Critical Thinking Special
Whether or not we should include critical thinking in English language teaching (ELT) is still a matter of debates and discussions among pedagogues and cognitive psychologists. Those standing for the argument opine that, like in other subjects such as science, social studies, economics, business studies engineering, medicine, etc., learners should develop their critical thinking abilities, because while learning language, they do not only learn through interactions among speakers, but also through reading various kinds of texts. Therefore, they can hone their critical thinking abilities in course of reading those texts. Another reason they put forward is that learning language means being very creative as well as critical. For example, while learning language, learners derive a certain set of rules involving themselves in series of analysis and synthesis activities. Once they have formed the rules of their own based on the input they have received, they start to use the rules they have consciously formed. Not only do they form the rules, they also verify whether their rules are correct listening to the other people speak. Also, they believe that learning language can be accelerated if learners are involved in critical thinking activities.
On the other hand, those who are against the inclusion of critical thinking in ELT counter argue that learners can have double difficulties if we wish to foster critical thinking in foreign or second language learning. They believe that students will have burden of learning and enhancing critical thinking skills simultaneously, for instance, the students who do not have good proficiency over the English language cannot be involved in pro-critical thinking activities such as debate, discussion, argument, counter argument, etc., let alone understanding the implied meaning of a discourse. These people believe that it can be best done in the disciplines that are taught in students’ native language, because they just need to think of gathering ideas. It is because they do not need to worry about the words and structures required for expressing those ideas.
In order to shed lights on this issue, Choutari of this month has included posts on various aspects of critical thinking. It includes six entries altogether. The first entry is an interview with professor Kedar Bhakta Mathema in which he maintains that teaching and learning activities carried out in our schools to universities do not seem to be sufficient for enhancing critical thinking skills, because they are mostly limited to developing students’ abilities to recall and understand only. Furthermore, learners have become just the passive recipients of knowledge; because they are rarely provided with opportunities to think independently and carry out certain tasks on their own. In addition, he very strongly argues that the concept of critical thinking can be introduced in ELT as well. The reason that he gives is that learning language does not necessarily mean knowing words and structures only, but also using those words and structures creatively.
In the second entry titled Why to Be Critical Thinker, Ramesh Khatri shares his own experience of using critical thinking while making a decision in a difficult circumstance. Having shared his experience, he presents some of the theoretical aspects of critical thinking such as standards of critical thinking, fundamental critical thinking skills, characteristics of a critical thinker; and advantages of becoming a critical thinker.
Yadu Prasad Gyawali in the third blog post Critical Thinking from Theory to Practice discusses different tools such as Bloom’s taxonomy, Socrates’ questioning techniques, etc. that teachers can use for stimulating ideas, which is essential for the development of higher order to thinking in learners. Also, he presents his experience of using critical thinking strategies for both secondary level students and university level students and argues that the incorporation of critical thinking strategies in EFL classrooms can be very beneficial for the development language and thought.
In the fourth blog Critical Thinking Strategies for Resolving Challenges in ELT, Rajan Kumar Kandel overviews the ELT situation of Nepal and enumerates a number of challenges that are likely to be found in our schools and colleges. He thinks that all those challenges can be resolved if we implement the steps and strategies that are followed while teaching English focusing for the enhancement of critical thinking skills in learners.
Bishnu Kurmar Khadka’s reflective blog Let Learners Think Critically in fifth entry presents his experience of handling the course New Directions: Reading, Writing and Critical Thinking designed for the B. Ed. first year major English students. As the title suggests, he puts forward his idea that teachers should follow student-centered method of teaching so that they can help their learners to foster critical thinking in them. Furthermore, he claims that due to the traditional way of teaching in which students focus on examination; rather than real learning, he was forced to give notes to his students.
Finally, Lal Bahadur Rana in his blog post titled Teaching Reading Texts through Critical Thinking Perspective remarks that many students of the public schools have very low proficiency over English, as they have too limited exposure. He believes that the amount of exposure in English can be remarkably increased with the implementation of critical thinking strategies in those classes. Most important of all, using these strategies in our classrooms, we can make students independent learners.
Here is the list of articles we have included for October Issue, especially focused on critical thinking in ELT.
- Critical Thinking for Good Citizenry: An Interview with Kedar Bhakta Mathema
- Why to be critical thinkers?, by Ramesh Khatri
- Critical Thinking from Theory to Practice, by Yadu Prasady Gyawali
- Critical Thinking for Resolving Challenges in ELT, by Rajan Kumar Kandel
- Let Learners Think Critically, by Bishnu Kumar Khadka
- Teaching Reading Texts through Critical Thinking Perspective, by Lal Bahadur Rana
Now I, on the behalf of Choutari, would like to take this opportunity to extend our sincere thanks to all the contributors and also urge our valued readers and contributors to please share these articles among your social network and leave comments.
Finally, we wish you all a very happy, prosperous and creative Dashain, Tihar and Chhath 2071 B. S.