Packback students are asking great questions every day, engaging in discussion and encouraging curiosity. This is just one of the amazing questions that students ask on Packback Questions every day.
The organic chemistry student goes on to explain why she’s so interested on the potential of man-made enzymes:
I found section 7.5 particularly interesting because it touched upon the function of enzymes and how they are far superior to our synthesis of molecules by chemical reactions.
I too started to envy how effective enzymes are and questioned whether one-day man-made enzymes could be engineered or synthesized to provide the same function to chemical pathways. This could allow for the reproduction of complex chemical reactions in vitro that are currently impossible to reproduce outside of a living cell.
Instead of just passively reading section 7.5 in her chemistry textbook and moving on, she uses that knowledge and intrigue to create a discussion where there once was nothing.
It’s in these types of discussions that new knowledge is created. And the catalyst to great discussions is often great questions.
That’s why at Packback, we believe that the best learning is done when students ask really great questions. The best questions are often the culmination of the top levels of critical thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy.
In this particular example, the student is invested in encouraging dialogue and finding out how other students would answer her question.
The student wants to understand more about enzymes so she asks:
Would it be worth researching the development of man-made enzymes? How could this even be accomplished? What would the significance of such a development be in fields like medicine, chemistry and engineering?
This is her engaging with the stages of application and analysis. She’s not sure of whether it is possible to create man-made enzymes, but she wants to know that if it can be done, what would its effect be and is it worth pursuing or not. She opens up the floor for people to refute her, to agree with her, and to share in the feeling of excitement. Even further, the student indulges in her curiosity to create a theory of what the future could look like:
I know recently a lot of research has been devoted to nanostructures and metamaterials. This could be a really cool way to approach the man-made enzyme problem.
Instead of replicating, transcribing and translating DNA to mRNA to amino acids that make up proteins, we could instead create 3D carbon structures that also possess just the right atoms in just the right places to lower the activation energy of a reaction.
Now the moment of truth. Do you think your average college student would engage with her excitement and new ideas? Or would they continue to passively read the chemistry textbook?
It turns out, they want to engage.
Here’s another example of a student adding to the knowledge pool:
Together the students are creating a community “pool of knowledge” as they discuss and work towards satisfying the original student’s curiosity.
This question even prompted the professor to invest a thought:
When one student takes the time to critically think about a question they have in mind, they inspire others to critically think about the answers they have to contribute. It becomes a chain-reaction of the practice of critical thinking.
That’s how high levels of critical thought are built using Packback Questions.
When students answer questions so willingly and openly, other students get to analyze and evaluate multiple viewpoints and make their own judgment.
Additionally, by asking high-level questions that invite challenging, interesting discussion, the students create a community of curiosity around psychology that is engaging and fun.
We believe that with Packback Questions, these students will carry more curiosity and higher critical thinking skills into whatever they choose to pursue.
Written by Evan Le
The Critical Thinking A Level is one of the many courses available to A Level students. It’s offered by OCR, one of the main exam boards for secondary education. Critical thinking is the discipline of understanding arguments and argumentative logic. Critical thinkers are invaluable in society because they are well-equipped to cut the wheat from the chaff, drawing attention to flawed arguments, whilst championing strong positions.
Critical thinkers are valuable in the modern era of information. On a daily basis, we’re barraged by information: facts, opinions, news, rumours, and statistical data. You can’t trust everything you read, so being able to think critically about the information you’re exposed to will help you understand what’s really going. For this reason, taking a Critical Thinking A Level is incredibly useful.
Critical Thinking A Level is split into two parts: AS level and A2 level. In the previous post, we discussed the units and topics you’ll have to master to perform well at AS level. Here, we’ll be taking a look at the A2 modules for Critical Thinking A-Level.
A lot of the units covered at A2 level of the A2 Critical Thinking course rely on prior knowledge from the AS level. Therefore, it’s important that you study well at AS level to stop yourself from falling behind.
The units covered at A2 level Critical Thinking are:
• Ethical theories;
• Recognising and applying principles;
• Dilemmas and decision-making;
• Analysis of complex arguments;
• Evaluating complex arguments;
• Developing cogent and complex arguments.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
Critical Thinking A Level – Ethical Theories
In this module, students will need to be able to evaluate material that portrays moral arguments and topics. They’ll also be required to evaluate conflicting ideas within this material, especially in relation to ideas such as bias and vested interest. In other words, students will have to read source materials, identify the ethical arguments in the text, then also highlight cases of bias.
Students will also have to recognise the different solutions and responses to an ethical problem. This will apply to both simple and complex ethical situations. This will also include being able to apply hypothetical reasoning, which is covered at AS level.
Critical Thinking A Level – Recognising and Applying Principles, Dilemmas and Decision-Making
These two areas are closely linked, as students will be required to identify a dilemma. In this case, a dilemma is a situation where there are two mutually exclusive options. In some situations, both may be undesirable. Students will need to weigh up the benefits and potential consequences of all responses to a dilemma, and apply principles of the following kinds:
In addition, students will need to understand the basic principles about deontological and teleological ethical theories, such as Kant’s ethics (deontological) and utilitarianism (teleological). These will need to be applied to dilemmas.
In addition to this, students will need to be able to understand and apply relevant ethical terms, such as:
• Suppositional reasoning;
• Relationships between intermediate conclusions and evidence;
• Non-argumentative devices such as rhetorical questions, repetition, scene setting, or ‘grand standing’.
Critical Thinking A Level – Evaluation of Complex Arguments
Once students can analyse complex arguments and identify their components, they’ll need to be able to evaluate them. Students will need to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of complex arguments, and come to a conclusion based on how well they support a conclusion. Students will need to be able to do the following:
• Explain flaws in reasoning;
• Explain rhetorical reasoning;
• Explain weaknesses in the way the evidence is portrayed;
• Identify explanations and potentially offer alternatives to them;
• Identify assumptions made in an argument, and assess them to see if they hold water;
• Identify and suggest alternative conclusions which result from the same reasoning as presented in the argument;
• Assessing the strength or weakness of an argument.
Critical Thinking A Level – Development of Cogent and Complex Arguments
With the knowledge gained from earlier units at AS and A2 level, students will then need to be able to construct and develop arguments which are internally consistent, but also complex in nature. Students will need to do the following when making their arguments:
• Read the subject material closely;
• Select appropriate methods of reasoning (such as hypothetical reasoning);
• Respond to counter-arguments.
Critical Thinking A Level – Conclusion
The Critical Thinking A Level can be tricky, since it requires vast knowledge about a number of different concepts and terms – many of which students might be completely unfamiliar with. However, it can be handled just like any other A-Level subject; read the subject material carefully, then take the time to practice with revision techniques which work best for you. Finally, make sure to attempt practice papers to see what you know and where you need to improve. If you would like more A-Level tips which apply to any A-Level course, including Critical Thinking A-Level, you can find our book here: Pass Your A-Levels With A*s.