussion time is not wasted and that your ideas become part of the discussion. Discussion is a key component in effective learning, and learning is enhanced from the input of as many interdisciplinary voices as possible. Failure to attend class or being unprepared means other participants will not learn effectively from your response to their ideas and from your ideas.
Because the goals and structure of this class are quite different from typical university courses we want to ensure that all participants understand these features, and recognize their responsibilities towards other participants by participating in all of the course activities. Once you have attended the introduction session and decide to continue with the course, we hope that you commit, within reasonable limits, to attend and participate in all of the remaining five classes.
GSR 984 will be presented weekly in Term 2, 2013 with total time expectations being less than a normal 3 cu course. There will be no marked assignments and recognition of completion of this non-credit course will appear on transcripts on a pass/fail basis. The only requirement is that students attend and participate in the group discussions and interact with the on-line material. Each topic is spread over one week intervals, and students are expected to spend about 3/4 to 1 hour with preparatory material, attend a 3 hour discussion session, and spend ~1/2 hour reflecting on the session via on-line postings and individual journals.
Course Coordinators and Facilitators
The format, content, goals, facilitation, and administration of GSR984 are discussed and developed via a Community of Practice. A Community of Practice is a flexible organization made up of a wide range of individuals interested in a common purpose. The GSR984 CoP benefits from the input of a wide variety of expertises from communities within and outside of the University of Saskatchewan. The routine administration and facilitation of the 2013 program is coordinated by a core group within this CoP, made up of the following persons:
- Richard Cassidy (Professor Emeritus Chemistry)
- John Thompson (Professor Emeritus Sociology)
- Murray Scharf (Professor Emeritus Education)
- Gerald Seniuk (Retired Chief Judge of Saskatchewan)
- Jim Greer (Professor, University Learning Centre)
- Brad Wuetherick (Program Director, Gwenna Moss Centre)
- Jayne Hudson (PhD, Retired School Principal with Expertise in Consensus Decision Making)
In addition to the professor assigned to the course, a number of guest facilitators will be leading weekly discussion sessions on selected topics, which exposes students to a wide range of expertise and ideas.
Tentative topics and a brief description of the activities for each session for 2013 are posted below. These will be updated if any changes occur. Each session will end with a reflection exercise that will look at how the evening’s topics relate to our research and profession and to other sessions in the course. Since these reflection exercises are held for each session they are not included in the descriptions given below. The classes will be held Wednesdays evenings from 7 till 10 pm in the Graduate Commons, which is located in the former Emmanuel and St. Chad Chapel on the corner of Wiggins and College Dr.
Introduction and discussions of primary processes in human thinking. Pizza social at end of the class.
Influence of unexamined societal and cultural structures on our thinking and behaviour.
How personal assumptions about ourselves influence how we approach life, learning, and failure.
Influence of ‘innate’ personal preferences (personality) on how we think about questions/problems.
Examination of how culturally and societally created concepts, such as leadership, influence how we approach our profession and other aspects of our lives.
Challenges and barriers to the application of objective reasoning. Plus summary reflection exercise for whole course.
Topics vary somewhat from year to year. To view past topics, see the Full Course Overview: GSR 984.
Why is Creative and Critical Thinking a Foundational Skill for Excellence in Professional Practice?
The terms ‘critical’ and ‘creative’ thinking are relatively common terms and sometimes invoke specific definitions and concepts. In GSR984 our use of these terms is more fundamental and broader than may be used elsewhere. Consequently for this discussion, and often in the course itself, we will use the term ‘thinking about thinking’. While ‘thinking about thinking’ does include creative and critical thinking, it also implies the presence of several other important features and activities in GSR984, which are described below under the title, Four Key Pedagogical Themes in GSR984. But first, ‘Why is Thinking about Thinking a foundational attribute for excellence in how we apply our disciplinary knowledge within societal structures?’
While human thinking is not a single simple process, it is not inaccurate to say that our different thinking processes profoundly shape who we are in terms of:
- What we believe and how we make sense of the world.
- What we choose to pay attention to and do
- How we feel
Our thinking process is the foundation for everything we are and do within society, and it is especially important for our application of disciplinary knowledge. Unfortunately, the foundational role of our thinking is not generally recognized and accepted. Consequently educational programs rarely offer students the opportunity to explore this topic. If human thinking does indeed shape who we are and how we respond ‘in the world’, then an understanding of how our minds actually work could be both the most important knowledge we learn and the most practical ability that we develop.
Four Key Pedagogical Themes in GSR984
Pilot Proposal and Assessment
Accolades From Former Students
Summary of Statements From Students
Effect On Thinking
Impact on Studies and Work
For more information or to join the conversation visit GSR984's blog, Beyond Disciplinary Excellence.