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Chapter 02

Critical Thinking in English as a Foreign Language Setting


2.1 Critical Thinking Pedagogy and Dialogic Education 36

2.2 Approaches to Critical Thinking

2.3 Strategies for Promoting Speaking and Critical Thinking Skills in EFL Classrooms

2.3.1 Think pair share

2.3.2 Cooperative Learning

2.3.3 Think aloud Strategy

  2.4 ECRIF Framework Integration in EFL Classrooms

  2.4.1The Origin of the Framework

  2.4.2 Principles for Using ECRIF

  2.4.3 The Relationship between ECRIF Framework and Critical Thinking

  2. 5 Integrating Culture Capsules. Culture Cluster and Culture Assimilators

2.5.1 Culture Capsule

2.5.2 Culture Cluster

2.5.3 Culture Assimilators

2.6 Reflection in Learning

2.7 Project- Based Learning

2.7.1 Definition of Project- based learning

2.7.2 The Root and the Background of Project-based learning

2.8 The Relationship between CT and Literacy ( Reading and Writing)

2.8.1 The similar cognitive Process shared between Reading and Writing

2.9 Critical Thinking Assessment






In the first chapter, we have focused our attention on exploring many theoretical aspects related to CT. This chapter is a follow-up to the theories discussed concerning several with reference to a number of practical applications in the TESOL industry (Teaching English to speakers of other languages). Therefore, this is an informative section that fosters educators' and researchers’ understanding of strategies relevant to CT. One point worth mentioning is that the following chapter is the focal element in conducting the practical side of my present study.

2.1 Critical Thinking Pedagogy and Dialogic Education 36

Having discussed the notion of Critical thinking in the first chapter, it is now worth shedding the light on dialogic education. Dialogue refers to “the encounter between men (human beings), mediated the world, in order to name the world.” (Freire, 1993, p. 69). In this sense, education is seen as the exchange of ideas and adopting an anti-authoritarian and interactive approach. Eventually, the teacher is an apprentice who is also seeking knowledge. Additionally, learners should be respected in terms of their choices and preferences. For this, the Algerian ministry of education has recently integrated sessions for negotiation with learners as what concerns their suggested topics.

In the ESL context, the teacher- student relationship is of a great importance. Cummins (1996) notes:

   Techniques and strategies will be effective only when the teacher and students forge a relationship of respect and affirmation; when students feel that they are welcomed into the learning community of the classroom and supported in the immense challenges they face in catching up academically, and when the students feel that their teachers believe in them and expect them to succeed in school and in life (1996, p. 74).

As far as dialogic education, relevant literature is centered on who selects the object to be known. Regarding this, Shor and Freire (1987, p.99) suggests:

    The object to be known is put on the table between the two subjects of knowing. They meet around it and through it for mutual inquiry… .Of course the educator has had a certain “gnosiological” or intellectual experience in picking this object for study before the students meet in the classroom, and in painting it or preserving it for discussion. However, this prior contact with the object to be known does not mean nevertheless that the teacher has exhausted all the efforts and dimensions in knowing the object (1987, p.99).

Benesch (2001) also concludes:

The most effective way to engage students might be to try a mix of teacher and student choice with whole class selection of a theme ……. Whole-class selection of shared topic requires democratic decision making, an important component of community building in a critical classroom (2001, p. 82).

2.2 Approaches to Critical Thinking

The controversy raised as to how to teach critical thinking generated different approaches. To start, two distinct philosophies exist as far as CT is concerned. Some practitioners adopt the embedded method where students’ thinking skills are enhanced without direct instruction on CT ( i.e., implicitly). Others advocate the explicit instruction where students are taught a set of competences in thinking critically (Marin & Halpern, 2011).  Four approaches are discussed below:  the general approach, the infusion approach, the immersion approach, and the mixed approach.

Apart from the school subject matter, the general approach attempts to teach CT abilities and dispositions separately from the subject matter content . The major purpose of this approach is teaching learners to think critically through certain non-school subject content (Sternberg, 1987, p. 254: Bailin, 1994, as cited in Emilia, 2005). The instructor can as well stimulate students’ higher order thinking with different miscellaneous real-world situations. It is assumed that students within the general approach will transfer the skills acquired during the course to other domains. For instance, the general approach can be found at university programs in the module called “critical thinking” or “informal logic” (Nejmaoui, 2018). 

