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For the second year running, Simon Fraser University’s Developing Minds through Reading and Writing: Practical Strategies for Critical Thinking conference drew education professionals from across the Lower Mainland to SFU’s Harbour Centre for a one-day conference discussing critical thinking in the British Columbia high school curriculum.
The threat of snowfall and mass transit outages did not deter the conference delegates, who braved the conditions—driving from as far away as Abbotsford—to attend the conference.
With a robust lineup of addresses and power talks, it’s not hard to see why educators saw value in attending.
The event opened with a keynote address by Dr. Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis), who was just last year elected to the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars. Reder, an associate professor in the Departments of First Nations Studies and English, has made instrumental contributions to the burgeoning field of Indigenous literary studies.
Reder’s keynote talk addressed ways to bring Indigenous teachings to the high school curriculum, and how to surmount obstacles that exist in bringing Indigenous learnings to the classroom.
The conference also included several power talks. Dr. Joel Heng Hartse and collaborator Jiang Dong discussed critical thinking in a second language, an important area of study for educators in the Lower Mainland, where over 40 per cent of Greater Vancouver’s population cited their mother tongue as a language other than English in the 2016 Census.
Another power talk from Dr. Sean Zwagerman, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Associate Professor in the Department of English, discussed the power of conviction and how it affects one’s perception of beliefs versus knowledge—topics only too relevant in today’s political era of “alternative facts” and “fake news.”
Dr. Peter Cramer, Associate Professor in the Department of English, led a lively discussion surrounding rhetoric and philosophy pertaining to a specific ethical scenario, and Dr. Azadeh Yamini-Hamedani, Associate Professor in the World Literature Program, examined critical thinking through the lens of modern music.
Breakout sessions allowed educators in-depth discussions on lesson plans and challenges in teaching, among other topics relating to the new curriculum.
In post-event feedback, delegates described the event as “enriching,” “engaging,” and “informative.”