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Evaluating the impact of instruction in critical thinking on the critical thinking skills of English language learners in higher education

EL-SOUFI, NADA (2019) Evaluating the impact of instruction in critical thinking on the critical thinking skills of English language learners in higher education. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In 1994 the Lebanese government called for an education reform to introduce critical thinking (CT) in the curriculum. The reform failed as there was no consensus on how CT should be taught. Some commentators consider CT a cultural practice that cannot be taught in cultures that do not encourage independent thinking. This study examines whether instruction in CT can develop the CT skills of undergraduate English language learners in a system where politics and religion take precedence over the quality of education.

The thesis begins with a systematic review that synthesises empirical evidence of the effect of teaching CT on CT skills of undergraduate English language learners. Of 1,830 records, only 36 studies were deemed relevant. The review suggests indicative evidence that explicit instruction may be beneficial. However, because of methodological flaws, the strength of the evidence is weak.

To establish the effect of this approach, a cluster randomised control trial was carried out in a university in Lebanon involving 29 English classes (413 students). The trial was conducted over one term in which 11 lessons in CT (14 sessions) were substituted for material from the regular curriculum. Experimental students made bigger gains on the Cornell Critical Thinking Test between pre- and post-test (ES = +0.3).

Process evaluation shows that the key factors in successful implementations were teachers’ positive attitude, training of teachers, and the readily available lesson plans that were integrated into the curriculum. Students’ attitudes and lack of general knowledge were key barriers.

The predominance of poorly designed research in the review suggests that research in CT is underdeveloped and is not a priority for policymakers in non-native English speaking countries. More funding could be invested to strengthen research in CT. Overall, this study shows that the objective of the education reforms in Lebanon to introduce CT is not difficult to achieve if teachers are trained.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:critical thinking; randomised controlled trial; systematic review; ESL; EFL
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Jul 2019 09:12

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