Critical Thinking : Complex Problem Solving & Decision Making Without Being Critical

Upcoming dates (1)

For registration assistance: 608-262-2451
Register by mail: printable registration form


This class will be a mix of self-directed learning through Canvas (UW Learning Management System), and a live online session with the instructor using the Zoom platform. The self-directed learning information will be open and downloadable through Canvas starting approximately two weeks before the live virtual session.

You may know the moment: Your team is discussing what to do about a difficult issue. A solution has just been voiced with a tone of certainty and triumph but you somehow know it's unworkable — a "bad idea." But you can't say exactly what's so bad about it. Your brain is tied in knots. Although you're able to stifle the impulse to say "that's no good," you're not able to unpack the poor logic or impracticality of the solution.

This class will give you both the analysis and the communication tools to know what to do next. You'll gain the applied skills of critical analysis, solution generation, risk assessment, behavior interpretation, communication, social influence and decision-making when issues are complex and there is disagreement about how to proceed. Both solutions and relationships are often at stake. Therefore, in addition to learning methods for problem analysis and decision-making, you will also gain an understanding of how to navigate difficult discussions when emotions and power differentials are impacting the dynamics.


Learning objectives:

  • Gather the information you need to analyze a specific complex problem or decision.
  • Implement a process for higher-quality solution generation.
  • Assess the implications and consequences of possible solutions.
  • Communicate the important elements of the problem/decision to others and support recommended solutions with well-reasoned arguments and evidence.
  • Recognize how emotions and power dynamics factor into complex discussions and anticipate the perspectives and behaviors of others involved.

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Earn Continuing Education Hours

By participating in this class you will earn:

Instructional Hours 6
University of Wisconsin Continuing Education Units .6

Explanation of Continuing Education Hours

Upcoming dates (1)

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Program Questions?

Contact Brittany Browning at bbrowning2@wisc.edu or 608-265-7939

Registration Questions?

Email registrations@pyle.wisc.edu or call 608-262-2451.

Continuing Studies FAQs

Meet your instructor

Sara McKinnon

(PhD, Arizona State University) is a full-time faculty member in the Department of Communication Arts. She has spent over a decade teaching courses such as Communication & Human Behavior, Intercultural Communication, and Conflict Communication. She also regularly works as a conflict mediator, communication consultant, and organizational process facilitator in her activities outside of the classroom.