Read more about the course

Site: learn@inasp
Course: Sample: Questioning as we learn - An introduction to critical thinking skills
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Date: Saturday, 22 June 2024, 8:03 PM



About the course

INASP’s online resource ‘Questioning as we learn: An introduction to critical thinking’ for undergraduate students in higher education is delivered through an online tutorial which consists of six units:

  1. Thinking and questioning
  2. Purposeful reading
  3. Arguments and reasoning
  4. Analysis of information – think critically!
  5. Perspectives and biases
  6. Apply your learning!

The self-study tutorial aims to support the development of students skills when assessing information. Undergraduate students will learn how to analyse and evaluate argumentative text and speech. This will help them with their studies while being in higher education and also increase their employability. Employers demand soft skills like critical thinking, since they affect performance in many areas of work, e.g. strategic planning, troubleshooting, problem-solving, and evaluating projects and processes. Critical thinking can also change the way you see the world in every day life and supports you to make a difference as a responsible citizen. Brookfield (2012) goes so far to say that “the ability to think critically about one’s assumptions, beliefs, and actions is a survival necessity”.

As the title of this course suggests, it’s an introduction to critical thinking; it’s meant as a starting point. After each unit, lecturers may give students the opportunity to deepen their understanding and apply the skills they have learned in face-to-face lessons within their discipline. 


Brookfield, S.D. (2012). 'Teaching for Critical Thinking', San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Imprint, p. 2

Our development team

The online course has been developed by an international team:

Content development
Anne Powell Joanna Wild
Maria Kovacs Veronika Schaeffler

Anne Powell

Programme Specialist


Joanna Wild

Digital Learning Designer


Maria Kovacs

Reading and Writing
for Critical Thinking
International Consortium


Dr Veronika Schaeffler

Programme Coordinator


Patrick Kihoza Perpetua Kalimasi

Dr Patrick D Kihoza


Computing Science Studies 
Faculty of Science
and Technology

Mzumbe University

Dr Perpetua J Kalimasi

Lecturer and Head

Educational Foundations 
Teaching Management

Mzumbe University

Technical assistance

Ravi Murugesan

INASP Associate


INASP wants to express its gratitude to our colleagues who helped with the course development; we appreciate the good team work and are extremely grateful for all the expertise this international team provided.

How should the course be used?

The online course is designed for any students, regardless of the subject of their studies. In most cases, higher education lecturers will advise their students to complete the six units of the course. Additionally, the lecturer or a tutor may offer the students a lesson in the classroom after each unit with subject-specific activities to apply the skills they learned.

It is an advantage if students can complete the online course in their first year in higher education, as it will help them analyse and evaluate information from the beginning of their studies. But it’s never too late, and we believe students can also benefit in later years.

Please note that when students approach the information we provide, we don’t expect them to memorize the contents about the diverse topics we selected. The developers tried to include interesting topics which are relevant for anybody who wants to become a responsible citizen. Of course, individual students may find some topics more interesting or more familiar than others. Each student's aim should be to assess all information critically; this course will help them refine their critical thinking skills, not become a subject expert in the topics discussed. We hope students and lecturers will enjoy the course regardless which discipline they belong to and we feel confident that everyone will take something away from it. 

Frequently asked questions

How much time do students need per unit?

To get maximum benefit from the self-study programme, students should plan to spend about four hours per unit on reading, completing the activities, and reflecting.

What sort of pace should students work at?

Students should work at their own pace, but complete each unit by the due date the lecturer gives them, if any. Each unit builds on the work of the previous one; so if students find themselves unable to complete a unit within the given period, they need to try to catch up with the content and the activities before starting the activities of the next unit.

What are students committing to when completing the self-study programme?

Encourage students to see this course as helping them develop skills that they need for their studies and for their future jobs, rather than just as something they have to complete.

Students should try to commit themselves to:

  • Keep to the course schedule
  • Complete the activities
  • Reflect on their learning
  • Respect the learning agreement

How do students learn to use the learning platform?

The students will need to go through an induction section before starting the course. Some students may be already familiar with our online learning platform Moodle. If they are, then they will be able to skip through some pages and complete the activities in the course induction quickly.

For all other students, we recommend allowing about one to two hours to become fluent in using the platform. They should read the instructions and complete the activities we provide in the course induction.

What if students have a technical issue?

If students ever have any doubts about technical or logistical matters, they can refer to: 

  • This set of frequently asked questions 
  • Moodle Tips 
  • Helpful fellow students or 
  • Their lecturer/tutor who is responsible for overseeing this self-study programme

What support can students expect?

We recommend that a lecturer or tutor, who is responsible for overseeing the self-study programme, supports the students. However, we encourage students to try to solve their problem on their own before approaching their lecturer. They should do so by:

  • Reading the course induction diligently before they start the course
  • Looking into the course induction again when they encounter a difficulty with the learning platform
  • Checking whether their fellow students have encountered the same difficulties or may even know a solution

We encourage all students to be helpful to their fellow students whenever required, as this creates a supportive learning environment.

How can students discuss things?

We encourage the students to be active in discussing what they have been learning with their fellow students. Their lecturer may provide some space for that in their lessons or an online discussion forum can be set up. However, even if lecturers decide not to do that, students will benefit from informal discussion with their fellow students. We encourage them to take any opportunity to start discussions for example, during lunch breaks or when they meet up socially. This allows them to share ideas and experiences and build on each other’s work and knowledge.

