Preksha 2020 – A Course in Critical Thinking

The IQAC of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV) organised Preksha—an online Skill Development Programme in Critical Thinking, for motivated high school students. It was conducted online from 15 September to 11 October 2020. The highlights of the course were (i) learning to analyse and evaluate arguments, (ii) learning how to be a fair-minded thinker and (iii) learning to construct convincing arguments.

The course adopted a flipped classroom model. Every week, recorded videos and reading materials were shared with the participants via the Moodle platform. The self-paced learning was supplemented with live interaction with the faculty every Sunday. There were 72 participants for this course, with representations from almost all parts of the country and one from abroad (Australia). The resource persons were Dr. Venkata Raghavan, Assistant Professor from the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Heritage and Dr. Saurabh Singanapalli, Assistant Professor from the School of Linguistics and Literary Studies. Dr. Raghavan has been successfully running this course for the last three years and has garnered a lot of popularity and positive response.

To start with, Dr. Raghavan and Dr. Saurabh, through their four modules, defined the concept of critical thinking, how to identify the components of an argument, how to evaluate an argument, the role of fallacies (formal and informal), how to be objective, empathy and its hurdles, and what, why and how to overcome stereotypes. All the four modules were summarised by the faculty during the weekly live sessions.

In the first live session, Dr. Raghavan stressed on the concept of critical thinking, its importance, and role in our everyday life. Using many real-life examples, he reiterated the fact that this is a skill and therefore one can master it only through practise. The session was lively, and the participants were able to clarify their doubts and queries.

In the second and the third live session, Dr. Raghavan and Dr. Saurabh focused on the difference between rational and rhetorical arguments, common fallacies (formal and informal), how to analyse arguments and the appropriate usage of vocabulary (when and where) while constructing arguments. They also shared a template (step by step process), which was a handy tool for the participants while analysing the arguments.

In the fourth session, Dr. Raghavan and Dr. Saurabh detailed the importance of being objective. They also shared the concept of empathy and its associated hurdles. The session ended with the faculty providing inputs on what the commonly found stereotypes are and why they get formed, and shared a few tips to overcome them. Overall, the session was very much appreciated.

On 11 October 2020, the programme ended with a valedictory function where Dr. Vinod R. R. welcomed everyone. Vice Chancellor Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal delivered the keynote address. He stressed on the role of skill development among the youth and appreciated the commitment of CVV team in getting this executed in the best possible manner.

The participants also shared their experience from attending this course:

“The critical thinking course was an excellent experience as it introduced me to the world of making powerful arguments and it introduced us to the two important concepts of analysis and objectivity. Overall, the course was excellent, and all our doubts were cleared in the best way. All the concept videos were in its simplest form which was easy to understand and the exercise questions helped revise the concepts taught in the video.”

“The course was filled with eye-opening sessions. It made me realise everything, from how we were making decisions in life to how we can improve. Each session was interesting, and I also thank the teachers who explained it very well so that we could grasp it easily. I now understand how relevant critical thinking is and I can’t wait to apply it in all my arguments.”

“When I first started this course, I noticed that the teachers were very thorough in their knowledge and the way they conveyed such complicated information in such an easy to understand way was very amusing to me. The teachers had a lot to share with their students. And overall, this course was and will be extremely helpful in my day-to-day life. I had a great time. I thank my teachers for all the effort they put in.”

“Joining Preksha was something which changed my knowledge on critical thinking and its related aspects. It enhanced my knowledge and made me understand it in different ways.”

Dean of Faculty Prof. Gauri Mahulikar delivered the closing remarks. She opined that the skill one has acquired from attending the ‘Critical Thinking’ course must be practised throughout their life and they must be the ambassadors of Preksha. Ms. Jayalakshmi Nanda, Coordinator for Preksha, expressed her gratitude. She thanked and congratulated the participants who joined and successfully completed the course. She also thanked every member of CVV family for the support and encouragement given at all stages of the programme.