General Track of the School of Thinking is open to all individuals holding a master’s degree. It integrates multiple modes of learning, combining thought-provoking lectures and discussions with experiential workshops and personal or group projects. It consists of a series of direct contact sessions conducted over the course of one academic year, as well as self-managed study supported by 1 on 1 consultations with the faculty.
Each group of 14-26 students is hosted by a facilitator who supports the learning process and assists in making connections between various activities offered in the programme.
Most two-day sessions are divided into a “Plant” day focused on providing new input through lectures and panel discussions, followed by an “Explore” day engaging the participants to co-create the learning and build on the new ideas.
The programme can be followed via a On-Campus path at Vrije Universitait Brussels or the Remote path available to students worldwide. Groups of students following different paths will merge for “Plant” days but work separately during “Explore” days to ensure maximum comfort and engagement of each group.
ON CAMPUS PATH
Plant day format
Lectures / panel discussions delivered remotely (campus space available to meet in person if desired)
Lectures / panel discussions delivered remotely
Explore day format
Full day of workshops at VUB campus (Etterbeck, Brussels)
Interactive workshops via Zoom
Monthly Thursday + Friday session
(see Workflows for detailed schedule)
Two consecutive Thursdays each month
(see Workflows for detailed schedule)
The 1-year curriculum comprises of the following five large components (courses):
This part of the program provides the foundational concepts and language to think – and talk – about thinking. Integrating multiple perspectives provided by cognitive science it explores the mind/brain as an embodied, biological, cybernetic system – and then asks how it is possible for such a system to perceive and represent its environment, exhibit intelligence, and be the seat of consciousness.
The course consists of the following parts:
- What is thinking? with prof. Francis Heylighen (10h). A comprehensive introduction to what we think we know about thinking delivered in the form of knowledge-intense lectures.
- The brain (6h) with Balthazar Tirosh, M.D. A glimpse of the biology behind perception, consciousness, learning, and cognitive aging.
- Embodied cognition(4h) with Meredith Root-Bernstein, PhD. A seminar exploring the concrete, experiential nature of thinking and the way it includes the entirety of the thinker’s body (and sometimes its tools and environment).
- Thinking Better (12h) with prof. Francis Heylighen, prof. Jean-Paul Van Bendegem and prof. Gerard de Zeeuw. A recurring panel discussion, bridging the gap between deep philosophical questions about thinking, and the very pragmatic task of improving it. Three renowned researchers bring together the perspective of logic(s), cognitive science and action research to explore what it means to become more intelligent, rational, logical or effective at thinking – and how to achieve it.The program of the panel is largely set by the students themselves. Most of the sessions of Thinking Better are shaped by questions brainstormed by students at the conclusion of the previous session – in reaction to the class and the associated readings.
Beautiful Minds is a guided study in going beyond extraordinary contributions to human culture to recognize the minds that were able to call them to life. Inspired by the practice of art appreciation, the course asks: “What if minds could be experienced and appreciated for their beauty?”. It invites the students to explore and celebrate unique ways of thinking, thus helping them to expand their own range of approaches to how one could think.
Founded on a specific philosophical and aesthetic toolkit, explained in introductory lectures (4h) it also consists of interactive workshops (10h), individual or group work (60h), as well as 1h of consultation for each working group or person. It is facilitated by Weaver D.R. Weinbaum, PhD.
The largest part of the curriculum provides the students with a rich array of advanced thinking frameworks, methods, and tools. It consists of several smaller modules, each introducing a certain approach to thinking.
The objectives for this are two-layered. On one hand the students are invited to apply the tools they learn in practice, experimenting on their own, or guiding others (collaborators, teams, organisations) in joining in and thinking together. On the other, the sheer number of perspectives, models and approaches encountered along the way results in increased flexibility and less reliance on any particular one. By being able to experiment with the affordances and limitation of each set of tools, the students will exercise the power, plasticity, and movability of thought itself.
The course consists of the following parts:
- Fallacies and biases(6h) with Maciej Świeży, PhD
- Critical thinking(6h) with Karin Verelst, PhD
- Divergent and lateral thinking(6h) with prof. Edward Nęcka
- Extended mind(6h) with Orion Maxted, Katarina Petrovič, and Clement Vidal
- Co-thinking(6h) with Iwona Sołtysińska
- Dialectical thinking(6h) with Cadell Last, PhD
- Systems thinking(6h) with Stefan Blachfellner
- Complexity thinking(6h) with Sayfan Borghini, PhD
- Game thinking(6h) with Weaver, D.W. Weinbaum, PhD.
- Worldviews and identities(6h) with Paul Wouters
- Nurturing intelligence (6h) with Lotte Van Lith
- The Locus of Thinking (6h) with Marta Lenartowicz, PhD
The ‘Thinking Toolkit’ course comprises 72 hours of instruction and 240 hours of individual work (individual exercises and writing). Instruction is carried out in an interactive, hands(heads)-on manner. The teaching methods include group exercises, individual and group experimentation, mini-lectures, discussions, teamwork, games and practical assignments. Each module is preceded by a reading assignment, sometimes supplemented by a pre-work exercise documented in a correspondence between the participants and the instructor.
