Thinking Critically

Purpose: to help other instructors teaching the same course

Common Course ID: Thinking Critically (HON 1200)
CSU Instructor Open Textbook Adoption Portrait

Abstract: This open textbook is being utilized in a first-year Honors critical thinking course for undergraduate or graduate students by Kaitlyn Creasy at CSUSB. The open textbook provides instruction in informal and formal logic, as well as a variety of exercises in formal and informal logic and a helpful answer key. The main motivation to adopt an open textbook was to save students money. Most student access the open textbook as a PDF, which is easily downloadable from the OER website.

About the Course

HON 1200: Thinking Critically

Brief Description of course highlights:  

  • General education (required for Honors students)
  • Prerequisite: admission to the Honors program

Course description: What makes me who I am? What is the meaning of life? Can love be reduced to a bundle of biological processes, or is it something more? In this Honors philosophy course, we will attempt answers to all of these questions and more, while also learning how to build and critically evaluate arguments and their components.

Catalog description: Analysis of various kinds of reasoning employed in everyday life and in more specialized contexts, to develop each student's skill in understanding and using carefully constructed arguments. Illustrations will include materials drawn from contemporary issues. Satisfies GE Category A3; WI designation. Formerly offered as HON 104B. Prerequisite: acceptance into the Honors Program.

Student population:

All of the students in this course were first-year Honors students with various levels of preparation. Some students had taken high school classes in informal logic; others had no experience learning this kind of material.

Learning or student outcomes: 

Course objectives (“learning outcomes”): After this course, you will be able to…

  1. Demonstrate comprehension of difficult texts by 1) identifying key ideas from a given text; 2) summarizing those ideas; and 3) explaining a text’s main point.
  2. Evaluate (philosophical) arguments by identifying premises and inferences, recognizing how certain claims (as premises) connect to one another in a relationship of support (as evidence for a conclusion).
  3. Formulate effective and convincing arguments that compare, evaluate, and critique different perspectives (from a variety of sources). 
  4. Express yourself clearly and persuasively in exposition and argument, in written and oral forms.
  5. Analyze your own submitted philosophical work (after feedback is given), such that you might 1) critique your arguments and state that critique; 2) recognize and indicate how you might improve your argument; and 3) formulate and execute meaningful changes that improve the work.
  6. Recognize the relevance of philosophy (and our readings) to your life and society, so that you can describe to a non-philosopher why philosophy matters (to you personally, but also to your community).
  7. Work collaboratively and mindfully with others to analyze and critically discuss issues.

Key challenges faced and how resolved

I am happy to report that I did not experience any challenges using this OER textbook. If my course was entirely a course on informal logic rather than a mix of informal logic material and philosophy readings, I can imagine I might have wanted to cover more material than was offered by the textbook. But given how my course was structured, I did not run into this problem. A lesson I learned was that OER materials can be really high quality, as they are created by other experts in the field. As I mentioned earlier, I was not expecting that

About the Resource/Textbook 

Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking 

Brief Description: 

Taken from the author’s description: “This is an introductory textbook in logic and critical thinking. The goal of the textbook is to provide the reader with a set of tools and skills that will enable them to identify and evaluate arguments. The book is intended for an introductory course that covers both formal and informal logic. As such, it is not a formal logic textbook, but is closer to what one would find marketed as a critical thinking textbook.”

Authors: Matthew J. Van Cleave

Student access:  Students access the materials through the downloadable PDF I upload to the course platform we use.

Supplemental resources: This textbook does not include any supplemental resources.

Cost Savings: Textbooks previously utilized in this same course ranges from $24 through $142!

License: Openly licensed: Creative Commons Attribution

OER/Low Cost Adoption

OER/Low Cost Adoption Process

Provide an explanation or what motivated you to use this textbook or OER/Low Cost option.

I was motivated to use this open-access textbook because I wanted to save students money and figured that a digital resource could be especially useful in an online course.

How did you find and select the open textbook for this course? 

I found the open textbook by browsing OER sites.

Sharing Best Practices:

One thing I wish I knew earlier was how high quality some of these OER materials can be! Another suggestion is to take a good deal of time going through the different materials available for your course and take time to make sure that the OER material you ultimately choose actually helps fulfill your course objectives. The Honors Critical Thinking course I taught mainly involved informal logic rather than formal logic, so I knew I wanted a textbook that centered informal logic and introduced concepts in informal logic in an accessible but elevated way.

About the Instructor

Kaitlyn Creasy, PhD

Assistant Professor of Philosophy 

California State University, San Bernardino

Teaching philosophy: 

My teaching philosophy insists on a central role for students in their own learning. To this end, I foster a classroom environment in which learning is self-directed and students are able to realize their intellectual potential through dynamic interaction with the course material, discussions with peers, and frequent student-instructor dialogue. In-class discussions enable the students to engage with the material anew and sustain interest in what we are learning. These discussions also allow students to play a role in shaping the course, as they lead the discussion and focus the conversation on what interests them.

Courses taught:

  • Advanced Seminar in the History of 19th Century Philosophy
  • Existentialism
  • Continental Philosophy
  • Phenomenology
  • Moral Psychology
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Honors Critical Thinking
  • Introduction to Philosophy
  • Introduction to Ethics