Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in a Foreign Language through Literature
Vries, M.J. de
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The present study investigated the effectiveness of teaching critical thinking skills through a literary text in the foreign language classroom. For the purpose of this study, a series of activities based on Angela Thomas’ The Hate U Give (2017) was designed that infused literature and foreign language teaching with teaching critical thinking skills. The following approaches were incorporated into the course design: direct teaching of critical thinking theory, the reader approach to teaching foreign language literature, opportunities for students to practice with specific thinking skills, the use of graphic organizers, guided in-class discussions and critical writing in the form of individual argumentative essays. Conducted in four EFL classrooms of a private school in the Netherlands, students took a pretest and posttest (a translated version of the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X) and had to write an argumentative essay. Different t-tests were performed in Excel to find out if students’ critical thinking skills had improved after the teaching intervention. The outcomes for the teaching intervention were nonsignificant. Both the students in the intervention group (Ni) and the students in the control group (Nc) scored lower on the post-tests. Although the students in the intervention group (Ni) performed slightly better on the writing assessment than the students in the control group(Nc), no statistically significant difference could be shown. It became evident from the evaluation of the teaching intervention, however, that the students in the intervention group were quite positive about the lesson series. The lesson series could be improved by reducing the amount of theoretical information on critical thinking per lecture and including more stimulating activities. Furthermore, the design of the lesson series might be applicable to teach critical thinking skills in other foreign language literature lessons as well, provided the literary text fits students’ language proficiency as well as students’ willingness to think critically.