Think EKU!

At EKU, we are dedicated to helping students succeed. Meet Fred May, a professor who uses a structured teaching model to encourage students to think critically and creatively.

Fred May is an associate professor in the Safety, Security and Emergency Management Department in the College of Justice and Safety.  He is a recipient, along with nine others, of the Critical Thinking Teacher of the Year award. The first annual award was coordinated by Kate Williams, director of the Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) to recognize "outstanding faculty members who have had an effect on developing their students' critical/creative thinking skills."

Currently enrolled students were asked to nominate professors who had done an excellent job in "encouraging them to think critically and/or creatively about the subject matter in their class," said Ms. Williams.

Students who nominated Dr. May described his ability to explain clearly the eight elements of critical and creative thinking and the role intellectual standards play as individuals work through the process of executing the elements.

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INTERVIEW WITH DR. FRED MAY
Winner, Critical Thinking Teacher of the Year, 2011:

What is it about the Critical Thinking teaching model that would attract students to EKU?

One attraction for prospective students is the awareness that EKU provides students with a solution to addressing the needs of the world through high-order thinking and communicating. They expect a thinking platform that they have not experienced before. It should be here to meet them; something greater than just more courses. 

I also believe that prospective students would be curious about the mystery of the university experience and how it differs from the junior high and high school experience. If they are shown that they will now engage in something new called high-order thinking and communication through an established system, they will discover something different in the university experience -- something that is valuable.

It should be clear that “if you come to EKU, we will turn you into critical thinkers and enable you to succeed.”

How does this model contribute to student success? Will the skills learned from this teaching model translate into higher achievement in other classes -- particularly to classes taught by a professor who has not adopted this method?

My students learn to integrate critical thinking with other existing systems that are directly tied to the applied profession of emergency management. Thus, they know how to relate critical thinking to the profession using systematic and detailed approaches. 

The approaches I teach are generic and applicable to any applied discipline and topic that works with processes. Most applied academic disciplines and topics teach students about procedures and internal and external processes. Critical thinking lets the student (and professor) know that all considerations have been packaged (elements) and addressed well (standards) in the analysis by a well-grounded critical thinker (intellectual traits).

Students have things in mind to pose as questions. No professor likes a silent classroom. 

How does this teaching model help a student stand out in a job interview?

Students can stand out in a job interview by thinking their way through the interview dialogue beforehand. Through Socratic questioning they can anticipate interview questions and consider how to organize answers to answer additional questions. During the interview, they would then focus on their purpose in the interview, questions at issue, sensing implications and consequences of their responses and comments, presenting constructive points of view, and thinking towards logical conclusions using the best available information and trying to avoid assumptions. If they speaks in terms of concepts, hypotheses and models, a prospective employer will see a future employee who thinks structurally and strategically to contribute to company solutions.

How does this teaching model help a student to become an exceptional employee?

This teaching model helps students to be contemplative and reflective when communicating through the use of the critical thinking structures. In addressing work tasks, they would avoid low-order communication characterized by being unclear and inaccurate; thinking narrowly, shallowly, and unfairly, etc. They would address the elements of critical thinking through high-order communication by expressing each element clearly, accurately, deeply, broadly, and fairly, etc. By exhibiting the intellectual traits, they would be evaluated as a high-quality person intellectually who understands company issues that others would likely not be aware of nor solidly address.

When students complete one of your classes, what do you hope they will take away?

I hope that they will take away the habit of structured high-order thinking which they would naturally settle into when speaking, reading and writing. They would be aware of the downfalls of low-order communication when competing generally in life and the advantages of high-order thinking and communicating especially when it is important to succeed. I hope that the students will be changed by knowing that it is best to think first and then to speak (communicate), taking on the persona of thinking individuals rather than spontaneous reactive communicators who give little thought to the implications and consequences of their thinking and associated communication.

What are the benefits of a structured thinking system?

I have worked as a professional in several government, industry, and academic environments and never had the benefit of a structured thinking system, such as the one developed through the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Although on those jobs we always believed we were critical thinkers. It was a relief to me professionally to be introduced to this structure during my past two years at EKU. I personally see it as being helpful, so I therefore believe in it and see it as being helpful to my students. Students wil benefit from the opportunity of learning and embracing the elements, standards, and traits of critical and creative thinking and associated powerful concepts before leaving college.  Rather than waiting many years to discover the relevancy of it late in life, this early experience will help them avoid making common mistakes in life and career through reactive low-order thinking and communication.