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Developing Criticality in Practice Through Foreign Language Education

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Stephanie Houghton and Etsuko Yamada

Many universities have adopted criticality as a general aim of higher education, in order to meet the demands of an increasingly globalised world. But what is criticality, and how does it develop in practice? This book explores the concept in detail and considers how it can be systematically developed in practical ways through foreign language education.
Taking a practice-first rather than a theory-first approach, the book presents two case studies based on action research in order to investigate criticality development through foreign language education. One study was conducted in beginner level Japanese language classes at a British university by a Japanese teacher-researcher, and the other was conducted in upper-intermediate English language classes at a Japanese university by a British teacher-researcher. The two studies illuminate the complex experiences of students and teachers as criticality starts to develop in both planned and unplanned ways, from beginner-level to more advanced levels of foreign language learning. The authors also suggest a range of practical teaching approaches which can be used to develop criticality through targeted instruction.

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Introduction 1

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1 society and the preservation of the stability of self and society, ideas that tend to underpin the cultural value of harmony which is often prioritised in Asian cultures such as China and Japan. The extent to which such cultural dif ferences can be reconciled, given their common concerns in the post- modem world, is thus open to question. This is one point at which this book finds itself situated, insofar as it explores the development of criticality in British students of Japanese as a Foreign Language at a British university, and Japanese students of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. Discussion related to the cultural dimensions of criticality will arise throughout this book, but both of its authors basically support Barnett’s (1997) view that the development of criticality should be a main educa- tional aim. However, his model of criticality, in which he suggests that we need to reconceptualise not only critical thinking but higher education itself, must itself also be subject to scrutiny. In a critique of Barnett’s work prior to the publication of the 1997 book, White (1997) argues that there is a weakness in Barnett’s argument. He implies that it is merely Barnett’s own view that there is something special about higher education and that there is a historical support for his view that higher education should impose the development of the critical person as an aim. Barnett seems to agree with this in a later dialogue about his work (Nixon et al 1999: 560)...

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