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Critical Thinking in Global Challenges

Celine Caquineau, Mayank Dutia

In this course you will develop and enhance your ability to think critically, assess information and develop reasoned arguments in the context of the global challenges facing society today.
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Next Session:
Jan 28th 2013 (5 weeks long)You are enrolled!
Workload: 3-4 hours/week 

About the Course

Critical thinking is the ability to gather and assess information and evidence in a balanced and reflective way to reach conclusions that are justified by reasoned argument based on the available evidence. Critical thinking is a key skill in the information age, valuable in all disciplines and professions.

This introductory course will give you the opportunity to better understand what critical thinking is, and to practice and enhance your critical thinking skills. To do so, we will use the context of some important global challenges that affect us all, and to which we have no clear “correct” solutions: for example, the risk and spread of serious infectious diseases in epidemics in modern societies, the implications of increasing human population on global resources, energy, environment and climate, and the challenges of human health and wellbeing in the modern world. Possible solutions to global issues such as these are hotly debated, and give the perfect setting to practice recognizing and evaluating facts, ideas, opinions and arguments.

The relevant background information for each global challenge will be provided to ensure that you can complete the exercises. Note, however, this course is not a course on these global challenges themselves; instead it uses the context of these thought-provoking challenges to practice critical thinking.

About the Instructor(s)

Dr Celine Caquineau is a biomedical scientist and teaching fellow at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, where she graduated with a PhD in Neuroendocrinology in 2005. Her research interests include the understanding of the mechanisms controlling appetite and obesity. Celine is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy UK and has extensive experience in teaching at undergraduate level with a strong interest in innovative teaching methods. She is currently the course organiser of the first interdisciplinary course at the University of Edinburgh, ‘Our Changing World’, an undergraduate course based on a series of high-profile public lectures which aim to engage students and members of the public with global challenges facing society today.

Professor Mayank Dutia is a biomedical scientist at the Centre for Integrative Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh. His research interest over many years has been in balance and balance disorders, and the ability of the brain to recover from damage to the balance receptors in the inner ear. Mayank has over 20 years' experience in teaching and student learning at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and amongst other initiatives he has been responsible for new courses in Medical Biology for first-year undergraduate students, and the interdisciplinary course "Our Changing World".

Course Syllabus

  • Week 1: What is Critical thinking, and why is it important?
  • Week 2: ‘Credibility and Relevance’: Understanding where information comes from and the nature of evidence
  • Week 3: ‘Assessing arguments’ 1/2 
  • Week 4: ‘Assessing arguments’ 2/2 
  • Week 5: Developing arguments
The course will provide ‘Global Challenge’ themes for students to work on for the purpose of ‘Assessing arguments’ in weeks 3 & 4. We recommend that students normally select only one of the themes to focus on.

Recommended Background

There is no prerequisite to take this course. No prior knowledge in the four ‘Global challenge’ themes is required.

Course Format

The course consists of short weekly lectures associated with quizzes, additional exercises, case studies and a discussion forum. There will be an optional final exam delivered for those wanting to complete the certificate for this course.


  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?
    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a certificate signed by the instructors.
  • Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of the course?
    No. The certificate of completion is not part of a formal qualification from the University of Edinburgh. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.
  • What resources will I need for this class?
    We will provide a list of ‘starter’ resources for each week. As the understanding of what makes a reliable resource is a key aspect of the course, you will also be asked to do your own research on the internet to find additional resources to complete the exercises.
  • What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?
    By the end of the course you will have a better understanding of where information comes from, how to validate or refute arguments and how to develop your own arguments based on the available information.

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