CRITICAL THINKING AND EAP WRITING A meta-synthesis of
CRITICAL THINKING AND EAP WRITING A meta-synthesis of research on teaching approaches to critical thinking in the EAP writing class Introduction Background to the study Research conducted as part of my Masters study Importance of CT in academic contexts vs ambiguity surrounding the concept Overview
Definition Key issues raised in the lit review Methodology Findings implications for teaching practices What exactly is critical thinking? the concept of critical thinking remains more elusive than ever (Davies & Barnett, 2015) Critical thinking in an academic context involves both Skills and Dispositions: Analysis/Evaluation Synthesis
Argument construction Making connections Identifying problems/ proposing solutions Critical spirit Willingness to inquire Self-reflexive stance Critical thinking and academic writing the skill of critical writing lies in convincing your readers to accept your claims. You achieve this through the effective communication of adequate reasons and evidence for
these claims (Wallace & Wray, 2011:7) Student papers lack criticality due to: Poor reasoning/lack of argument Making unsupported claims Being predominantly descriptive Little or no clear stance/voice (Goodwin, 2014; Alagozlu, 2007, Woodward-Kron, 2002) Critical thinking across academic disciplines & cultures Different disciplines give priority to different aspects: applied disciplines - reflection and connections
between theory & practice science faculties - the importance of identifying problems and proposing solutions (Carmicheal et al, 1995) Perception that Eastern students cant think critically Methodology Research Questions: What skills, dispositions and knowledge do EAP students and teachers believe constitute key aspects of critical thinking in an academic context? What approaches are being taken with regard to developing students critical thinking skills in academic writing tasks?
Method: Meta-synthesis of empirical studies Studies identified through a key word search using ERIC Studies analysed using a framework of critical thinking attributes Framework Findings: Misconceptions An author gives a theory and I say that according to my experience there is something wrong with his theory or definition (Durkin, 2008:21)
Although I understand the meaning of critical writing and thinking, I still feel uneasy to criticize other people ideas, especially when they are more senior than me, for example my supervisor (Melles, 2009:167) Evaluation & Synthesis I dont see why we always have to write so much about what other people have written. Often I have a lot of individual thoughts, but I dont find them in journals or books. What about these? (Durkin, 2008:22) Key issues for international students:
struggle to find and express their own voice linguistic demands & cognitive load Content & Background Knowledge Sustained content-based approach To question, analyse or recognise bias background knowledge is necessary Reflects purpose of academic writing not purely assessment but to deepen understanding Builds confidence as it provides scaffolding (Pally, 2001) Advantage of embedding CT in a disciplinary-specific
context (Melles, 2009) *Overall CT skills perceived as generalisable and transferable Collaboration Collaborative pre-writing activities and discussion tasks as a way to promote critical thinking Increases students willingness to question Builds confidence Helps broaden and consolidate knowledge (Kasper & Weis, 2005) Discussion in the pre-writing stage promotes critical
reflection Role of group dynamics in this process (McDonough & Neumann, 2014) Conclusion clarifying expectations and taking time in the classroom to discuss students interpretations of critical thinking
not restricting the definition of critical thinking presented to the students too narrowly Allowing time and space for collaboration in the writing classroom Considering the role of content and discipline-specific approaches Place of critical reflection in the academic context References Alagozlu, N. (2007). Critical thinking and voice in EFL writing.
Asian EFL Journal Quarterly 9(3), pp.118-136 Carmichael, E., Cragie, D., Driscoll, K., Farrell, H., James, B. & Scoufis, M. (1995). Critical analysis What is it? Sydney: University of Western Sydney Nepean. Davis, M. & Barnett, R. (2015). Introduction. In Davis, M. & Barnett, R. (Eds). The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education, pp1-26. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. Durkin, K. (2008). The adaptation of East Asian masters
students to Western norms of critical thinking and argumentation in the UK. Intercultural Education 19(1), pp.15-27 Goodwin, B. (2014). Teach critical thinking to teach writing. Educational Leadership 71(7), pp.78-80 Kasper, L. & Weiss, S. (2005). Building ESL students linguistic and academic literacy through content-based interclass collaboration. TETYC 32(3), pp.282297 McDonough, K. & Neumann, H. (2014). Using prewriting tasks in L2 writing classes: insights from three experiments. TESL Canada Journal 31(8), pp.132143 Melles, G. (2009). Teaching and evaluation of critical appraisal skills to postgraduate ESL engineering students. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 46(2), pp.161-170
Pally, M. (2001). Skills development in Sustained Content-Based Curricula: Case studies in analytical/critical thinking and academic writing. Language and Education 15(4), pp. 279-305 Thomas, K. & Lok, B. (2015). Teaching critical thinking: An operational framework. In Davis, M. & Barnett, R. (Eds). The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education, pp.93-105. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan Wallace, M. & Wray, A. (2011). Critical Reading and Writing for postgraduates 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications Woodward-Kron, R. (2002). Critical analysis versus description? Examining the relationship in successful student writing. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 1(2), pp.121-143
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