Using Comic Books to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

Using Comic Books to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

“[The comics] helped me think about how I thought during similar situations. This is what, in turn, aided my learning and helped improve my thinking.”

-Philosophy 211 undergraduate student

About the Critical Thinking Comic Books

The purpose of the critical thinking comic book series is to depict a beginning critical thinker, Paul Elder, as he makes his way through everyday undergraduate life on Belknap Campus. Paul faces opportunities and situations in his everyday life that can benefit from new ways of thinking and applying the concepts of critical thinking.

The comics were written and illustrated by UofL students who were trained in using the Paul-Elder critical thinking framework by Department of Philosophy faculty member Dr. Brian Barnes. Dr. Barnes conceived and completed the comics in fulfillment of an i2a SUN Grant.

The front matter of each issue introduces the parts of the Paul-Elder framework–the Elements (printed in blue), Standards (printed in red), and Intellectual Traits (printed in green). This color-coding system is used in the subsequent story cells and some of the thought balloons in order to prompt readers to identify one or more of the corresponding Paul-Elder critical thinking components occurring in that cell.

The Adventures in Critical Thinking Comic Series includes:

  • Issue 1: To Party or Not to Party? – Paul uses critical thinking to make decisions about his weekend on campus.
  • Issue 2: Roommate Troubles – Paul’s RA helps him apply critical thinking to roommate discord.
  • Issue 3: Going Home for the Holidays – Paul struggles with his concerns about alcohol abuse by his parents at the holiday break.
  • Issue 4: Thinking Religion Through – Paul and his roommate investigate religious thinking with critical thinking tools.
  • Issue 5: Thinking Critically about Pride – Paul investigates his thinking and biases about gay culture on campus.
  • Issue 6: Thinking with the Thinker (incomplete issue) – Paul thinks his academic career through with parents, critical thinking tools, and Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

View a sample comic: Issue 2: Roommate Troubles [PDF]

For access to all six comics in the series, contact i2a specialist for critical thinking Dr. Edna Ross.

How to Use the Comics

Instructors and staff members at UofL may wish to use the comic books in a variety of multi-layered methods, including:

  • Introducing students to the Paul-Elder critical thinking framework at UofL
  • Guiding students to read, reflect, analyze and discuss the ways in which critical thinking is displayed (or not) in each comic’s narrative and how these ideas apply to their own lives and to the principles of the Paul-Elder framework

Page 2 of each comic book issue provides approaches and strategies for using comic books with students to foster the development of critical thinking.

Dr. Barnes has created YouTube videos to help introduce instructors and staff members to the comic books and explain how to use them: