University of Tasmania
Final Thesis - XIAO - expubmat.pdf (3.5 MB)

Developing critical thinking in students’ critical writing through an English literature course in a Chinese medical university

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posted on 2024-03-25, 04:23 authored by Xiangyang Xiao

Critical thinking is a process of reasoning aimed at coming to a sound justifiable decision, conclusion, or judgment. It is underpinned by critical thinking skills and critical thinking dispositions. Training students to think critically is regarded as an important and necessary outcome of education. A review of literature found that, in China, examination-oriented and teacher-centred teaching, as well as the Confucian and Taoist historical influences on education, have contributed to a lack of critical thinking in students. With recent initiatives by the Ministry of Education of China pushing for greater critical thinking, it was timely to investigate how Chinese students’ critical thinking could be developed through a teaching intervention.
A cohort of 47 Chinese medical students attending a course of English literary studies participated in this research project. Their initial critical thinking dispositions and their performance of critical thinking in essays, along with data collected through a questionnaire, interviews, and classroom observations, were comprehensively examined. Apart from investigating the impact of the teaching intervention on participants’ critical thinking, the educational and cultural factors that had influenced participants’ critical thinking were also investigated.
An English novel Moment in Peking was used as the text for the teaching intervention. It is a classic work containing many situations conducive for critical thinking. A variety of pedagogical methods under scaffolding was applied in order to enhance participants’ critical thinking in the teaching intervention.
The California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory (CCTDI) was used to measure the participants’ critical thinking dispositions across seven attributes including Truth-seeking, Open-mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Confidence in Reasoning, Inquisitiveness, and Maturity of Judgment. The Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric (HCTSR) was used to measure the participants’ critical thinking performance in essays across six dimensions including Interpretation, Identification, Analysis and Evaluation, Conclusion, Justification and Explanation, and Fair-mindedness.
Findings revealed that participants, as a whole, were not strongly disposed to critical thinking. They were not negatively disposed to critical thinking either. Individual participants varied across the attributes of critical thinking dispositions. Participants made significant improvements in overall results, particularly in the dimension of Interpretation, and in the dimension of Justification and Explanation. The study revealed that pedagogy and culture had both positive and negative impacts on participants’ critical thinking.
This study concluded that (1) medical students’ critical thinking skills could be developed through essay writing in an English literary studies course; (2) synchronous and interactive activities were effective in developing participants’ critical thinking; and (3) pedagogical and cultural factors affected participants’ critical thinking. This study is meaningful for higher education in China, as it has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of what College English teachers can do in their courses to develop students’ critical thinking, particularly with medical students. It also gives insights into cultural factors that may impact the development of critical thinking.



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