Tri Mulyani, widyaiswara LPMP Jawa Tengah.Abstract, Tri Mulyani 2012.
EFL Teachers’ Critical Thinking Ability.The main aim of foreign language education along with other pedagogies is to produce and create creative
and critical learners. Critical thinking pedagogy’s aims at reaching this end. Consequently, it proved necessary to give a detailed explanation about the concept “critical thinking”, and then, critical thinking activities. A number of characteristics for this strategy are (1) a topic of concern or interest to students is identified. (2) Students discuss the problem (or problems and relate it to their own experiences).(3) Students analyze the cause of the problem and seek solutions.(4) practice opportunities and application activities that form the basis of the rest of the lesson or unit.
Keywords : critical thinking, ability,EFL
Every day communication is an event in which there is an interactional relationship between interlocutors. This interaction needs whole language in which language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing; associated knowledge of vocabulary, meaning, syntax, etc.; and also, thinking skills are interwoven. This means that language should be kept whole and “if language isn’t kept whole, it isn’t language anymore” (Rigg, 1991, p. 522, cited in Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 109).
Critical thinking involves logical thinking and reasoning including skills such as comparison, classification, sequencing, cause/effect, patterning, webbing, analogies, deductive and inductive reasoning, forecasting, planning, hypothesizing, and critiquing.In Encarta Dictionary (2006), critical thinking is defined as a “type of critical analysis: Disciplined intellectual criticism that combines research, knowledge of historical context, and balanced judgment”. Critical thinking, here, means the intellectually disciplined process of creatively and skillfully conceptualizing, analyzing and evaluating the gathered or generated information. The information can come from a variety of sources, to mention some, observation, experience, reasoning and reflection, facts, inferences, etc. The important term used in the above mentioned definition is “judgment” which is defined “to form or give an opinion about someone or something after thinking carefully about all the information you know about them” in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (2003, p. 874). The sound judgment requires clarity, relevance, accuracy of evidence, sound reasoning and fairness.
Schafersman (1991) asserts that all education must involve not only ‘what to think’, but also ‘how to think’. However, he regrets, most education has been preoccupied with transmitting and acquiring knowledge and facts, and the subtlety of the concept of critical thinking has obviated students’ realization of its absence and educators’ recognition of its significance all alike. But given the increasing number of disciplines, the vitality of learning and teaching techniques to acquire, understand and evaluate information surfaces. Tamblyn (2000) has identified seven qualities of successful teachers, most of which focus on teachers’ personality features and attitudes:
• subject competence;
• skill in motivating learners through positive reinforcement;
• flexibility and expertise in adapting the materials to the students’ needs;
• willingness to take risks and make mistakes;
• respect for learners;
• warmth, a caring attitude, and a sense of humor;
• self-esteem, satisfaction with the profession, and a willingness to go the extra mile.
there are a few items which address critical thinking among which the following three stand out:
• S/he accepts constructive criticisms.
• S/he respects different ideas.
• S/he divides the class time appropriately for the different language skills according to the purposes of the course.
However, these items do not provide an exact operational definition of critical thinking. Moreover, EFL teacher educators are likely to enhance the efficiency of their courses by allocating some space in the topics and areas to be covered to familiarizing would-be teachers with the concept and its significance, and some tasks and activities to help them further their ability to think critically. One of the prevailing concepts in educational reform today is critical thinking. The significance of critical thinking in education and particularly higher education is now acknowledged by a large number of educators.
Atkinson (1997) states that the concept of critical thinking has entered the field of language education from L1 and already made its mark. However, he is skeptical as to whether it can be taken on faith, and believes language educators should consider its applicability to the field carefully and cautiously. He states four reasons for this speculation:
Critical thinking may be more on the order of a non-overt social practice than a well-defined and teachable pedagogical set of behaviors; (b) critical thinking can be and has been criticized for its exclusive and reductive character; (c) teaching thinking to nonnative speakers may be fraught with cultural problems; and, (d) once having been taught, thinking skills do not appear to transfer effectively beyond their narrow contexts of instruction.(p. 71)
Atkinson’s argument Davidson (1998) reciprocates by referring to what Siegel (1989) calls “self-reflective
justificatory strategy” meaning that even to make a case against critical thinking, one has to presuppose its validity, i.e. to be a critical thinker. As far as the cultural load of critical thinking is concerned, Davidson (1998) cites Ennis (1996) as saying that the problem for educators is not whether critical thinking has value for people
Given the vast number of studies alluding to the teach ability of critical thinking, the question is how a critical thinking-based education can be implemented and what qualifications and roles language teachers should assume in such a process.
