The following is an example of a critical thinking exercise from my Freshmen Seminar courses at the University of Texas at Tyler.

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ABC's of Critical Thinking

One of the objectives of this class is to help you begin to see the world in a different way; to take a closer look at things you see every day. You'll be looking at familiar things, but in a different way; with a different purpose, also known as "reframing." Reframing allows us to consciously decide to take a different perspective on an event in order to arrive at a new meaning for the experience.

In 'Open to Change' (MCB Publications, 1981), Vincent Nolan explains it this way:

"Reframing means looking at a familiar phenomenon from a new angle. Any situation can be looked at in a wide variety of different frameworks, and each one is capable of throwing a new light on the subject...the ability and willingness to set aside the conventional framework (temporarily) is one of the key skills of invention and discovery... these pigeon holes into which we classify things and situations, events and people, are themselves arbitrary and artificial: convenient and useful for some purposes - but one, not the only way to view the world. The pigeon holes can be suspended (temporarily) and new ones brought to bear, without cost and with profit.

There is another important dimension to reframing. Once we accept that the same thing can be viewed in many different ways, all of them potentially useful, it is no longer necessary to impose our view of things on other people, we can accept theirs as alternative viewpoints, valid for themselves, and potentially enriching our understanding of the situation."

What we'll discover as we move through this semester is that we all see things in a different way depending on our background, socialization, peer groups, and interests. As critical thinkers, we should try to expand our horizons and interests as well as welcome new learning experiences.

Toward that end, your assignment this week, and your first group project, is to take your camera out and find images of the ABC's in the world around you. The structure of a bridge may contain the letter "H" for example, while the handle on a drawer may be shaped like the letter "C."


  • Images must be capital letters
  • You may move objects as they are to get a better shot, but you may not alter them in any other way - that is, you may not break branches off a tree to make an "F" or affix bell peppers to a carrot to make a "B." See images below for more detail.
  • For each image you submit you must provide the following information
    • The letter you've photographed (hopefully, this will be obvious, but just in case!) and a brief description of the photo (see example table below)
    • Where and when the photo was taken
    • Who took the photo (your name)
  • Burn your images to a CD and bring them to class. You will email your chart separately (do not put your images in the chart! You must submit images separately from the chart). Please be sure to include your last name on your image files: Wolf-A, Wolf-B, Wolf-C, etc.
  • The best examples of each letter will be posted to the Student Projects website

Example Table - please alphabetize your list. Do not put your images into the table - just provide a description of them.
image location date photographer
E - against black background my front porch 1-15-05 Dr. Wolf
W - crook of a tree at a friend's house 1-15-05 Dr. Wolf
Y - stick against grass my back yard 1-15-05 Dr. Wolf

Example Images

Acceptable Unacceptable
e b
This fern looked to me like the letter E, but it was so delicate I moved it to a solid color background so it would show up better in the picture. This image is unacceptable for our project because it was arranged by me to look like the letter B. Use things as you find them to represent the alphabet.
Acceptable Unacceptable
y y
It's ok to crop, rotate, flip, or lighten any of your pictures. However, for this exercise, don't use advanced imaging features like neon coloring, embossing, negatives, or sepia tones. Make sure the ABC letter is in the foreground; "reframe" your shot, "narrow the field" so the picture clearly shows what you want it to show.
Acceptable Unacceptable



Even though the background is a little busy, it's still clear that the letter represented is a "W." It would have looked better to crop this picture to get the car out of the background and make the "W" a little easier to see. The "W" on a pair of Wrangler jeans, like the "M" of the McDonald's arches is not acceptable. Using man-made materials is fine, as long as they don't intentionally represent a letter of the alphabet.

NOTE: Please remember that the plagiarism policy applies to images, too. Snatching images off the Internet will not fulfill the requirements for this assignment, and if discovered will result in a semester grade of "F" - see conduct policy for details.