Concordia University

What's the key to being a critical thinker?

This interdisciplinary course at Concordia tackles modern civilization’s greatest questions
May 31, 2017
By Christian Durand

Eric Buzzetti: “Critical thinking is central to who we are as human beings.” | Photo by Joe DeSousa (Flickr CC) Eric Buzzetti: “Critical thinking is central to who we are as human beings.” | Photo by Joe DeSousa (Flickr CC)

Have you ever asked yourself if God exists? Do you question whether we live in a truly just society? Do you wonder if love is merely biological or something greater?

These are some of the questions that have consumed civilization’s greatest thinkers — Voltaire, Galileo, Curie, to name a few — and continue to shape modern society.

Such cornerstones of analytical thought and discussion have been praised, dissected and criticized in academia for centuries. In September 2017, the Faculty of Arts and Science is offering all Concordia students the opportunity to take part in this tradition through an innovative course, now in its second year.

“Great Thinkers, Great Ideas, Great Debates: Big Ideas That Shape and Have Shaped Modern Civilization,” challenges undergraduate students to explore fundamental questions posed in literature and the humanities, as well as in the natural and social sciences and the fine arts.

The class was conceived by Calvin Kalman, principal of the Science College and Eric Buzzetti and Jarrett Carty, principal and vice-principal of the Liberal Arts College respectively.

“A university is meant to teach people to become decision makers and influencers,” Kalman says. “The only way our students will be able fulfill these roles is if they have a broad understanding of civilization.”

A flipped classroom focused on multidisciplinary perspectives

Each class is led by two different guest lecturers. Over the term, a total of 23 different professors from 12 departments across the Faculty of Arts and Science bring their unique perspectives to class. Graduate and upper-year undergraduate students are also on hand to help generate discussion.

Dialogue and reflection happens through what’s known as a “flipped classroom model.” This means that students consider material provided before class and come to lectures knowing what they should discuss and dissect.

Presentations by the guest lecturers are followed by in-depth discussions. Students are then asked to write a one-page essay based on the class conversations and reading assignment.

There’s no exam and the focus is on learning to enjoy the process of engaging intellectually with complex questions.

“Critical thinking and the pursuit of knowledge should not be thought of as a chore, rather as something essential and fun,” Buzzetti says. “It is central to who we are as human beings.”

‘I gained confidence in my own voice’

Andy Le, an undergraduate at the John Molson School of Business, took the inaugural class in September 2016. 

“Great Thinkers really helped me develop my own arguments and gain confidence in my voice. Not only that, but I changed my positions on certain topics such as religion and metaphysics after taking the class.”

Register now for "Great Thinkers" under either of the following course codes: LBCL 298 or SCOL 398. The course is suitable for all students in any faculty. Find out more about the Faculty of Arts and Science.


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