Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Omani EFL Foundation Programme: Constraints and Possibilities
Keywords:Critical Thinking, 21st Century Life Skills, Language Education
Educational institutions across the globe unanimously acknowledge the importance of incorporating critical thinking skills in their curricula, yet this objective has not always been met adequately or consistently across the board. In EFL settings, the obstacles to teaching critical thinking are not only genuine but also multifaceted, ranging from teachers’ and students’ training and attitudes, cultural influence and degree of support from the various stakeholders, which often results in a general perception that it is difficult to teach efficaciously. This article will report on the procedures and satisfactory outcomes of an action research that I have conducted with intermediate EFL foundation programme students at Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, using a mixed method approach. The scope of the study is to investigate the constraints to teaching critical thinking skills in this context (quite similar to other non-western ones, e.g. Asian cultures) and ultimately pilot a flexible middle-way approach that enables teachers to work around these restrictions to foster critical thinking skills in their students, without detracting from course content or sacrificing test scores. The trialled approach consists of adapting and extending activities from assigned English language course books/materials to build in more critical thinking awareness and practice, all within a learner-centred social constructivist environment, without the need for extra time or supplementary materials. In their post-course evaluation, most of the students have reported tangible improvement in information literacy, critical thinking abilities and even language proficiency. The article will close by providing practical guidelines on materials and methodology for teaching critical thinking skills in EFL contexts.
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