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.
Alexander, O., Argent, S., & Spencer J. (2008).EAP Essentials: A teacher’s guide to principles and practice, Reading: Garnet.
Astleitner, H.(2002). Teaching critical thinking. Journal of Instructional Psychology,4, 39-50.
Atkinson, D. (1997). A Critical Approach to Critical Thinking in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly,31(1), 71-94.
Benesch, S.(1999). Thinking critically, thinking dialogically. TESOL Quarterly,33(3), 573–80.
Black, S. (2005). Teaching students to think critically. The Education Digest, 70(6), 42-47.
Bourdillon, H., & Storey A. (2002). Aspects of Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools: Perspectives on Practice. London: Routledge Falmer.
Buskist, W., & Irons G.J. (2008). Simple strategies for teaching your students to think critically. In D. S. Dunn, J. S. Halonen, and R. A. Smith(Ed), Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A H and book of Best Practices, 49 -57,UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Cheng, H-F., & Dornyei Z. (2007). The Use of Motivational Strategies in Language Instruction: The Case of EFL Teaching in Taiwan, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1, 153-173.
Choy, S., & Cheah P. (2009). Teacher Perceptions of Critical Thinking Among Students and its Influence on Higher Education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(2), 198-206.
Cotton, K. (1991). Close-Up #11: Teaching Thinking Skills. Retrieved 28/07/2015, from Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory's School Improvement Research Series: https://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/TeachingThinkingSkills.pdf
Davidson, B. W. (1998). Comments on Dwight Atkinson's "A Critical Approach to Critical Thinking in TESOL": A Case for Critical Thinking in the English Language Classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 32(1), 119-123.
Davidson, B. W.,& Dunham R. L. (1996).Assessing EFL Student Progress in Critical Thinking with the Ennis-Weir Critical Thinking Essay Test. JALT Journal, 19(1), 43-57.Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Creating a motivating classroom environment. In J. Cummins, & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching, 2, 719-73. New York: Springer
Duron, R., Limbach, B., & Waugh W. (2006). Critical thinking framework for any discipline. International Journal of Teaching and LearninginHigher Education, 17(2),160-166.
Dweck, C. S. (2002). Beliefs that make smart people dumb. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Why smart people can be so stupid. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Elder, L., & Paul R. (2004). Critical thinking and the art of close reading (part IV). Journal of Developmental Education, 28(2), 36-37.
Ennis, R. (1996a).Critical thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Ennis, R. (1996b, July).Is critical thinking culturally biased? Paper presented at the 16th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform, Rohnert Park, CA.
Facione, P. A. (2000). The disposition toward critical thinking: Its character, measurement, and relation to critical thinking skill. Informal Logic, 20(1), 61–84.
Feng, Z. (2013). Using Teacher Questions to Enhance EFL Students’ Critical Thinking Abilities. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching, 2(2), 147-153.
Fok, S. C. (2002). Teaching critical thinking skills in a Hong Kong secondary school. Asia Pacific Education Review, 3(1), 83-91.
Freeley, A. J., &Steinberg D. L. (2000). Argumentation and debate: Critical thinking for reasoned decision making (10th ed.). Wadsworth: Thomson Learning.
Gokhale, A. A. (1995). Collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. Journal of Technology Education, 7, 22-30.
Goldsmith, R. E., (2013). Encouraging Critical Thinking Skills among College Students, The Exchange, 2(2), 9 – 19.
Halonen, J. S. (1995).Demystifying critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22, 75–81.
Halpern, D. F. (2003). Thought and knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking (4th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Harmer, J. (2001).The Practice of English Language Teaching, 3rd edition, Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.
Hughes, J. (2014). Critical Thinking in the Language Classroom. ELI Publishing, retrieved 23 May 2015 from https://cdn.ettoi.pl/pdf/resources/Critical_ThinkingENG.pdf
Krashen, S. (1985).The Input Hypothesis: issues and implications, London: Longman.
Kubota, R. (1999). Japanese culture constructed by discourse: Implications for Applied Linguistics Research and ELT. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 9-35.
Kuhn, D. (2000). Metacognitive development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 178–181.
Lai, E. R. (2011).Critical Thinking: A Literature Review. Pearson's Research Reports, 6, retrieved 23 May 2015 from: http://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/tmrs/CriticalThinkingReviewFINAL.pdf
Lauer, T. (2005). Teaching critical-thinking skills using course content material. Journal of College Science Teaching, 34(6), 34-44.
Long, C. J., (2004). Teaching Critical Thinking in Asian EFL Contexts: Theoretical Issues and Practical Applications. Retrieved 12/11/2014 from http://www.paaljapan.org/resources/proceedings/PAAL8/pdf/pdf022.pdf
Lucantoni, P. (2015). A Practical Approach to Critical Thinking Building Blocks and Exploring Unlock Series, a presentation at Sultan Qaboos University on 10 September 2015.
Marin, L. M.,& Halpern D. F. (2011). Pedagogy for developing critical thinking in adolescents: Explicit instruction produces greatest gains. Thinking Skills and Creativity 6, 1–13.
Mayfield, M. (2001). Thinking for Yourself: Developing Critical Thinking through Reading and Writing. (5th ed). United States: Thomas Learning.
Paul, R. W. (1985). Bloom’s taxonomy and critical thinking intervention. Educational Leadership, 42(8), 36–39.
Petri, G. (2002). Teaching critical thinking. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 16(4), 10-12.
Rafi, M. S. (2009). Promoting Critical Pedagogy in Language Education. International Research Journal of Arts & Humanities (IRJAH), 37, 63-73.
Rana, L. B. (2012).Critical Thinking in EFL Classrooms. ELT Today, 6, 51-55.
Reid, S. (1998). Teaching Critical Thinking. CELE Journal, 6, 17-22.
Riddell, T. (2007). Critical assumptions: Thinking critically about critical thinking. Journal of Nursing Education, 46(3), 121-126.
Scrivener, J.(2005).Learning Teaching (fifth edition), Oxford: Macmillan Education.
Siegel, H. (1988). Educating reason: Rationality, critical thinking and education. New York: Routledge &Metheun.
Smith, F. (1990). To think. New York: Teachers College Press.
Stapleton, P. (2011). A survey of attitudes towards critical thinking among Hong Kong secondary school teachers: Implications for policy change. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 6, 14-23. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2010.11.002
Turner, J. C. (1995).The influence of classroom contexts on young children’s motivation for literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(3), 410–441.
Ur, P. (1996). A course in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williams, M., & Burden R. L. (1997) Psychology for Language Teachers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Willingham, D. T. (2007). Critical thinking: Why is it so hard to teach? American Educator, 8–19.
Yang, Y. C., & Gamble J. (2013). Effective and practical critical thinking-enhanced EFL instruction. ELT J,67 (4), 398-412
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Yazan Brahim
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
You are free to:
- Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
- Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
- for any purpose, even commercially.
Under the following terms:
- No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.