Critical Thinking in Professional and Academic Writing (3 cr)
Professional and academic success requires the effective use of writing to reach shared understanding of situations, develop and communicate a coherent line of reasoning and assessment of options, arrive at sound individual and collective judgments, and achieve intended results with readers and collaborators. Successful written communications originate from critical thinking processes that incorporate clarity of purpose, accuracy, and sound analysis with awareness of audience and context. This course develops and strengthens these core abilities to think critically and write effectively. Students practice the reasoning, composition, and collaboration skills that are basic to these abilities, including library research, editing, formatting, and engaging in substantive reflection and dialogue on key issues.

Course Learning Objectives

1. Explain the purposes, forms, and phases of professional and academic writing.

2. Use critical thinking to ask fruitful questions, offer sound arguments, assess the arguments of others, and arrive at warranted conclusions.

3. Select and integrate background sources so as to fulfill the expectations and purpose of a written work.

4. Apply criteria of effective writing to the constructive evaluation and improvement of their own and others’ work, including using APA style correctly, including punctuation, work forms, citations, and overall format.

5. Evaluate how they handle the thinking, reflecting, and writing tasks associated with the different phases and purposes of the common forms of professional and academic writing.

Research Methods (3 cr)
This course introduces qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches to research in an interdisciplinary context. It examines methodological assumptions of those approaches and fundamental issues in designing a research study. Students think critically about how to use various methods to investigate information and phenomena of interest to create new knowledge for professional and academic purposes.  Students identify a manageable research question that is consistent with their educational and professional goals, design a small project to answer the question, collect, analyze and interpret data, and present their research findings.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Apply the assumptions of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods to research and knowledge creation.

2. Explain how biases, critical thinking skills, and ethics influence the research process and data interpretation.

3. Evaluate research questions.

4. Justify the “goodness of fit” of research questions, scope, and methods used to investigate them.

5. Implement the key elements of performing modest research projects.

Communication, Action Inquiry, & Behavioral Development (3 cr)
Communication shapes our relationships, personal and professional effectiveness, and our understanding of social settings. This course emphasizes the role of skillful inquiry for transforming social settings, and examines the benefits of communicating with transparency, integrity, and accountability. Students learn how behavioral development theory accounts for (a) why there are major patterns of difference and change in how people think, feel, and act in different situations; (b) why it can be so difficult to communicate effectively; (c) why skillful communications depend on self-reflection and timely awareness or mindfulness, and (d) why relationships and behaviors are improved by using the action inquiry framework and related communication skills. Students learn a pattern of action logics and how they show up in human and organizational behaviors. They use that knowledge to plan, initiate, participate in, and follow up with difficult conversations and evaluate changes. Learning is transferred and built upon to apply action logics to groups and organizations, e.g., to conflicts, to effective meetings and teams, and to becoming learning organizations.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Explain the value of planning and making careful inquiries into others’ actions.

2. Observe and identify the characteristics of the most common action logics in diverse settings.

3. Increase the use of timely self-awareness in communications.

4. Use the action inquiry framework and related skills to plan, initiate, and engage in difficult conversations.

5. Critically assess one’s communication effectiveness to inform strategies for continuous improvement.

Foundations in Conflict Theory & Analysis (3 cr)
This course explores the still-evolving theoretical foundations, key thinkers, and current state of interdisciplinary field of conflict studies. Some theories that generated models for conflict analysis are emphasized for exploration and application. The complexity of some conflicts is considered in light of the (in)sufficiency of single theories to explain them. The theoretical foundations share equal emphasis during the course with the practice of analysis. This helps students to make logical connections that integrate theory and practice. Such connections are considered via historical or current conflicts and through applying some analytical and assessment models to basic conflict case studies. Students learn experientially why conflict analysis provides essential information for making wise choices of conflict engagement methods. The course develops students’ critical thinking that supports doing conflict analysis, and skills for communicating the results of analysis. Finally, the course grounds students in the habit of practicing conflict analysis and engagement in everyday life, and in habit of reflecting on the learning gained from such practice.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Think critically about how well some theories of conflict seem to account for historical or currently-observed processes of conflict.

