Fostering Critical Thinking Using Instructional Strategies in English Classes

Fostering Critical Thinking Using Instructional Strategies in English Classes

Şenol Orakcı (Aksaray University, Turkey), Mehmet Durnali (Hacettepe University, Turkey) and Osman Aktan (Düzce RAM Ministry of National Education, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7829-1.ch016
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The aim of the chapter is to provide both theoretical and practical ideas about critical thinking development within English language teaching contexts. Encouraging language learners to be critical thinkers is important in teaching English as a foreign language. However, achieving the goal remains a challenge. Using various strategies together seem to be effective when properly implemented. Therefore this chapter outlines these strategies which include communicative language tasks, using authentic meaningful texts, using critical literacy, being aware of whole-brain learning, adopting a reflective teaching, enabling students to become autonomous, using explicit instruction, teacher questioning, using active and cooperative learning strategies, using literature in English classes, using creative drama, and adopting self-assessment. Teachers can enable learners to have critical thinking skills and more efficient English lessons by combining these strategies in a new way or by designing critical thinking activities in the classroom.
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Recent trends in English as a foreign language (EFL) have emphasized the importance and requirement of improving critical thinking as an integral part of English language curriculum (Davidson & Dunham, 1997; Shirkhani & Fahim, 2011; Sun, 2015; Tang, 2016). In English language learning, students need critical thinking skills that are related to quality thinking to analyze, reflect, self-assess, argue, be autonomous, and evaluate during his/her learning. As Kabilan (2000) maintains, only using the target language and knowing the meaning are not enough. Learners must be able to have critical thinking through the language because critical thinking enables students to expand their learning experience and makes language learning deeper and more meaningful in addition to providing learners with a more skillful way of communicating with other people, enabling them to acquire new knowledge, and deal with ideas, beliefs, and attitudes.

A lot of different definitions have been introduced for critical thinking. Norris and Ennis (1989) define critical thinking as “reasonably reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.” According to Siegel (1999), Lipman (1991) and Maiorana (1992), critical thinking means achieving, understanding, and evaluating different perspectives, and solving problems. Elder and Paul (1994) state that critical thinking refers to the ability of individuals to take responsibility of their own thinking and improve appropriate criteria and standards for analyzing their own thinking. Zintz and Maggart (1984) inform that critical thinking “involves learning to evaluate, draw inferences and arrive at conclusions based on the evidence”. Paul (1991), well known for his works on critical thinking, has described it as reaching conclusions based on observation and knowledge (p. 125). Paul (1991) also defines critical thinking as “thinking about it when it performs the thought action to improve one's own thinking”. According to İpşiroğlu (2002), critical thinking is the most developed and advanced form of thinking because critical thinking means objective, reflective and not obsessive thinking. Beyer (1987, p. 32-33) points out that critical thinking is the evaluation of the authenticity and precision of the information and the value of beliefs, arguments and information claims. Smith and Rawley (1997), on the other hand, stated that criticism is a judgement that focuses on accepting or rejecting claims. According to Mayhewv, critical thinking is the process of questioning “how” and “why” (as cited Branch, 2000). Ennis (1985) points out that critical thinking is composed of abilities and tendencies. Norris (1985) also defines critical thinking as “Students put into practice what they have already known and change their pre-learning by valuing their own thinking” (p. 40). Considering these definitions that include temperament, tendency and skill, it can be said that critical thinking is a practical activity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cooperative Learning Strategies: A kind of instructional strategy in which small groups of students work together on a common task.

Authentic Materials: Materials that enable learners to interiorize the language.

Instructional Strategies: A kind of technique that teachers use to help students become independent and strategic learners by motivating them and helping them focus attention.

Creative Drama: A kind of active learning strategy that helps students to improve academic and social skills communication skills by encouraging students to express themselves.

Communicative Language Tasks/Activities: Tasks/activities that require effective use of language together with critical thinking by engaging students in learning activities where authentic communication takes place.

Critical Thinking: The ability of individuals to undertake responsibility of their own thinking by improving appropriate criteria and standards.

Active Learning Strategies: A kind of instructional strategy that enables students actively to be involved in in the lessons and the classroom.

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