Critical thinking is widely recognized as an essential component of academic English, yet it does not receive the attention that it merits in English as a second language education. This article will examine: why critical thinking needs to be more emphasized in teaching English for academic purposes;, the scope of thinking strategies that it entails;, and various ways in which it can be applied toin Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESL or TESOL).



In the 1980s, a critical thinking boom took place in the United States *** Perhaps provide some examples of any states or cities where this may have been more prevalent ***when it became apparent that students were lacking in the critical thinking skills that enable academic success*** Provide some examples of “success”; what do you mean by it? How is this measured? ***. Following that*** When? How long after? ***, critical thinking began to trickle into English language teaching because non-native speakers who were studying at universities in English speaking countries were often even more deficient in these skills*** Where is your source to justify these opinions? ***. However, critical thinking for non-native speakers has not been universally embraced, as evidenced by Atkinson (1997) in which it is argued that critical thinking may be an intuitively transmitted social practice which cannot be taught.  Whether or not this is so, the reality *** Words like “reality” are dangerous to use in a context like this one; you are making stereotypes about an entire group of people, which cannot be proven ***that non-native speakers need assistance in developing thinking strategies in English cannot be denied. H.D. Brown (2004) states that in an ideal academic English program, "the objectives of a curriculum are not limited to linguistic factors alone, but also include developing the art of critical thinking."  *** Begin new paragraph ***At present, few published materials exist which focus on developing a range of these skills in the context of English as a second language. *** I am not sure that you are distinguishing between “English” and ESL / TESL well enough ***One worth mentioning *** Do not say that this one text is “worth mentioning, unless the others are clearly not worth mentioning ***is "New Directions: an Integrated Approach to Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking" (Gardner, 1996); this book, though quite advanced*** And how is this book being “quite advanced” significant? Are other TESL-related books supposed to be less advanced, less significant? ***, is a good example of a text which focuses on systematic critical thinking skills development*** How do we know this is a good example? ***. Critical thinking ought to have a more central role in academic instruction because this is what students need to succeed in an academic environment *** You are beginning to make a lot of unchecked assumptions; see your italics ***.  Toward this end, it is necessary to provide explicit training in the specific critical thinking skills which students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in.


What is Critical Thinking?

There is no simple definition for critical thinking *** Yet, we expect our TESL students to master this ambiguity? ***because it consists of an array of skills and sub skills, some of which apply more than others to English language teaching.  Here are some definitions to consider: *** So, do all the following quotes fall into your “apply more than others” category, or do some apply more than others? ***


    "Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do." Ennis (1989, cited in Fisher)


    "Critical thinking consists of an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times."  Keeley and Browne (1994)


    "Critical thinking is that mode of thinking¾about any subject, content or program¾in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them." Paul (2003)


    "Critical thinking is skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of observations and communications, information and argumentation." Fisher (2001)


    "Critical thinking is an investigation whose purpose is to explore a situation, phenomenon, question or problem to arrive at a hypothesis or conclusion about it that integrates all available information and can therefore be convincingly justified."

Kurfiss (1988, cited in Bell)


Though general, from these quotes some key concepts can be gleaned.  Critical thinking is reflective; it consists of questions and a desire to answer them; it furthers the improvement of thought by applying intellectual standards*** Why do you keep using italics; if there is a reason for this, you must provide support / citations for it ***; and it is an investigation aimed at reaching a conclusion which can be supported with evidence. *** You should reference what you are saying here to the appropriate above quotations, to perhaps explore them in more detail ***


Why are Critical Thinking Skills are Needed for Academic English?

The main benefit of critical thinking is that it encourages active learning by teaching students how to think rather than what to think.  This is the antidote to uncritical, unreflective, and apatheticuninquisitive thinking and this is what is expected of students in English-speaking academic settings *** Where is your proof for this? ***. In order to meet these expectations, students need to be trained in these skills to increase their chances of academic success.  It is incorrect to assume *** Yet you are making “assumptions” in your next lines; see “logically follows” ***that students will figure out how to do this on their own.  Due to the fact that native speakers require special instruction in critical thinking, it logically follows that non-native speakers need it as well.  In fact, their need is even greater because critical thinking strategies in English are possibly culturally alien to them. According to Atkinson (1997, 72), "not only is critical thinking a culturally based concept, but many cultures endorse modes of thought and education that almost diametrically oppose it." For Atkinson, this is reason to be skeptical of the enterprise of teaching critical thinking *** Is it? You quotation does not prove your assumption. You dismiss Atkinson’s perspective too easily; you should discuss this other side of the story as well ***. However, Richard Day (2003) observes: "I have found students from Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan receptive to instruction in critical thinking.  Not only are they receptive, they have no difficulty in engaging in the process." *** It is not clear from this quotation where in context there students are; are these Americanized Asian students or local Asian students in their respective countries? There is a difference. Also, what about TESL learners from other countries? This quote only focuses on Asians ***The experiences of Krieger (2005), Fukuda (2003) and Davidson (1995) all support this view.  The bottom line is that Ccritical thinking skills are required for students to succeed in academic English settings, despite the caveat of Atkinson (1997) that it may be an "exclusive" social practice which may not transfer into other subject areas.  The fact that critical thinking skills may be unfamiliar, difficult and culturally challenging for students is not a substantial reason to abstain from teaching them*** Yet, you don’t give much attention, if any, to the “cultural” aspect of your argument, and those difficulties, which is critical ***.  On the contrary, that is precisely why they require focused attention, and it is the teacher's responsibility to help non-native speakers surmount this challenge. *** Up until this point, the reader may not find much insight into the points you are trying to make ***


Critical Thinking Skills in the Context of Teaching English

Although critical thinking encompasses a broad range of skills and sub skills, for the purpose of English teaching, it can be framed in terms of the specific linguistic and cognitive skills¾thinking strategies¾that are used to accomplish a variety of academic tasks.  The major skills include: information processing, inquiry, reasoning, creative thinking, and evaluation skills¾all of which are crucial for academic success *** You mention “academic success” too often without defining it ***. The following taxonomy, loosely adapted from the UK Department for Education and Skills (1999) *** The fact that you are using sources from other countries would make it necessary for you to be more specific about which TESL systems you are focusing on, as you start off talking about the American system, and thenafter that—it becomes unclear ***, clarifies the above main skills and provides a detailed description of the sub skills which this author considers to be the most relevant to teaching English to non-native speakers.


1.  Information-Processing Skills *** Using lists are a good way to introduce ideas; however, it is important to remember to refer back to them in some significant way afterwards, or to provide relevant examples for each, or for some, and not to leave them dangling ***

    Gathering relevant information: researching on the internet or, the library;, by conducting a survey or any other means of finding information;, assembling the data in a meaningful way and then determining how to apply it for a given purpose.


    Analyzing a text (text refers to any form of language input, such as: a story, an article, an audio or video clip, a statement, an advertisement) *** Source your definition ***: text refers to any form of language input. aAnalysis of a text;, what the students do with the input;, consists of functions such as prioritizing, classifying, sequencing, comparing and contrasting.


    Interpreting a text: assigning meaning to a text., such as: a story, an article, an audio clip, a video clip, a statement, an advertisement. 


    Summarizing and paraphrasing: abstracting key points of a text and putting them into their own words. *** “putting them into their own words”: vague wording ***


2.  Inquiry Skills

    Asking relevant questions: asking questions which are purposeful and which generate thought *** Such as? ***.


    Sustaining a dialogue: by asking probing follow-up questions, students can urge each other to provide more thought out answers. This discourse strategy may not be the norm in their native language. Some examples of questions which could be used to sustain a dialogue include:

¾ Why do you think that?

¾ Can you give me another reason?

¾ What do you mean by that?

¾ How do you know that is true? 

¾ Can you think of another example?

*** Several of the above questions can elicit Yes/No responses, which are not thoughtful answers. Rephrase those questions ***


3.  Reasoning Skills

    Stating and logically supporting opinions: expressing an opinion and providing solid support to justify it and withstand scrutiny *** Such as? ***. 


    Drawing inferences: reading between the lines of a text by using individual facts *** “individual facts”: awkward wording ***to reach a conclusion. 


    Solving problems: making informed decisions informed by reasons or evidence to reach a solution for a problem. Students need to reason logically to determine if their solution is a good one. *** “good”: this is an empty descriptor; a word that doesn’t really tell us anything. What is a “good” solution? It is important not to use empty descriptors with TESL learners *** 


    Using clear and precise language: striving *** How do you measure “striving”? ***for clarity in an effort to explain their ideas in a simple and clear way.  Precise language entails appropriate word choice and structuring an argument with discourse markers for indicating opinions, reasons, agreement, disagreement, elaboration, etc.


4.  Creative Thinking Skills

    Generating ideas: brainstorming for new ideas and improving the quality of their *** Whose? ***ideas.


    Speculating: making intelligent guesses.  Speculation can consist of making predictions, considering consequences of an action or policy, or examining an issue from different points of view. The question "what if" can serve as a stimulus for thinking hypothetically.


