thinkLAB Speaker Series 2023-2024

Fostering Enlightened Disagreements

In diverse, complex communities, disagreements inevitably arise. This speaker series asks: How can we navigate disagreements with curiosity, inclusivity, unity and common sense?

Schedule of Events - TBA

Previous Talks & Recordings

Thursday April 4, 2024 4:00 p.m. ET

Link to Recording


Structured Academic Controversy (also known as “Academic Controversy,” “Cooperative Controversy” and “Constructive Controversy”) is a cooperative learning strategy designed to help students understand competing sides of a controversial issue and potentially work toward consensus. In this presentation, Dave Dettman and Dona Warren will discuss ways that argument mapping can enhance Structured Academic Controversy by reducing cognitive load, reinforcing reasoning schema, and providing a framework for active listening, charitable interpretation, critical thinking, and productive dialogue. In this way, Structured Academic Controversy conducted within an argument mapping framework has the potential to help learners master an increasingly essential set of transferrable skills.

Tuesday March 5, 2024 4:00 p.m. ET

Link to Recording


Hurray for ThinkerAnalytix’s course, How We Argue! I’m a convert; I require it of all my undergrads. And now what? What should I have students do after they’ve completed the class?
I begin by describing four persistent problems that HWA helps to address. Students tend to be uncritical, uncharitable, undemocratic, and lonely. But even after HWA they struggle to apply their skills to extended argumentative essays. Reading texts of 1000 words or more requires skills that are only implicit in How We Argue. We can help students learn to smoke out of complex essays an author’s main claim, hidden premises, objections, and rebuttals. We can teach them to assess the validity and soundness of the arguments. And we can assist them in gaining the confidence to express their judgments to each other. 
A method I’ll call Discover Deduction teaches students to work with their opponents on a common task: discovering valid deductive arguments for an essay’s main claim. A method I’ll call the 10 Box Model gives them a mental template with which to analyze any controversial argument. In this talk I’ll explain both methods, discuss potential shortcomings, and note some preliminary achievements. I conclude by describing a large quasi-randomized trial at NC State University to assess How We Argue’s effectiveness.

Thursday February 1, 2024 6:00 p.m. ET

Link to Recording


In an era of scorched-earth political disagreements, many say civility is an overrated virtue. At the same time, public commentators often decry a lack of conversational civility and an inability to find common ground in the public square. They worry that as our political climate has heated up, we’ve begun to forget the crucial skill of talking (and listening) to each other. In this short talk, Dr. Alex Richardson will discuss the nature and normative importance of civility, and advance some key programs and initiatives designed to foster the development of civility and other nearby skills and dispositions which are crucial for citizens of a democratic society. 

About Dr. Richardson:

Alex Richardson has been Director of the renowned National High School Ethics Bowl program since 2019. He is an award-winning teacher and an advocate for public and pre-college philosophy pedagogy—particularly in ethics and civics education. Alex received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2021. In addition to his work at the Parr Center, Alex teaches courses in ethics and political philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at Elon University and serves on Boards of Directors for the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and Ethics Bowl Canada, as well as on the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy. Beginning in June 2024, he will begin an appointment as Associate Director for Content Strategy and Engagement at the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, where he will also teach.

Tuesday December 5, 2023 4:00 p.m. ET

Recording available upon request.

Misinformation, conspiratorial thinking, and political polarization are all on the rise, and world could use more rationality. How can social scientists help? We will briefly review relevant research, and provide a high-level organization of existing interventions. We will identify a potentially fruitful new intervention: asking dialogue participant to explicitly commit to behavior norms *before* a dialogue, and then holding them to those committments. Examples include being intellectually humble, systematically listenting, being respectful, organizing an argument clearly (argument maps might help!) and not committing logical fallacies. We’ll then open the floor to discussion, to gather your advice on this new research program.

Disagree to Agree: Two Tools for Teaching the Art of Productive Dialogue

Thursday November 2, 2023 3:30 p.m. ET

Link to Recording

Teaching productive disagreement requires helping students learn how to integrate analytical skills and soft skills, such as active listening and empathetic reasoning. My talk will showcase two tried-and-true methods, employed in Notre Dame’s God and the Good Life class, aimed at honing the latter skillset. Paired with ThinkerAnalytix – a powerful tool for critical reasoning – these methods enable students to participate in meaningful dialogues centered on disagreement. Specifically, we’ll explore our unique “Dialogue Training” program and the Center for Applied Rationality’s “Double Crux” method. After summarizing what the tools are and how they work, I’ll provide resources for educators interested in implementing these tools within their own courses, thus empowering students to navigate productive disagreements effectively.




Systematizing Intellectual Empathy

Friday October 13, 2023 11:00 a.m. ET

Presented in partnership with AILACT

Link to Recording

“Intellectual charity” refers to a set of skills that students— especially undergraduates studying philosophy— are expected to use when engaging new and controversial arguments. To demonstrate intellectual charity, students are expected to (among other things): listen carefully, represent opposing arguments in a favorable light, show intellectual humility about their own ideas, and so on. Despite its complexity, until now the skills and steps of intellectual charity haven’t been systemized for structured, focused learning. Instead, students often learn how to be charitable by engaging in a series of classroom discussions with faculty who model charity, and by receiving feedback on assessments like essays in which students are expected to represent arguments charitably. How can we systematize intellectual charity for wider and more accessible and equitable learning? This talk will discuss a recent collaboration between edTech leaders, philosophers, and lifelong educators to clarify and systematize the skills of intellectual empathy— our approach to intellectually charitable reading and listening.

The Importance of Reasoning in the Age of AI

Tuesday September 12, 2023 6:00 p.m. ET

Link to Recording

As artificial intelligence has emerged into society, seemingly overnight, educators have become aware of the potential drawbacks of this technology―plagiarism, cheating, and the rapid obsolescence of traditional assignments, to name a few. These are valid concerns, but there are also tremendous benefits to be realized from AI in the classroom. AI and the Future of Education author Priten Shah will discuss how you can embrace artificial intelligence to meet students’ needs, with a particular focus on leveraging AI to build students’ reasoning skills.

About the Organizers

ThinkerAnalytix is an education nonprofit that spun out of the Harvard Department of Philosophy. We are a partnership between world-class scholars and edTech leaders with a mission to prepare students, educators, and working professionals for better disagreements.
Questions? Email us at [email protected]