ThinkerAnalytix (TA) started as a university supported pre-college ethics program at Boston area schools. Graduate students from Harvard and MIT designed and taught enrichment programs for high school students.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that students struggled with ethical questions because they weren’t trained in reasoning. We shifted our focus to teaching students the basics of reasoning and argument structures. At the same time, instructors at Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, and Harvard were researching how teaching reasoning explicitly could improve students’ critical thinking skills using a method called argument mapping. An argument map is a visual diagram of claims, premises, and supports in an argument. TA developed lessons and exercises for people who did not have a background in reasoning and argument structures. TA tested materials with students in workshops. We observe students creating Argument Maps, analyzing the structures of arguments individually and in groups. Students consistently engage the material with prolonged attention. When collaborating, the classroom atmosphere is energetic and focused. The more students practice, the better they get at it.
TA has developed a rigorously tested curriculum in consultation with the foremost experts on logic, arguments, rhetoric, and pedagogy. We’ve worked with Harvard philosophers, high school teachers, industry experts, and students directly to come up with an argument mapping curriculum that most effectively and efficiently gets students to reason better.
We are now in the process of sharing that curriculum in two ways:
- We are doing in-person and online Professional Development workshops for teachers and administrators, so they are fully equipped to bring the material into their classroom. We will offer resources to teachers by grade level and subject-area, and include a variety of tools and strategies to teach the material effectively.
- We also are working on using most of the same material to launch a student-facing course, so that any student can learn the material on our platform, and so that schools and institutions can more easily endorse argument mapping without having to invest in on-site instructors.
Our curriculum is ready to move forward, and we have already begun hosting in-person PD workshops with teachers in the Boston area. We’re planning on running more workshops in the fall and launching an online PD course by October 1st, so that more teachers anywhere can conveniently access our material. We’ll continue to do in-person workshops for the rest of the year, and hope to increase PD recognition to as many states as possible, as quickly as possible.
By Winter 2018, we plan to provide teachers with online tools that they can direct their students to in order to practice and assess argument skills. This will allow even less effort on the part of the teacher to integrate our material, while also providing students a different way to learn and practice material outside of the classroom.
After that, we plan to keep refining these tools and adding further resources to make it more valuable for teachers and students to use our material, as we focus on growing our user base and diversity. Our course could be used in test prep, community colleges, universities, prisons, or as training or pre-requisites for a number of other programs.