5.  Evaluation Skills

    Evaluating peers and self: *** Remove the underline from underneath the colon ***judging the quality of a process or product according to specific criteria.


    Distinguishing false from accurate images *** “images”: vague word ***: examining biases, prejudice and stereotypes in a text or introspectively.


Although there is nothing new about the above skills *** Then perhaps it may be more advantageous to find some “new” skills to discuss? ***, the emphasis in this methodology is to teach the above skills explicitly*** Again, what is the purpose for the italics? *** by making them tangible activity objectives. Having such objectives clarifies for the teacher and students what they are doing, why, and if the objectives are reached. It is because of the difficulty and possible unfamiliarity of many of these skills that special attention is called for.  For example, quite often students simply pick the first ideas which come to mind if they are not instructed to brainstorm *** Provide more detail for this example; provide more detailed examples, in general ***. *** Being new paragraph ***Also, in countries which use Confucian-based pedagogy *** Examples of countries that use Confucianism? ***, students are not trained to express opinions, inquire, and critically evaluate ideas because the focus is on rote learning (Scollon, 1999).  Nevertheless, though their former education did not teach them how to think critically, these students can be trained *** You must be careful to avoid using words that would make a reader think you are comparing TESL learners to training animals ***to listen better, write more clearly and read more carefully in order to determine for themselves the worth of ideas which are presented to them and to avoid tempting habits of stereotyping and prejudice to which uncritical thinking renders them vulnerable *** Yet, there seems to be some “stereotyping” in these statements, somehow dismissing Confucianism as arbitrary and insignificant ***. For this reason, the above skills should be practiced on a regular basis in class, the goal being to turn these thinking strategies into habits which will help students throughout their academic career.


Critical Thinking Skills for Academic Tasks

In a typical *** Define “typical” ***English-speaking academic setting *** In all corners of the world? ***, students are often required to present their ideas through persuasive speaking/writing and by participating in discussions.  It is in these areas that critical thinking skills training ought to be focused because of the fact that students are required to demonstrate this ability in themthese modes. Persuasive speaking/writing entails constructing an argument which listeners/readers bear the responsibility of evaluating, i.e. the quality of reasoning. Persuasive speaking/writing is a relevant place to practice argumentation discourse and serves to reinforce the standard academic English convention of stating an opinion and supporting it logically. *** New paragraph ***One activity that is exceptionally well-suited to this is debate, in which all of the students get involved and have the opportunity to practice a range of critical thinking skills as debaters and evaluators. In addition to providing authentic listening, speaking and writing practice *** Where is “writing” involved in the actual debating process? Perhaps it would be good to detail these points a little ***, debate is an effective activity for developing critical thinking skills because of its clear objectives *** And these “clear” objectives are? ***which incorporate all five main skill areas. The research and experience of Krieger (2005), Davidson (1996), Day (2003) and Fukuda (2003) all bear out *** What is “bear out”? Please watch the use of colloquial slang which should not be used in an academic paper ***the claim that these skills are learnable and that with practice students show progress in their ability to perform functions such as: stating opinions, giving logical support *** Giving logical support to what? ***, recognizing the flaws in each other's arguments, generating ideas, sustaining a dialogue, and analyzing a text.


Principles for Training Students to Think Critically

Critical thinking activitiesexercises enable students to delve into an issue and to explore it rather than manipulate language for its own sake and unreflectively *** Better word please ***speak and write.  Due to the difficulty of this*** The writer has swayed somewhat from the abstract which indicated critical thinking should be given more “merit”—yet, the writer constantly uses terms like “Due to the difficulty of this,” “There is no simple definition,” “Although there is nothing new about the above skills,” and “Though general.” The reader, therefore, is not provided with any real insight into this topic, does not see this “merit” that is mentioned. , it is the responsibility of the teacher to oversee the process by providing structured practice.  The following are some examples:principles are useful for facilitating critical thinking objectives in the classroom. 


1.  Use activities that have various answers or solutions

This gives students more options in the ways that they can go about solving a problem.  Moreover, the fact that students may generatecome up with different answers and solutions provides an additional opportunity for them to explain their process of reasoning. This make students more aware of the gray of issues *** What are these “gray issues”? ***. 


2.  Give students ample time for challenging tasks

Students may need more time to accomplish some tasks because of the difficulty level, which may entail some thinking timeBecause of the difficulty of some critical thinking tasks, students may need a lot of time to accomplish them.  That may entail preparation time before the task for them to gather their thoughts.  Respecting thisthe students’ need for time helps facilitate the training of the skills.