2. Experiment with using single or combined theories to analyze multiple facets of conflicts.

3. Reflect critically on the challenges of using theories and models to analyze conflicts.

4. Demonstrate personal habits of analyzing conflicts and reflecting on learning in the course of daily life.

Conflict Intervention Methods (3 cr)
This course introduces a spectrum of common conflict intervention methods from which practitioners often select. Methods include negotiation, mediation, arbitration, consensus, dialogue and deliberation processes, and conflict coaching. These are critically examined for key assumptions and common rationales for choosing them. To equip them to make such choices, students learn a typology of conflicts to critically evaluate the fit between situations and methods. They develop analytical skills to assess the pros and cons of methods so they can describe and justify recommendations for methods proposed in particular conflicts. Students also learn basic principles and methods of reflective practice, a requisite habit for those who work with conflict.  Thus, the course develops students’ critical and reflective thinking as applied specifically to conflict analysis and practice across a range of settings. Such exposure supports students’ discernment of areas for possible specialization and helps focus their academic and professional development goals.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Compare similarities and differences of types of conflicts and their implications for choosing intervention methods.

2. Compare the underlying assumptions of various intervention methods, including human and other resources they require.

3. Apply criteria for selecting intervention methods in given situations.

4. Describe and justify methods recommended for different conflicted situations.

5. Use reflective practice to inform and evaluate personal and professional development.

Three (1 cr) courses built around 3 skills workshops
Theory & Practice of Negotiation & Mediation – This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Essential Skills for Negotiation and Mediation, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews basic theories and models associated with the practices of negotiation and mediation.

Theory & Practice of Group Facilitation – This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Essential Skills for Group Facilitation, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews basic theories and models associated with the practices of facilitating group processes.

Theory & Practice of Action Inquiry – This course is comprised of three phases: a skills workshop, study of theory and models, and field experience with reporting thereon. After successful participation in the skills workshop titled Action Inquiry, students engage in the theoretical phase of the course, which reviews the developmental theory of action logics and the action inquiry framework.

For each course students apply theories and models to their workshop skills-building experiences, and critically reflect on the integration of theory and practice to date. The final phase of the course solidifies learning as students conduct and report on their use of the skills in brief field experiences, and evaluate the efforts through the lens of theory, models, and practices learned during the course.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use theory to explain why one chooses certain tactics in small conflict interventions/small group process settings/intervention-motivated communications.

2. Critically compare how one’s field practices align or diverge from common models, and why.

3. Use knowledge of theory, models, and methods to evaluate one’s progress in developing applied skills.

Identity Development and Conflict (3 cr)
Change agents in every setting confront conflicted situations and have leadership roles therein. Such individuals have an ethical duty to know themselves well enough to “first, do no harm.” That duty includes understanding conflict and identity as enduring factors in ordinary human experience and leadership challenges. Conflicts press for choices among stakeholders’ competing interests and needs, often threatening identity along with presenting issues. Drawing from developmental, conflict, and leadership theories and applications, this course examines mental models of leadership, how personal and group identities form and change as they develop, and how these factors impact leadership and conflict styles, effectiveness in change-making, and capacities for critical reflection and foresight.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Situate oneself in the developmental continuum represented in theory and applications.

2. Describe the linkage between complexity of mind, leadership, and experience of conflict.

3. Compare and contrast the usefulness of developmental theories in understanding leadership and conflict.

4. Apply the understanding of developmental theories to leadership issues and how conflict is engaged and resolved (or left unresolved).

