Exploring language: lines of reasoning and critical thinking

Exploring language: lines of reasoning and critical thinking

by Lanella Sweet

It is essential that students can successfully apply critical thinking skills when reading and determining suitable information, particularly during this challenging and unprecedented time in our educational history.

Learning these techniques in isolation, as individual skills, enabled the students to critically analyse and successfully decipher information from all facets of media coverage.

Students were firstly taught specific isolated critical thinking, lines of reasoning skills, observed in everyday media. They then applied these understandings to develop their own unique examples. 

Critical Thinking / Lines of Reasoning concepts:

1. Circular reasoning

Circular Reasoning is where a person avoids the question, re-states the question going around in a circle, giving no actual concluding remarks.

2. Selected instances

Saying something is true or not true when you have not had enough experience to compare.  Large generalisation and conclusions based on only one experience.

3. Avoiding the question

Referring the question to someone else.  Discarding the question

4. Special allowance

Different rules apply to different circumstances.  A person’s line of reasoning is not always done the same way. For example, “It’s OK with me if the cashier short-changes people, as long as she doesn’t do it to me”.

5. Glittering wording

This is a propaganda technique that uses words that draw the consumer’s attention. The speaker uses words or phrases, which are attractive but have specific details omitted.

6. Bandwagon

The ‘join the group’ approach.  The bandwagon technique may be used to make the person think that if they don’t go along with it, they are not one of the group.

7. Repetition

This technique repeats a word, phrase, sentence or thought in the hope that it will be remembered after the message has been read or heard. 

8. Transfer

This idea hopes to transfer a person’s feeling about one thing to another – highly emotional often. 

9. Testimonial person

This technique uses a famous person or a person in a position of prestige that speaks in favour or against an idea to persuade the audience.

10. Prompt action required

This idea gives the audience a timeline approach. They must act within a definite (usually short) time period.

11. Bargain or free

Attempts to make the consumer think that they will get something for free. Bargain assumes the consumer will pay less for something that might be worth more.

Once all students were able to interpret, identify and understand these, in isolation, they could begin to apply and explore various options to show evidence of critical thinking and lines of reasoning.

Linking the techniques to global pandemic and impact of COVID-19

Students were able to demonstrate knowledge and understandings in different manners.  Some examples were fictional writing, creative dialogues, mock interviews with various community members or debates between government and health care workers. These students developed strong, rich dialogue connecting the approaches together and linking lines of reasoning and thinking understandings about the current global impact of the pandemic – both in terms of health and economic repercussions. 

Developing rich connections

Students were fascinated to now uncover and recognise the critical techniques that might be found in everyday media coverage and were able to connect these with their own understanding about the pandemic and the personal, local, and global implications.

What we learned

Teachers recognised that students were beginning to unpack and critically think, analyse and decipher language use and the messaging behind the media coverage.  The analysis and understanding of such skills whilst living through this unprecedented time in Australia’s educational history was very meaningful and authentic to all learners.

Lanella Sweet is an enrichment teacher at Wesley’s Elsternwick Campus.