 The infusion approach requires maintaining CT as a part of the subject matter instruction. Eventually, learners are encouraged to use their critical thinking skills in the subject explicitly (Ennis, 1992, as cited in Emilia, 2005). The proponent of this approach are educators holding a subject-specificity view toward CT. We shall see in the practical part that this approach is the one mainly demonstrated in my present study.

The next approach is the immersion approach. The teacher introduced his students to the CT implicitly. In other words, Students’ intellectual abilities are challenged within the subject matter. McPeck (1981) is one of the proponents of this approach. As highlighted in the infusion approach, immersionism entails that “critical thinking skills cannot be transferred and that its system of thinking characterizes each domain each domain is characterized by its own system of thinking.” (Ennis, 1989, pP. 100 as cited in Nejmaoui, 2018)

The fourth approach is the mixed one. It consists of combining the general approach with  either the infusion or the immersion one. Learners, in this case, are introduced to a separate course designed to teach the general principles of critical thinking, but they are also involved in subject specific critical thinking instruction. Expressly, CT is both taught explicitly and implicitly (Nejmaoui, 2018).


2.3 Strategies for Promoting Speaking and Critical Thinking Skills in EFL Classrooms

2.3.1 Think pair share:

“Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative learning procedure developed by Frank Lyman at the University of Maryland in 1981” ( Shih & Reynolds, p. 4). Many educators have used this strategy This strategy has been used by many educators as it is a practical way to engage students in the thinking process related to a given topic. Students are, then, in a situation to think individually, pair with their his peers, then synthesizing and sharing their ideas in public. As far as EFL classrooms are concerned, think-pair-share is used as an appropriate tool to teach both receptive and productive skills. For better understanding, the table below by Kagan (1994) demonstrates the procedure.

   Teacher Actions

   Students Actions

  • Present content information
  • Poses a question, problem or prompt
  • Asks students to THINK individually about the answer
  • PAIR each student with a partner to discuss the answer
  • Asks for students pairs to SHARE their responses with the class
  • Listen to the teacher’s instruction and question or problem
  • Think about a response to a question
  • PAIRS with another student to discuss the response
  • SHARES the response with the class


2.3.2 Cooperative Learning

In the light of advances in social psychology, cooperative learning is an educational approach under which all ways for positive learning outcomes are attained. Longman dictionary of language teachinuhg and applied linguistics (p.166) defines cooperative learning as:

An approach to teaching and learning  in which classrooms are organized so that students work together in small co-operative terms. Such an approach to learning is said to increase students’ learning since a) it is less threatening for many students, b) it increases the amount of student participation in the classroom, c) it reduces the need for competitiveness, and d) it reduces the teacher’s dominance in the classroom. 

 In a learning context, the positive benefit of cooperative learning flows from the variables of which some are listed by (Spencer Kagan & Miguel Kagan 2009) below:

  • Immediate and frequent reinforcement
  • Powerful and desirable rewards
  • Supportive, peer-based feedback
  • Feedback during performance
  • Increased time on task
  • Frequent practice recalling and verbalizing
  • Greater brain nourishment
  • Multi-modal input
  • Improved self-esteem and self-image
  • Enhanced motivation


2.3.3 Think aloud Strategy 

As learners are engaged in a thinking process, it is very challenging difficult for teachers to perceive the cognitive process the students are immersed in.  Therefore, Think aloud is a means to help teachers connect with learners while thinking to complete a particular certain task. Metaphorically speaking, this strategy allows teachers to look into the mind of their his learners (Wolsey& Lapp, 2018). BesidesIn addition, inviting students to the think- aloud strategy “provides their teachers with a way to assess their performance via their thinking during an instructional situation”(p.1).

As such, it can be used as:

  • a research tool;
  • a means for a teacher to model a particular cognitive process;
  • a way to illustrate to students how they can access and use cognitive strategies to foreground their work with texts thus inviting feedback from others to refine and adjust their cognitive approaches to learning;
  • an interactive approach shared between teachers and students that combines the above mentioned purposes (Wolsey& Lapp, 2018, pp.1-2).

Think aloud is initially originally developed by Newell and Simon (1972, cited by Block, 1986) to study problem -solving strategy. Oster (2001) refers to it as “a technique in which students verbalize their thoughts as they read and thus bring into the open the strategies they are using to understand a text'' Thus, being metacognitively aware about one’s learning is crucially important especially when engaged in a reading activity. The following questions are very useful for learners to think of and answer while engaged in a reading lesson:

  • What do I know about this topic?
  • What do I think I will learn about this topic?
  • Do I understand what I just read?
  • Do I have a clear picture in my head about this information?
  • What more can I do to understand this?
  • What were the most important points in this reading?
  • What new information did I learn?
  • How does it fit in with what I already know?


2.4 ECRIF Framework Integration in EFL Classrooms

One crucial important concern for EFL teachers is turning their classes into student- centered learning environment. ECRIF framework is, therefore, one way to achieve this objective, accentuating on how learners learn. This framework stands for: E=Encounter a problem, C=Clarify, R=Remember, I=Internalize, F=Fluent use (Ahmad & AlSaleem, 2018).

2.4.1 The Origin of the Framework

The ECRIF framework was developed by Josh Kurzweil and Mary Scholl between 2004 and 2005 as they wrote their book “Understanding Teaching Through Learning” for McGraw-Hill and the School for International Training. It got its popularity as it has been used in many SIT TESOL Certificate Courses and workshops delivered by government and non-governmental organizations. What is worth mentioning is that this framework has also been also used in content- based instruction as in teaching history and math (Ahmad & AlSaleem, 2018).

Theoretically speaking, the ECRIF approach takes the factor of  scaffolding into a serious account. In other words, it accommodates with (Vygotsky, 1988) who stressed the idea that learning occurs in hierarchically way, from less independence to more independence and autonomy (Zone of Proximal Development) (Brawns, 2016). 

2.4.2 Principles for Using ECRIF

As this framework is very recent in its idea, it took several of the 21st century’s perceptions of teaching and learning. First, reflection is a part and parcel in the learning process. ItThis means that teachers should establish a continuous evaluation of on the students’ performance. AlsoIn addition, reflection represents a self- assessment for teachers to consider their methodology through action points. Moreover, ECRIF is said to be implemented to enhance students’ communicative competence and interaction by relating the learnt skills and knowledge to the real- life situation outside the school confines. Another significant point is for students to be conscious of what they are encountering. Finally, as mentioned previously, the teacher should pay a close attention to the notion of scaffolding as it accommodates with Vygotsky’s notion in Zone of Proximal Development and the Bloom’s taxonomy. 

The following table explains what each stage in the framework is meant for regarding the learners’ performance.


What the students are doing

What they may be thinking

E/ Encounter

Students see or hear a new language and realise they do not know something.

  • What’s this?
  • I don’t know this?

C/ Clarify

Students distinguish the meaning and use of the new knowledge or skill. They ask questions and think about what is correct.

  • Oh I see what it means.
  • Oh I see how to do this.
  • What is the difference between this and that?
  • Is this right?

R/ Remember

I/ Internalise

Students have a chance to move the knowledge or skill from short term to long term memory. They then can begin to personalize it and use it in different contexts. They connect it mentally to prior experiences with images, sounds, and feelings.

  • Okay. I am starting to remember this.
  • Okay. I’ve got it in this activity.
  • I’m 2making connection to my own life.



F/ Fluently Use

Students have a chance to use the new language to communicate their ideas. Students work toward being able to spontaneously use the language in different contexts spontaneously.

  • Cool. In can use this skill or knowledge automatically.
  • This is for real- world purposes.
  • I don’t have to consciously think about this consciously.





Table 1: ECRIF Language Learning Strategy

2.4.3 The Relationship between ECRIF Framework and Critical Thinking

In addition to all the previously mentioned advantages to using ECRIF, its feature of scaffolding helps reach a stage where fruitful outcomes can be traced. Educators can greatly foster learners’ creativity and critical thinking at the fluently use stage by having them discuss open-ended questions that raise learners' curiosity and interaction. This is because each stage of the framework is built on the achievement of the previous one. At the final stage, learners will be able to demonstrate an understanding of activities. 

2.5 Integrating Culture Capsules, Culture Cluster and Culture Assimilators

In the first chapter, several passages are devoted to the concept of culture and its application in the EFL setting. In this section, we are describing two techniques that can be introduced in EFL classes: Culture capsule, and culture assimilators.

2.5.1 Culture Capsules:

Culture capsules, as defined by Taylor and Soreson, are “short (5-10) minute presentation that focuses on  the minimal difference between the target culture and the native culture of the students. One important point to notice is that culture capsules are self-contained. This means they should include a statement of goals, content to be seen, and audio-visual aids that help run intended presentations (Knop, 1976, p.).

2.5.2 Advantages for Using Culture Capsules

First, they are short-range goals; that is, learners can be introduced to them on a daily, basis leaving the classroom having learnt something. In addition, culture capsules help maintain an atmosphere of acceptance on the side of learners as they learn to expect cultures to be different. As such,; possible cultural discontinuity is overcome. Because they are self contained, a teacher of any discipline can use them. Culture capsule also helps intensify what a person already know about their own culture., and t Therefore a well- formed comparison is regarded by learners to acknowledge the differences across cultures and  leave a spirit of sensitivity and openness (Knop, 1976).

2.5.3 Presentation of the Capsule in a Foreign Language Classroom

In a planning a culture capsule, teachers are said to follow many a number of guidelines by Knop (1976): Statement of Goals:

  1. Behavioural: This concerns the observable behaviours demonstrated by  learners, including acting out or using certain gestures and movements.
  2. Linguistic: As for the linguistic aspect, it is about mastering the utterances and  the language particular to a certain situation in the presentation.
  3. Visual: As the name suggests, this refers to recognising the different buildings, signs, or other physical signals that are part of the cultural situation.
  4. Insights: This is an important point to be focused on. Learners need to understand how the cultural acts, including theirs, are different and why they are different. What it grows out of ?

The culture capsule can be selected based on different reasons. It can be the result of a discussion between the teacher and the learners on the a stereotypical behaviour of the people in the target culture. It is sometimes because of questions raised by the learners on different cultures  or after the need analysis conducted by the teacher regarding learners’ interest in different areas.

The Presentation of the Information

The information presented in the capsule might include a general difference between the native and the target culture. This can be illustrated through examples followed by some analysis.

The presentation of the information might be realised through:

  1. A reading passage the students read at home or in class.
  2. An oral presentation by the teacher or the learner.
  3. A stimulated discussion between people from two distinct cultures discussing the differences highlighted at the cultural level.
  4. A final example is acting out a cultural situation by a learner while the rest of the class are taking notes on how the cultural act is different. Finalizing Activities

As a follow- up activity, learners might be asked to apply the information from the culture capsule. Hence, learners make up their own dialogue, discussing, or acting out the information.  Sources Used

This should support teachers willing to read for their background or assign sources as extra references for a student to read.

2.5.2 Culture Claster

According to Meade and Moraib(DATE), the culture cluster is “ a series of culture capsule, each of which introduces a different aspect of a central theme. Presented as brief lessons, they lead to a summarising activity which takes the form of a dramatic simulation.” Similarly, culture cluster deals with a certain cultural act from different points of view finalising it through acting out the situation.

As one of the weaknesses the culture capsule has is superficiality, the culture cluster offers students to examine the topic on different levels throughout various sessions. For this, different kinds of classrooms activities are used in each separate capsule, including: audio-motor units, Gouin series, a study of the kinesics ( gestures, body movements)….. .

A pPossible topic for culture cluster in an Algerian EFL class is “Martin Luther King Day.. In a matter of three days, learners are introduced to the various elements related to the event.