What if students have a question about the online course content?

If students have any questions relating to the academic content or learning, we encourage them to discuss informally with their fellow students and/or in the classroom if their lecturer provides space for that. They can also use the literature at the end of each unit and the optional activities to deepen their understanding of the course content.

Monitoring progress

Students can monitor their progress in several ways:

1. Unit checklist

For each unit, a checklist for students can be set up on the main learning platform page. 

The checklist helps the students to track major accomplishments when going through the self-study programme:

  • Have they gone through all readings and activities of the unit?
  • Have they made notes for the reflective activities in the unit (on the site blog or elsewhere)?
  • Have they prepared answers to the ‘final reflection’ questions in the unit?
  • If applicable, have they participated in the classroom discussion for the unit? (If your lecturer is not able to provide space during the lesson, you could also have an informal discussion with some of your fellow students.)

When going through the programme, students can tick the items they have accomplished. We encourage the students to look into the checklists at the end of each week so they can celebrate what they have accomplished and plan what to do in the following week!

2. Checkboxes

On the main learning platform page, checkboxes for each unit will be provided that show the students' progress throughout the course. These checkboxes are progress indicators; they will initially be empty and ticked automatically once students have accessed all pages of the unit.

3. Course notebook

Another crucial element of managing own learning is reflecting on it; we encourage students to relate what they learn to their own context. They can do this by keeping a course notebook in which they write down their reflections and any ideas they have. Students can keep their private course notebook in any way they prefer – a Word document, pen and paper, in the cloud, whatever suits them.

The course notebook provides evidence of a student's learning. It is a type of self-assessment, and a good way of monitoring their own learning. In this course, we indicate good points for reflection with the Reflective activity icon.

 Reflective activity icon

And at the end of each unit (the ‘What have I learned?’ page), we encourage students to reflect on the whole unit and what they learned.

What does each unit consist of?

Unit book

Denoted by , each unit contains a book with in-built reading and activities. As students progress through each unit, they will be supported by the following guidance:

Introduction and learning outcomes

The first page of each unit gives an overview of what will be covered in the unit and what a student will have learned having gone through the unit and completed all the activities.

Time needed to complete activities

Students get advice on how long it should take them to complete activities. 

Icons such as  show the approximate time they should allocate for an activity.

Key points 

Key points (denoted by ) ask students to think things through critically and note down their thoughts.  

We recommend doing this by keeping a course notebook where students write down their reflections and any ideas they generate while completing the course. They can keep their private course notebook in any way they prefer – a Word document, pen and paper, …

The students also have the opportunity to share their thoughts by writing on the blog. 

Reflections at the end of the unit

At the end of each unit students will find the page 'What have I learned?'. Again, we recommend that they jot down their reflections in their course notebook. If they like, students can share their thoughts with their fellow students by using the course blog for that unit.

Relevant literature

At the end of each unit students will find the page 'References and further resources'. This page will list all the sources used in that unit and point students towards further reading on the unit topic.

Unit blog or discussion forum

The unit blog is meant for sharing any thoughts students have about the unit with their fellow students, for example what they have learned or what else they want to find out. But we will remind them throughout the course when there are good opportunities for sharing their thoughts. Of course, lectures can also contribute to the course blog. Alternatively, a discussion forum can be set up.

Unit checklist

For each unit, students can be provided with a checklist on the main learning platform page. The checklist helps them to track major accomplishments when going through the self-study programme. Please see further information about the checklist on the page 'Monitoring progress'.

Activity types and icons

This course offers a wide range of activities which students can complete either individually or in collaboration with fellow students. Many of these activities are represented by icons, listed in the table below. Some of the icons were designed by University of Leeds and shared under Creative Commons licence CC BY. This table provides an overview:


Energizers are short activities, meant as a warm-up exercise to get started. That's the only activity that does not ask for thorough thinking; students should just complete them spontaneously and have fun.

Exploration (also called detective activity) This exploratory activity asks students to search for information or answers. This might involve watching videos, browsing through external webpages or interpreting an info-graphic. Most of the time the students are provided with guiding questions to support their learning journey.

Note down your thoughts Students can record their learning in a Word document, a physical notebook, or share their thoughts with their fellow students in a blog. They will be encouraged to do this when reaching key points in their learning journey.

Practical activity

This activity focuses on applying learning to real-life tasks. This involves purposeful reading, which students will learn more about in Unit 2.

Q&A activity

This activity asks students either to answer a question or to find a question which leads to a given answer. Sometimes the questions will provided in quiz format. Students can repeat the quiz and won't get marked. All activities are meant for their own learning; they can practise their questioning and critical thinking skills with this type of activity.

Reading activity  This activity asks students to read a text while reflecting on guiding questions.

Reflective activity

This activity asks students to think things through critically, relate what they have learned to their own context, and make plans for how they can use this new knowledge in practice. 

This activity often comes at key points of the students' learning journey; so we encourage them to record their reflections in a Word document, a physical notebook, or share their thoughts with their fellow students in the blog. Key points are denoted by

Key point icon

Optional activity

The completion of this activity is not essential to the understanding of the course. However, we highly recommend students complete them when they have time. This will deepen their understanding and help them apply their learning. And they will very likely have fun when completing this activity!