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Anna Mills' Course Map for Argumentation and Critical Thinking

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    Overall course narrative

    This course empowers students to join the academic conversation and build reading, writing, and critical thinking skills they can apply in college and professional life.  Six focused writing projects will help students steadily build skills , starting with a reflection essay on fast and slow thinking. Next, we will learn how to write a summary where we work on fully understanding and describing another writer’s argument.  Then we will write an essay that both summarizes and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of an argument and offers an original response to the argument.  Once we have explored how to identify an argument’s reasoning, we will learn about the ways arguments can appeal to readers’ emotions and build trust. We will write an argument analysis essay that covers logos, pathos, and ethos.

    From there we will explore how two or more sources relate to each other in a compare-and-contrast or synthesis essay. This will lay the groundwork for integrating multiple sources in the culminating project, an original research-based essay. By this point we will have learned many of the typical moves of academic writing that will enable us to both analyze and create arguments in college contexts and beyond.

    A Sample Essay Assignment Sequence for Argumentative Writing and Critical Thinking


    Course objectives (See the course descriptor for C-ID English 105)


    Essay Assignment 


    Preparatory activities and assessments

    2, 4, 7

    Essay 1: Reflection Essay on Fast and Slow Thinking 

    A 1-2 page informal reflection on the student’s own interests and goals in relation to fast and slow thinking. Metacognitive reflection helps students begin to develop awareness of their own reasoning patterns and ways of interacting with sources. This reflection will help students find personal meaning in the slow thinking practices the course teaches and build relationships with peers and with the teacher.

    1, 3, 5, 7

    Essay 2: Summary Essay

    A 1-2 page thesis-driven summary of a reading of the student’s choice selected from a list of essays or excerpts from a book or essay. Optional: the instructor may ask students to write a personal response to the argument in an additional 1-2 paragraphs.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7

    Essay 3: Summary, Assessment, and Response Essay

    A 3-4 page analysis of a different text, again chosen from a list of essays or excerpts from a book or essay. This analysis will summarize the argument, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and present an original student response.

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7

    Essay 4: Argument Analysis Essay 

    A 3-5 page analysis of a text chosen from a list of essays or excerpts from a book or essay. This analysis will not only summarize and evaluate but also analyze the appeals to trust and emotion. The instructor may want to allow students to focus on the same text they analyzed for one of the previous papers.

    1, 4, 5, 6, 7

    Essay 5: Compare-and-Contrast Essay (Synthesis Essay)

    A 3-4 page essay comparing and contrasting two arguments and drawing insight from the comparison.  The instructor may offer a wider range of options for the texts than previously provided in order to help build in rapid source assessment practices that will help with the research paper.

    1, 4, 5, 6, 7

    Essay 6: Research Essay 

    A 6-8 page research-based argument that incorporates 6 or more reputable sources. The essay may incorporate or emphasize definition, evaluation, causal analysis, or a proposal. The essay should incorporate audience awareness and appeals to trust and emotion.



    Individual grammar and sentence-style work 

    The student will do periodic individualized grammar assignments correcting and explaining instructor-identified high-priority errors from their own graded essays. 


    Content by Anna Mills, licensed CC BY NC 4.0. Template adapted by Anna Mills from The Online Course Mapping Guide Course Map Template from the Digital Learning Hub in the Teaching + Learning Commons at UC San Diego, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International License.

    This page titled Anna Mills' Course Map for Argumentation and Critical Thinking is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anna Mills (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .