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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 4 - Basic Understandings of the Nature of Criticality in ForeignLanguage Education 71


Chapter 4 Basic Understandings of the Nature of Criticality in Foreign Language Education The core concepts of criticality that emerged in the empirical study described in Part I include scepticism, inquiry, suspension of judgment, comparison and contrast, ref lection and the cultural dimension. But as explained in the introduction, the word critical derives etymologically from two Greek roots: kriticos (meaning discerning judgment) and criterion (meaning standards). Etymologically, then, the word ‘critical’ implies the development of ‘discerning judgement based on standards’, so why isn’t such judgment also listed as one of the core concepts of criticality listed above? When we encounter otherness in dif ferent forms, is it necessary for us to pass judgment or to suspend it, or to somehow do both, and if so, in what order and why? Such questions are explored in the empirical study described in Part II. 4.1 Overview of the study As noted in the introduction, the management of value dif ference in foreign language education was explored in this study by questioning Byram’s (1997) view that teachers should train learners to adopt a judg- mental stance to develop critical cultural awareness to control judgmen- tal processes more consciously that they otherwise might. An empirical study based on action research (Houghton 2007; 2009a; 2010a; forth- coming a) was conducted by the teacher-researcher in her own classes, as with the study described in Part I, to explore and ref lect upon the 72 Chapter 4 kinds of learning objectives that can and should be set...

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