5. Evaluate the ethical issues and concerns related to using development theory in leadership and conflict management.

Deliberation & Complex Decision Making (3 cr)
This course implements Einstein’s observation that problems can be solved only by thinking with more complexity than the original thinking that created the problems. Mangers, leaders, consultants, and public officials must routinely plan, anticipate and resolve conflicts, set priorities, and and solve problems related to all such activities. Decisions that serve short- and long-term needs with social and environmental justice, and that avoid unintended consequences, rely on elevated critical thinking and more complex methods. They use carefully identified and framed information about layers of situational priorities and systemic complexity. In light of such challenges, the course examines limits of common judgment and decision theories and approaches to deliberation. It compares them to assumptions and methods based on behavioral development and complexity science theories. Students learn widely-transferable systematic methods that facilitate complex, deliberative thinking about decisions. Methods (a) accomplish accurate problem identification efficiently, (b) frame options or scenarios with objective inclusiveness, (c) replicate methods to predict and allow for inevitable tensions among competing needs, interests, and resource constraints. The processes and outcomes of consciously deliberating thus-prepared decisions are compared to those of consensus and more common personal, organizational, and public decision making.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Use course concepts and models to become aware of and critically reflect on one’s own decision processes.

2. Explain the complexity of competing perspectives that occur within as well as among individuals and groups.

3. Analyze situations and issues methodically to identify priorities and justify their selection from different perspectives.

4. Employ replicable methods for individuals or groups to frame issues and deliberate decisions.

5. Use methods learned in the course in professional communications about plans, conflicts, and/or problem-solving.

Structures and Systems of Conflict (3 cr)
This course takes an integrative psychological , social, and cultural approach to structures and systems of conflict. It examines the roles of structures and systems of conflict within individuals and collectives. These include obvious and not-so-obvious system dynamics in all phases of conflict. The course develops empathy and reduces biased judgments, clearing the way for critical thinking skills needed for conflict analysis. Students learn to identify visible and invisible systems (e.g., roles of beliefs, identity, and “ism’s”), formal and informal structures (e.g., institutions, dependencies, power), and to analyze their actions and interactions. Using concepts drawn from multiple fields  of study, students build systems thinking skills to analyze situations and cases. Course outcomes include skills to analyze if not also predict the roles of structures and systems in the “who, where, and why” of conflicts.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate emphatic intimacy with accounts of people trapped in as well as contributing to particular social situations.

2. Apply appropriate course concepts to the analysis of structures and systems of conflict in a variety of situations and case analyses.

3. Discriminate among structures and systems of conflict at micro and meso scales, and identify their relations (including their relations with macro scales, wherever appropriate).

4. Set manageable boundaries when analyzing conflicts.

5. Critically reflect on one’s positioning toward actors involved in or contributing to conflicts.

Culture and Conflict (3 cr)
This course introduces and applies a range of concepts from cultural conflict theory that are essential to critical systems thinking about, and analysis of, cultural conflicts. Various definitions of both culture and conflict are examined. Core dimensions of every cultural conflict system are studied, which include the content of the conflict, the history and nature of relations among parties, and the clash of cultural values. The static and developing roles of individual and collective narratives, identities, and uses of territories are examined.  Analytical methods and their rationale are introduced and their applications are critically examined.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate relevant critical systems thinking skills in analyzing conflicts.

2. Apply key concepts in cultural conflict theory across multiple cases.

3. Explain how specific concepts foster through case analysis.

4. Evaluate the cross-cutting applicability of concepts from one case to another.

5. Evaluate progressive changes in learning while analyzing cultural conflicts.


Critical Systems Thinking for 21st Century Change Agents (3 cr)
This course introduces and applies key concepts and practices of critical systems thinking to personal, organizational, and public contexts. Applicable to all human endeavors, such thinking is essential to inform strategies and interventions meant to initiate change, address issues, and manage conflicts and resources. Course topics include pattern analysis, properties of complex adaptive systems, and leverage points for action on small and larger scales of social and environmental concerns. Course methods develop students’ competency to apply critical system thinking practices, understand prior and current experience, meet professional challenges and career needs, and serve as effective change agents.

Course Learning Outcomes

1. Explain both the differences between critical systems thinking and linear thinking and the implications of those differences for efforts to change the status quo.

2. Distinguish different kinds of systems and their attributes essential to consider in interpersonal, organizational, and other levels of social action.

3. Use appropriate tools for the description, explanation, and modeling of dynamic social systems.

4. Analyze situations and cases at various scales using concepts and practices learned in the course.

5. Suggest strategies for addressing real world situations at the systems level that are justified with concepts drawn from critical systems thinking.