HUM50000 Critical Acting

Academic Year 2023/2024

Critical thinking is a core part of a university education in any discipline. Developing the ability to question ideologies and belief systems in a meaningful way, identifying the ways in which power relationships manifest themselves directly and indirectly in words and actions, and seeing through attempts by those in power to obfuscate exactly these manipulative activities are central components of higher education. Yet out in “real life” it is not easy to live according to these principles: After all, just identifying these issues through critical thinking is not sufficient; the true challenge is “critical acting” – doing something to improve a situation on the basis of our critical insights. Today perhaps more than ever before just describing the world’s problems is not enough; critical insights are only useful insofar as they lead to attempts to tackle and solve said problems. However, speaking truth to power inside and outside the academy is not easy and can lead to repercussions – yet it is a core part of academic activity, and currently under systemic threat in many places.
Critical Acting requires an understanding of ethics, a knowledge of strategies to engage in controversies effectively (finding allies, disseminating knowledge, taking appropriate action etc.), a way of coping mentally with the backlash by those being critiqued (particularly in our over-polarised world), and the strengthening of the moral backbone that every one of us regularly requires in light of the systemic temptations to enjoy the easier life of someone who never stirs the pot.
This module will address all these issues in an academic context through engagement with secondary literature, yet first and foremost examples experienced by those involved in teaching on it (including social, political and higher education issues). It will be taught by contributors from a broad range of disciplines and institutions who have personal experience with the issues in question. The areas covered will include issues affecting all walks of life such as equality, diversity and inclusion; neoliberalism; post-truth mentality; cancel culture and others. Students will be expected to identify issues of concern to them in their specific areas of research and develop strategies of how to engage with them critically and productively. The assignments will focus on producing creative and innovative responses to the issues concerning the participants in their own work.
In order to register for this module please go to this webpage and use the online registration form link provided in the "Method B" section.
These registrations are only processed about one week before teaching starts, yet we have enough places to ensure everybody will get in. If you have any question please email the module coordinator ()!

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will have
• developed a better understanding of ethics and their application to everyday situations in relation to critical thinking;
• furthered their understanding of the special responsibility that comes with the application of critical thinking as critical acting;
• acquainted themselves with different strategies of critical acting;
• improved their ability to identify issues/situations requiring critical acting and assess the adequate strategies to do so;
• strengthened their confidence to “walk out on a limb” and act critically where necessary;
• increased their ability to assess an appropriate balance between having an easier life by not speaking truth to power and the moral (and sometimes legal) requirement to fight injustice and stupidity;
• improved their abilities to focus on developing solutions through creative and innovative activities;
• developed strategies to work with peers, share their experiences and benefit from learning the different practices and views in other disciplinary areas.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
- active/task-based learning;
- group work;
- lectures;
- critical writing;
- reflective learning;
- enquiry & problem-based learning;
- debates;
- case-based learning 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Attendance: Regular contributions to the class and group discussions. Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Group Project: Individual or Group Podcast (ca. 30 minutes
Deadline: to be uploaded by 26 November.
Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Journal: Reflective Report (ca. 2,000 words)
Deadline: 8 December
Week 12 n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Student presentations will receive group feedback in order to allow all students to learn from the presentations in a more structured way.

Name Role
Professor Alan Baird Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Daniel Crean Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr John Dunnion Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Tom Flanagan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Mary Gallagher Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Kathleen Lynch Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Wolfgang Marx Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Mark Pickering Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Emma Sokell Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Patrick Paul Walsh Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Tues 14:00 - 14:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Tues 16:00 - 17:50