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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 9 - Criticality in Practice: From Beginners’ to Advanced Levels 153


Chapter 9 Criticality in Practice: From Beginners’ to Advanced Levels In Part I of this book, an empirical study based on action research was reported that focused on two aspects of Modern Languages studies that had not been explored in the Criticality Project at the University of Southampton or elsewhere: beginners’ language courses and a non-Euro- pean language course (i.e., Japanese) being taught at university level. The feasibility of developing criticality was investigated by inserting focused lessons that targeted the cultural and linguistic dimensions of criticality into the existing textbook-based syllabus, which basically followed a grammatical progression using communicative language teaching methodology. The model resulting from this study, presented in Figure 1, was that while criticality can develop on its own without targeted instruction (even in foreign language classes at the beginner level as students develop original theories related to foreign language learning through spontaneous inquiry and analysis), its development can be intensified through targeted instruc- tion in focused lessons in dif ferent ways. Three stages emerged in the theory- building process that started with inquiry and ended with conclusion, a sequence that could be repeated cyclically. Students’ initial, original theories (or hypotheses) did not seem to represent an absolute terminal point of the theory-building process, as their initial theories could be challenged later by encounters with dif ferent points of view or opinions. Even without direct teacher/researcher intervention, some kinds of classroom activities seem to stimulate the thinking of learners, but care- fully designed teaching activities revolving around the...

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