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2014-2015 General Education Focus Area


Critical Inquirers Want to Know!

What is Critical Inquiry and how do I know if I'm doing it?

At the heart of Critical Inquiry is curiosity.  Think about a child growing up in the desert who sees rain for the first    time out the window of her home. The phenomenon of the rain ignites the child's curiosity and questions begin forming in her mind.  Pretty soon just watching the rain is not enough and she is begging her Grandmother to let her go out into the rain to experience it for herself.  As the child feels, tastes, hears, sees, and smells the rain she is using her senses to draw initial conclusions about the rain. Likely the questions she can't answer from her experience of the rain will later lead to an exhaustive list of questions for her grandmother--and anyone else who will listen. Children are a great example of the pure joy of curious learning and curious learning leads to Critical Inquiry.

All of the general education classes you encounter at AWC provide you the opportunity to ask, "What do I want to know and how will I find it out?"  Critical Inquiry is the process of developing deeper and more complex questions about the topics, issues, theories, and experiences you encounter throughout your coursework, while simultaneously making connections across the courses you take and in your daily experiences as you try to find the answers. However, Critical Inquiry involves more than just asking questions, but rather asking the right kinds of questions: questions that probe the foundation of and justification for our ideas, and that force those ideas to be weighed, compared, and evaluated with the world around us.

As you engage in courses in each of the General Education Focus Areas. you are not simply laying the foundation for a degree program, you are exercising your curiosity, stretching your mind, and expanding your ability to understand, analyze, and apply what you learn in new ways that are unique to you and your inquiring mind.

In the 17th century Rene Descartes wrote "cogito ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am" as a way to illustrate the existence of the human mind.  This short phrase continues to spark debate about the nature of thought, but this much is for sure: questioning how and why humans think is most certainly an act of Critical Inquiry. 

To help engage students in general education the General Education Curriculum Committee (GECC) and the Office of Assessment, Program review, Curriculum and Articulation gave away 80's style sunglasses with the web address for the Critical Inquiry webpage ( In the fall sunglasses were given away at random but in the spring, the GECC asked students to provide an example of when they were actively engage in critical inquiry.

Click here to read how students engaged in critical inquiry!

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