Critical Reasoning and Analytical Skills 2009-10

To one degree or another, every class at Williams goes beyond its subject—be it mathematics, Machiavelli, or modernism—to teach intellectual skills that have wide application in other fields as well as outside of the academy: scientific reckoning, expository writing, rhetorical analysis, oral presentation, and so on.

Courses offered under the CRAAS initiative foreground such analytical skills. While each CRAAS class covers a different topic, all are aimed particularly at developing the processes necessary for excellence in a range of fields: techniques for analyzing ideas, data, texts or artworks; approaches to interpreting, synthesizing, and developing arguments; strategies for presenting ideas and results.

CRAAS classes typically emphasize the practices of meta-analysis—self-criticism, editing, and revision—with the goal of constant improvement. Many classes feature peer tutoring, small group work, and intensive one-on-one engagement with the professor. Students should leave a CRAAS course with a substantially heightened ability to approach problems, analyze texts, and craft arguments in whatever discipline they may go on to explore.

A few CRAAS courses are restricted to advanced students, but the majority are open to all, and some are specifically targeted for first-year students. Most have strictly limited enrollment. Because these classes cultivate the general strategies of effective scholarship, students are encouraged to consider taking a CRAAS course early in their academic careers.

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