Why Thinking Matters?

Thinking Matters courses are meant to develop your ability to ask questions and articulate problems in ways that are as unique as each of you.

About Thinking Matters

For more than 90 years Stanford has delivered courses specifically intended for-and required of-first year students that are suited to their distinctive character and needs. Thinking Matters courses foreground significant and enduring questions and approach them from multiple perspectives. In high school, students may have spent a great deal of time providing answers to questions with a ‘right answer’ like those on the SAT exams. In Thinking Matters, the main goal is to help students develop the ability to ask rigorous and genuine questions that can lead to scientific experimentation or literary interpretation or social policy analysis. Thinking Matters will also help students discover, in a lively lecture and seminar format, collaborative ways to approach solving problems and understanding issues.

Incoming first-year students will find themselves asking questions that you may never have thought to ask or in ways that you had never asked them before. The forms of inquiry and objects of study in Thinking Matters are diverse, from interpreting epic poetry to studying the politics of archaeological heritage to recognizing patterns and codes, but they are all concerned with the “how” as much as the “what” of knowledge.

How is Thinking Matters Structured?

  1. Lectures, ranging from 40 to 90 students, are taught by Stanford faculty from a range of humanities, art, science, and social science fields as well as  the Schools of Law, Earth Sciences, and Medicine.  Students are given the opportunity to engage with professors, ask questions and be exposed to new subjects and new forms of inquiry. 
  2. Small discussion sections are led by fellows who have been chosen in a highly competitve national search.  Students learn to think through a problem collectively, and debate ideas with other highly-motivated Stanford students. 
  3. Tutorials with fellows offer personalized attention to students individually and in small groups.  This allows students to receive in-depth feedback on their assignments and projects as well as develop the habits of mind that lead to independent and original thinking.

Advisory Boards

The Thinking Matters GOVERNANCE BOARD is appointed by the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.  It is responsible for developing and overseeing the Thinking Matters curriculum and is composed of faculty from across the university, post-doctoral fellows and two ASSU appointed undergraduate students.  The governance board recruits faculty, works with them to develop and deliver coureses and assesses the effective of those courses in an ongoing way. 

The Thinking Matters STUDENT ADVISORY BOARD is appointed by the faculty director of the program.  It is made up of current and past first-year students and gives regular feedback on the curricular and pedagogic aspects of the program.  If you are interested in joining the board, please email Parna Sengupta.

The Thinking Matters COURSE COORDINATING COMMITTEE is made up of fellows who serve as coordinators for various Thinking Matters courses.  It focuses on issues of pedagogy, ensures equity across courses, and gives regular feedback on the post-doctoral fellow experience.