Day one: Martin Luther king’s biography and background

Day two: His valuable achievement

Day three: The way for celebrating the day

2.5.3 Culture Assimilators

The culture assimilator, as defined by Fiedler, Mitchel, and Triandis, is a

 Programmed learning experience designed to expose members of one culture to some of the basic concepts, attitudes, role perceptions, customs and values of another culture ….  . Some assimilators emphasise the interpersonal attitudes that contrast the learner’s culture and the target culture; other assimilators emphasise the customs of the target culture, and still, others concentrate on the value contrast of the two cultures.

Culture assimilator consists of:

  1. A critical situation: This is about bringing a situation in the target culture that is conflicting to the learner’s cultural practices. For instance, Fiedler gives characteristics to a culture assimilator as follow:
  2. A common situation in which someone from the learner’s background interacts with the host culture.
  3. A situation that a learner should find puzzling or might cause misinterpretation.

For an ideal running of the assimilator, four feedback or analyses are suggested to justify the reaction of the host and the misunderstanding of the guest. Four feedbacks are provided to learners as a reflection for to their answer and how they can expand on the topic. At this point, all w that has been discussed about the assimilator is demonstrated in the following example.

A young American hosted in a Germany Family came to learn that the host family is no longer comfortable with his excessive daily shower. Eventually, he was suggested that fewer showers should be taken. In such a situation, the students of German are provided with a list of reasons to discuss why the host family behaved accordingly. The Value of Culture Assimilator

In applying culture assimilators, the level of students’ engagement is more outstanding than it is in the culture capsule, because more reflection on the cultural situation is maintained. Students, therefore, are directed to analyse and restudy their answers towards a certain situation. In this way, there are high chances of for developing higher order thinking. In addition, student becomes more aware of their own culture, since the person in the host country is often applying his own interpretation in the incident. Eventually, students start to identify the reasons behind the reaction of that person towards the situation taking place.


2.6 Reflection in Learning

To expand more on the topic of critical thinking, we shall see that reflection has been a part and parcel of the learning process. Indeed, deliberate reflection is a powerful to learners’ growth, and higher order thinking. It involves students to look back on their learning experience from its starting point, where they stand and where they want to go from there. In this section, we are shedding the light on at some tools that are directive to students’ reflection.

In a world full of problem solving opportunities, helping learners be part of them should be a priority. This is a conductive tool to increase students’ self awareness and prudence in an age of information overload. However, this requires careful planning on the side of the teacher to decide on how to structure a curriculum conductive to reflection. In this respect, ten factors by Wade (1997) to effective classroom environment are demonstrated in the figure below.



Figure 1: Ten factors that contribute to a classroom environment that promotes reflection ( based on the work of Wade, 1997, p.98).









2.7 Project Based Learning

An additional important factor to enhancing learners’ critical thinking is integrating project based learning method. Substantially, the primary goal of toady’ education system, as mentioned earlier, is preparing learners to join the workforce with high analytical, problem solving and critical thinking abilities (Sasson, Yehuda & Malkinson, 2018).

In an age of information overload, twenty-first century learners require the ability to evaluate multiple sources of information, judge the usefulness and reliability of its content, and make decision about what to believe (Ennis, 1987) 

2.7.1 Definition of Project based learning  

PBL is a pedagogical approach that can be traced back to Dewey’s practical method which involved ‘learning by doing’ (Dewey and Dewey, 1915), Kilpatrick’s (1918) project method and subsequent approached to progressive education (Gibbes& Carson, 2013). The pProject -based learning is also defined as “a comprehensive approach to classroom teaching and learning and is designed to engage students in investigation of authentic problems.” ( Blumenfeld et all., 1991).

2.7.2 The Root and the Background of Project-based learning 

The pProject- based learning (PBL) according to Kilpatrick (1918) was first conceived by David Snedden for instruction in science in the American vocational agriculture classes. It was later generalised for teachers by William Heard Kilpatrick through the project method. In the context of an ESL education, it was brought as a response to the inadequacies of Krashen’s input hypothesis and the shift to the student-centered approach. Not only this, the increased use of technology by both the teacher and the learner has had a great impact to urge for the need to integrate the project method in the ESL setting.