3.  Model clearly what students are to do

A model involves demonstrating how the teacher would approach an activity.  This will eliminatehead off possibleinevitable uncertainties forthat the students have as they beginare going into an activity which may appear to be daunting to them at first.


4.  Outline the steps that students are to follow by breaking them down into bite-sized chunks

This makes it easier for students to understand the activity, helping them to organize what they are doing and enabling the teacher to follow along, making sure that they are on track. *** Explain what “chunking” is ***


5.  Promote interaction among the students and mix up groups often

As a facilitator, it is the teacher's job to get students going *** “Get students going”—this language is too colloquial ***and give them a jumpstart if they need it. *** You mention it’s “the teacher’s job” a few times; and as such, you take away from the student’s job, which is to find responsibility in his/her learning *** Quite often students gravitate toward their friends and feel comfortable this way in every class. Yet students will benefit from talking to students who they would not otherwise associate with in order to becomeget exposed to different points of view. *** Examples for this point? ***


6.  Encourage students to have a sense of curiosity and a community of inquiry

A good way to inspire curiosity is by modeling it *** How do you “model” curiosity? ***and encouraging students to maintain a questioning attitude in a respectful manner *** Define respectful; give examples ***.


7.  Challenge students to explain and justify their views clearly

It is worthwhile to urge students to provide support for their views, judgments and decisions.  Sometimes it is necessary to ask a student, can you say it in another way? *** This question would simply provide a Yes/No answer *** to elicit a clearer answer. Challenging students allowsgets them to evaluate their own ideas. This can also be accomplisheddone by encouraging students to sustain their dialogues by probing each other with follow-up questions in discussions.



Although students may spontaneously engage in critical thinking, due to the  discipline *** Spontaneous discipline is an oxymoron ***that it requires in a language classroom and the fact that it may be culturally foreign to them *** How do you spontaneously engage in something that’s foreign to you? , it is necessary for teachers to structure activities within a methodology based on critical thinking skills development. This is essential for foreign students who aim to study at an English-speaking university or high school because they are expected to adopt the academic practices of English and are assessed accordingly.  Furthermore, a critical thinking approach to English education facilitates language learning because such thinking strategies deepen the learning experience, making the language more meaningful for the students¾a vehicle through which they can gradually discover themselves in the process *** I do not see this “discovery” in any part of your paper ***. This leading out of the self through thinking is how the function of education can more fully be achieved, according to the origin of the word educate: to lead out *** Where is your source for this definition? ***.

*** I find the argument in your conclusion hard to concur with; you have not amply supplied or highlighted the areas in which there is a deficit in critical thinking—you only really provide one side of the story, and you do not engage in much of the “merit” that red-carpets your abstract. You haven’t really discussed much that isn’t already being discussed ***



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Bell, E. A. 1991. Debate: a strategy for teaching critical thinking. Nurse Educator. 16 TAB(2): 6-7.

Brown, H. D. 2004. Some practical thoughts about student-sensitive critical TABpedagogy. The Language Teacher. 28 (7): 23-27.

Davidson, B. 1995. Critical thinking education faces the challenge of Japan. Inquiry: TABCritical Thinking Across the Disciplines. XIV (3).

Day, R. 2003. Teaching critical thinking and discussion. The Language Teacher TABOnline. 27 (7).

DfEE 1999. The National Curriculum. www.nc.uk.net

Fisher, A. 2001.  Critical thinking: an introduction.  Cambridge University Press.

Fukuda, S. 2003.  Attitudes toward argumentation in college EFL classes in Japan.  TABProceedings of the First Asia TEFL International Conference.  Pusan, Korea. pp. TAB417-418.

Gardner, P. S. 1996. New directions: an integrated approach to reading, writing, and TABcritical thinking. Cambridge University Press.

Keeley, S. M. & Browne, M. N. 1994. Asking the right questions: a guide to critical TABthinking. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Krieger, D. 2005. Teaching Debate to ESL Students: A Six-Class Unit . The Internet TABTESL Journal.  XI (2).

Paul, R. & Elder, L. 2003.  The miniature guide to critical thinking concepts and TABtools. The Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Scollon, Suzanne. 1999. Confucian and Socratic discourse in the tertiary classroom, TABIn Eli Hinkel (Ed.) Culture in second language teaching and learning. Cambridge TABUniversity Press. pp. 13-27.


The author introduces many models for critical thinking with are not always cited.


A –1

B – 3 (2 with revision)

C 3 (1 with revision)

D – 4 (2 with revision)

E – 2 (1 with revision)

F – 3 (1 with revision)

G – 3 (2 with revision)

H 3 (1 with revision)


Reviewer: LIA