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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Critical thinking in second language writing : concept, theory and pedagogy Dong, Yanning


Recognizing the reciprocal connection between critical thinking (CT) and writing, many second language (L2) instructors attempt to infuse CT in their writing classrooms but encounter great challenges due to the fact that teaching CT in a specific subject requires a “substantial reconstruction of a teacher’s model of how to teach a discipline” (Nosich, 2005, p. 65). To facilitate this reconstruction, this study is designed to provide the needed conceptual, theoretical and pedagogical supports. Based on a clarification of the concept of CT in L2 writing and the establishment of a theoretical framework that draws insights from Skill Acquisition Theory and Constructivism, I developed a CT-oriented L2 writing approach that included both explicit CT instruction and CT-oriented writing activities. The effectiveness of this approach was evaluated in actual teaching practice that involved 44 second-year L2 undergraduates in a Chinese university. Employing a mixed method research design, the study involved a pre-study questionnaire survey, a quasi-experiment and a post-study interview. After the study, the participants’ pre-test and post-test CT and L2 writing scores were analyzed. The results of the statistical analyses indicate that the CT-oriented L2 writing approach was effective for improving students’ CT and L2 writing scores and that there was a significant high positive relationship (r=0.89, p<.01) between students’ CT and L2 writing scores. The analysis of the post-study interview and the participants’ essays and worksheets reveals that the CT-oriented L2 writing approach has facilitated students’ learning of both CT and L2 writing by connecting the abstract CT theories and practical interactive activities and naturally infusing the instruction of CT into that of L2 writing. The development of the CT-oriented brainstorming worksheet and peer review checklist, as well as the “criteria for evaluating CT in L2 writing” facilitated the teaching, learning and assessment of CT in L2 writing in the present study. Exploring the effectiveness of an approach to CT in L2 writing, the study provides pragmatic supports for L2 researchers and instructors who wish to cultivate their students to become not only proficient language users for effective written communication, but also independent critical thinkers for their life-long learning.

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