Moreover, BPL is based on John Dewey’s experiential learning philosophy calling for the cultivation of problem solving, critical thinking, and content-based instruction. This eventually has a strong relation to preparing students for the changing world (Beckett, 1999). Additionally, Dewey’s works are is highly manifested in social constructionist theories in which knowledge construction is viewed as social practice (Vygotsky, 1978). Cited in. It is further reflected through theory, such as systematic functional linguistics and language socialization. In this regard, the language learning is also seen as learning of content in various contexts. As such, learning through project based learning allows learners to use language as a medium to learn culture and sociocultural knowledge.



2.8 The Relationship between CT and Literacy ( Reading and Writing)

Many writers acknowledge the relationship existing between CT and literacy. Anderson (1998), for example, argues that “critical writing promotes critical reading and critical thinking which in turns enhances critical writing” (cited in Emilia, 2005). In the CT movement, critical reading and writing requires careful, reflective and analytic investigation as to what is being perceived or produced.

In the context of EFL, it is expected that learners get equipped with the tools necessary leading to a better reasoning as far as the different encounters are concerned. As a matter of fact, learning foreign languages is also based on themes and content. For this, critical reading and writing should be held in a way that encourage students ask question relevant to CT standards such as clarity, accuracy, relevance and precision. 

In turn, critical readers are aware of how each text “is the unique creation of a unique author”. Moreover, thinking critically within literacy requires the availability of authentic materials, socially relevant cases and controversial issues that paves the way for learners to argue with other voices. As such, reading and writing are is regarded as an active process where the learners’ engagement is outstanding. We shall later see how this interrelation is the focal point of my study.

2.8.1 The similar cognitive Process shared between Reading and Writing

The cognitive process shared between reading and writing has caught the attention of researchers because of the harmony obtained when they are integrated. First, both reading and writing require background knowledge that a reader or a writer will ultimately uses as a support. In addition, the cognitive characteristics involved in literacy various. Hattab (2018, p13) cited some essential elements known as: thinking, reasoning skills and logical coherence.

2.9 Critical Thinking Assessment

After the different learning situations have been considerably equipped with strategies for critical thinking, it is, then, worth assessing their outcomes on the learners’ side. With respect to assessment, different rubrics by different authors are presented, each with a specific focus and concern.

McLaughlin and Moore (2012) developed a rubric that targets students’ critical thinking within writing assignments in English classrooms. This rubric is practical in setting clear levels of competency, entitled “superior,” “skilled,” “adequate,” and “inadequate.” These levels are then assessed in terms of “focus,” “research,” “organization, and grammar/ mechanics. Indeed, this rubric was the creation of a collaborative work with other educators and it received feedback for its development.

Dlugos (2003) has exerted efforts to develop students’ affective skills, critical thinking and writing skills for better reflection and creativity. Hence, he suggested a rubric based on three levels of competency, 1-3, in relation to the four categories of skills: “project choice and development,” “organization and completeness,” “critical thinking,” and “writing” (p.627). One prominent feature about Dlugos’s rubric is separating critical thinking from writing.  He also encouraged instructors to adapt this rubric according to their classes’ context and assignment.

Marin and Halpern (2011) adopted the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment to comparinge explicit and embedded instructional mode and assessed critical thinking for high school students. The assessment took into account the constructed- response and multiple- choice response format for the everyday situation. Test takers are asked to “analyse and critique” questions based on everyday situations. In turn, The test assesses five critical thinking skills including “verbal reasoning,” “argument analysis,” “thinking as hypothesis testing,” “likelihood and uncertainty,” and “decision making and problem solving” (as cited in Bentadjine, 2018).

Finken and Robert (1993) created the Illinois Critical Thinking Essay Test rubric. This measurement tool is mainly used to score argumentative writings. It consists of six criteria which are Focus, Supporting Reasons, Reasoning, Organisation, Integration and Convention. It should be  pointed out that while the first five criteria deal with CT, Convention targets language proficiency (i.e., spelling, punctuation, sentence construction, and word usage). As a matter of fact, this is the rubric being used in this research.


At this point, we have come up with a variety of relevant techniques and strategies that help maintain a successful integration of CT. The objective is also turning around making EFL classes student-centered because CT requires more student-talking time and minimum intervention from the teacher. We shall, then, see how the discussed strategies helped conduct conducting the field research in the next chapter.