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Developing Criticality in Practice Through Foreign Language Education


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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Chapter 1 - From Inquiry to Research 31


Chapter 1 From Inquiry to Research 1.1 Tertiary-level foreign language education: questioning the aims In the latter half of the last century, the study of Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis had a great impact in the development of theories in the language teaching area. Their contri- bution draws more attention to the interdependent relationship between language and culture, and the inf luence of language on thought. There is a pedagogical implication in the hypothesis. Bredella and Richter (2004) interpret and expand the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis as having particular significance for language learning and studying as follows: According to the SWH (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis), learning and studying foreign languages does not only have an instrumental goal but also an important educational one. It can make us aware of the constraints of our language and world view and allows us to see what we have in common with other forms of speaking and thinking on deeper levels. (Bredella and Richter 2004: 523, emphasis added) The contribution is significant because they highlighted the two dimen- sions in language teaching; both instrumental and educational goals are important. The overarching question to be addressed in Part I of this book is this: How are these two dimensions to be realised? The point of view put forward by Bredella and Richter inspired the study to be described and as a consequence, it can be considered an attempt to connect the point of view represented by them and by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to...

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