An overwhelming number of definitions of critical thinking can be found in the literature, all culminating in
Mizner’ s famous sentence: “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.” (cited in Vaughn, 2008).
Paul (1985, p. 37) defines critical thinking as ”learning how to ask and answer questions of analysis, synthesis and evaluation”. In like manner, Brookfield (1987, p. 229) maintains that critical thinking involves two interrelated processes: ”identifying and challenging assumptions, and imagining and exploring others.” Pithers and Soden (2000) concur that critical thinking encompasses a number of abilities such as identifying a problem and the assumptions on which it is based, focusing the problem, analyzing, understanding and making use of inferences, inductive and deductive logic, and judging the validity and reliability of assumptions and sources of data. Siegel (1988) defines critical thinking as “the educational cognate of rationality”, and a critical thinker as one who is “appropriately moved by reasons” (p. 32). Following Paul (1990), Longman, Atkinson and Breeden (1997) use the acronym MIND, standing for the components of the critical thinking process (see Figure 1). They mention that a critical thinker may start at any point in the circle, but he will definitely cover all components.
Taking a more holistic view of critical thinking, Ku (2009) maintains the maturation of the conceptualization of critical thinking from a preoccupation with cognition to one which has both a cognitive and a dispositional aspect to it. Simply put, “besides the ability to engage in cognitive skills, a critical thinker must also have a strong intention to recognize the importance of good thinking and have the initiative to seek better judgment” (p. 71).
Upon contemplating these and other definitions of the concept, a number of traits characterizing a critical thinker surface. A critical thinker is one who among other features:
• has a strong intention to recognize the importance of good thinking;
• identifies problems and focuses on relevant topics and issues;
• distinguishes between valid and invalid inferences;
• suspends judgments and decisions in the absence sufficient evidence;
• understands the difference between logical reasoning and rationalizing;
• is aware of the fact that one’s understanding is limited and that there are degrees of belief;
• differentiates between facts, opinions and assumptions;
• watches out for authoritarian influences and specious arguments;
• anticipates the consequences of alternative actions.
In an ever-changing world where almost nothing can be taken on faith for long, ‘critical thinking’ seems to be a solution. Defined as the ability to discipline and control thinking to process information more easily, effectively and efficiently (Paul, 1990; cited in Longman, Atkinson & Breeden, 1997), critical thinking is critical for students to perform well not only in educational systems, but also in future workplaces, and social and interpersonal contexts. Students must go beyond absorbing knowledge and learn to heighten skills to judge information, evaluate alternative evidence and argue with tenable reasons (Ku, 2009). Hence, educators need to place a premium on enhancing thinking abilities in learners. Mainstream critical thinking research has focused on ways of developing this skill in learners (e.g., Dantas-Whitney, 2002; Faravani, 2006), and failed to investigate its application to teachers’ success and the efficiency of teacher education programs. What seems to be obvious is that in order to prepare learners for ways of thinking that will be expected of them, teachers themselves need to be able to think in those terms. The questions of how teachable critical thinking is and to what extent current EFL/ESL teacher education programs implicitly or explicitly draw on the construct are yet to be answered. However, before addressing such questions, the chart-topping issue to be investigated is the extent to which EFL teachers with more advanced critical thinking capabilities are pedagogically successful.
It was mentioned that the main strategy used in critical thinking pedagogy is problem posing and problem solving. What is important is gathering, evaluating, and using information effectively rather than providing one-right answer. Once the problem is posed, the answer is not one that gains the main attention. This is the determination of validity and relevance of information used for structuring and problem solving that gain the main importance. Richards and Schmidt (2002, pp. 420-421) represents a number of characteristics for this strategy:
(1) A topic of concern or interest to students is identified. “In the absence of interesting text, very little is
possible” (Williams, 1989).
(2) Students discuss the problem (or problems and relate it to their own experiences).
(3) Students analyze the cause of the problem and seek solutions.
(4) Through the question and answer exchanges that occur students generate vocabulary and other language that the teacher later draws on to develop a series of exercises, practice opportunities and application activities that form the basis of the rest of the lesson or unit.
Teachers are change agents (Pettis, 2002). “They can be agents for change in a world in desperate need of change: change from competition to cooperation, from powerlessness to empowerment, from conflict to resolution, from prejudice to understanding” (Brown, 2001; p. 445). Sanders and Rivers (1996) consider teachers as the single most important factor affecting student achievement. Along the same line, King (2003) states that teaching is a complex activity that is influenced by the multitudinous facets of teacher quality and teacher quality is a crucial predictor of student performance.
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