Serving as space for integrating new learning and translating it to life outside the program, the Thinking Studio is a recurring workshop that aims for stability and containment among all the creative chaos. Facilitated by the program founder or current director, the workshop provides a group learning environment for integrating the teaching and learning processes happening in the entire programme. Special emphasis is put on the integration of the new knowledge, ideas, and skills into the unique everyday practice of each student.
Thinking Studio doubles as a source of inspiration and guidance for individual projects carried out by the students. It presents them with three long-term tasks that can be adapted to specific personal and professional contexts.
- Intervention (task 2) happens in social context. The participants choose a specific problem caused or worsened by apparent limitations of thinking – and then try to understand it deeper, possibly helping develop way to go beyond the limitations.
- Dialogue (task 3) is a creative writing exercise in which the students come to grips with various potential parts that their own minds consist of.
This course is facilitated by Maciej Świeży, PhD or Marta Lenartowicz, PhD. It comprises of 26 hours of workshops, 3 hours of individual consultations, 52 hours dedicated to individual exercises, and 52 hours dedicated to writing the final reports.
From its inception the VUB has always prided itself on its guiding philosophy of Free Thinking, as reflected in its mottos ‘Thinking should never submit itself’, ‘Reason and Engage’ and ‘Nothing is unthinkable’, and more generally in its striving for diversity of perspectives, interdisciplinary collaboration, and engagement with contemporary issues. The free, critical, creative and independent thinking, being the focus of our programme, constitutes a core element of the university’s DNA and is consistently taught in several well established open seminar series, organised around the campus.
Our programme interlinks these initiatives, making the participation in the selected series into an integral part the curriculum. The students select at least one among the on-going series and follow it throughout one semester. In addition to the regular participation, the students carry out an observation assignment designed to advance their understanding of the processes of co-thinking.
The list of available seminars includes:
- Crosstalks: a series of open dialogues between academic and corporate researchers, philosophers, artists, designers, policymakers and citizens;
- Back to Thinking: an online podcast series of the VUB Engage, a broad participatory trajectory of the VUB.
- Reason and Engage:a university-wide course that stimulates students to reflect about controversial, contemporary issues;
- Food for Thought: a series of lunch meetings in which global, present-day issues are discussed by academics from different disciplines;
- Think-tank Poincaré: a flexible group of VUB researchers reflecting about contemporary issues, such as cities, that touch on many disciplines;
- Mindblowers: a series of performances by scientists and artists intended to inspire the public to reflect about revolutionary new ideas;
- The VUB Honours programme: selected students from all faculties debate and reflect with experts on important scientific developments and their relation to society;
- ECCO seminars: a long-running series of weekly interdisciplinary seminars and discussions organized by the Center Leo Apostel with presenters from around the world.
This component of the curriculum assumes that the students will allocate 26 hours to the participation in the seminar series of their choice and 48 hours to the assignment. Additionally, each student receives 1 hour of individual consultation.
- Illeism (task 1) is a self-observation task, in which participants are invited to take a detached, third-person perspective on their own thought processes, as they happen in solitude or while interacting with other people. It helps to become more aware of one’s own recurring patterns of thought.
The Postgraduate School of Thinking is conducted entirely in English. It takes one academic year (two semesters) to accomplish. The curriculum comprises of 750 hours of study, which includes 174 instruction /contact hours and 576 hours of flexibly scheduled individual and group work.
Contact sessions amount to an average workload of 2-3 days per month. The additional individual and group work is estimated to take about 3 to 4 days per month, scheduled at students’ own pace.
The detailed schedules, assignments and more can be found in the ‘Workflows’ section of the website – see the menu in the top right corner.
Number of students in one group: min. 16, max. 26. (Additional places are foreseen for the SoT Fellows)
In order to successfully graduate from the programme and obtain the certificate of completion the students are required to meet the following requirements within the respective allocated timeframes (as specified by each assignment):
- Attendance:minimum 80%.
- ‘Thinking about Thinking’ course: pass 2 knowledge quizzes with at least 80% correct answers (each quiz can be re-taken once).
- ‘Thinking Toolkit’ course: complete the pre-work assignments where necessary.
- ‘Engaged Thinking’ course: record 26 hours of self-observation (logs in the Portfolio Task 1).
- ‘Beautiful Minds’ course: give the BM presentation.
- Thinking Studio’ course: complete the Portfolio Tasks 2 and 3.
Upon successful fulfilment of the completion requirements listed above, a ‘Postgraduate Certificate School of Thinking – Field of study Philosophy and Moral Sciences’ will be awarded by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).