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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 2 - Criticality Development: A Two-Stage Empirical Study 41


Chapter 2 Criticality Development: A Two-Stage Empirical Study 2.1 Overview of the study In this chapter, the study conducted by the teacher-researcher in her own classes will be described. This was conducted in two stages in lower and upper beginner-level courses in four-year Japanese combined language degree programmes at a British university. In order to obtain a Modern Languages degree, students had to take not only language and content modules such as linguistics, history, literature, and sociology, but also compulsory year abroad modules in the third year of the four-year degree programme. Forty-nine students took part in the study. Approximately half of them were British students and the rest were international students (from coun- tries such as Mainland China, Singapore, and South Korea) and exchange students from European countries. Ethical procedures were completed prior to the data collection. The beginners’ language course syllabus was based on textbooks, which emphasise grammatical structures and integrated the four skills (listening, reading, speaking, and writing) with communicative activities. The purpose of this research was to test the feasibility of intro- ducing new aims into the teaching process by developing new approaches and techniques to promote criticality development. In response to the two research questions, two lines of inquiry were investigated separately. In order to answer the first question that inquired into what kind of criticality could be developed in learners, the courses were investigated as they were in their natural state, so to speak. In order to answer the second question that enquired into...

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