Effects of Explicit Teaching of Critical Thinking Strategies on EFL Learners' Reading Comprehension

Document Type : Original Article


Department of English Language and Literature, Urmia University



beyond rote learning and to enhance their academic achievement, it is an under-researched construct in ELT contexts. Therefore, this study investigated whether explicit teaching of critical thinking through amalgamation of Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Linguistics (group 1), Asking 11 Right Questions (group 2), and amalgamation of Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Linguistics accompanied by Peer-evaluation (group 3) can improve Reading Comprehension abilities of university students in an EFL context.  In so doing, the study utilized a mixed methods design including quasi-experimental and narrative feedback; with 16 participants in groups 1 and 2 each, 15 participants in group 3 as experimental groups, and 15 participants in group 4 as control group. Reading comprehension and critical thinking pretests were employed to homogenize groups at the beginning of the study; then every session 3 provocative texts were applied for critical analysis based on the treatments students received within five sessions. The reading comprehension post-test results indicated that explicit teaching of critical thinking through Asking 11 Right Questions had the highest and most significant influence on reading comprehension ability followed by two other experimental groups with control group representing no significant gain. The findings imply that reflecting critically on learning materials can illuminate hidden cultural and ideological aspects of the texts which consequently helps learners to better understand the text, and to defend against cultural invasion.  


Abrami, P. C., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Waddington, D. I., Wade, C. A., & Persson, T. (2015). Strategies for teaching students to think critically: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 85(2), 275-314.
Atkinson, D. (1997). A critical approach to critical thinking in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 31(1), 71–94.
Bell, A. (1995). Language and the media. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 15, 23-41.
Bezanilla, M.J., Fernández-Nogueira, D., Poblete, M. & Galindo-Domínguez, H. (2019).                     Methodologies for teaching-learning critical thinking in higher education: The teacher’s view. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 33, 1-10.
Birjandi, P., Bagheri, M.B., & Maftoon, P. (2018). The Place of critical thinking in iranian educational system. The journal of Faculty of Foreign Languages Research, 7(2), 299-324.
Browne, M.N., & Keeley, S.M. (2015). Asking the Right Question: A Guide to Critical Thinking. Pearson Prentice Hal, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Butler, H. A. (2012). Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment predicts real-world outcomes of critical thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(5), 721–729.
Daud, N. S. M., Gilmore, A., & Mayo, H. E. (2013). Exploring the potency of peer evaluation to develop critical thinking for tertiary academic writing. World Applied Sciences Journal, 21, 109–116.
Davidson, B. (1998). A case for critical thinking in the English language classroom. TESOL Quarterly 32 (1), 119-123.
Davidson, B., & Dunham, R. (1997). Assessing EFL student progress in critical thinking with the Ennis-Weir critical thinking essay test. JALT Journal 19 (1), 43-57.
El Soufia, N., & See, B. H. (2019). Does explicit teaching of critical thinking improve critical thinking skills of English language learners in higher education? A critical review of causal evidence. Studies in Educational Evaluation 60(2019) 140-162.
Epstein, R.L. (2006). Critical thinking. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomas Learning.
Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and Power. Longman, London.
Fowler, R. (1991). Language in the news: Discourse and ideology in the press. London: Routledge.
Glasen, D. R., & Bonk, C. (1990). Teachers tackle thinking. Madison, WI: Madison Education Extension Program.
Haber, J. (2020). Critical Thinking. The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series.
Halpern, D. F. (2014). Thought and knowledge. An introduction to critical thinking (5th ed). New York: Psychology Press.
Hashemi, M.R., & Ghanizadeh, A. (2012). Critical discourse analysis and critical thinking: an experimental study in an EFL context. System, 40, 37-47.
Husna, N. (2019). Developing Students’ Critical Thinking through an Integrated   Extensive Reading Program. TEFLIN Journal, 30, 2012-230.
Lantolf, J.P., & Pavlenko, A. (1995). Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 15, 38–53.
Li, L. (2016). Thinking skills and creativity in second language education: Where are we now? Thinking Skills and Creativity, 22, 267-272.
Liang, W., & Fung, D. (2020). Fostering Critical Thinking in English-as-a-second-language classrooms: Challenges and opportunities. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 20, 1-35.
Lin, Y. (2018). Developing Critical Thinking in EFL Classes. An Infusion Approach. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.
Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Liyanage, I., Walker, T., & Shokouhi, H. (2021). Are we thinking critically about critical thinking? Uncovering uncertainties in internationalised higher education. Thinking Skills and Creativity 39, 1-9.
McPeck, J. E. (1990). Teaching critical thinking. London: Routledge.
Moon, J. (2008). Critical thinking: An exploration of theory and practice. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group: London & New York.
Mousavi, S., & Ketabi, S. (2021). Impact of participatory critical pedagogy interventions on EFL learners’ class participation and engagement: The Case Study of Female EFL Learners in Iran. Teaching English Language, 15, 1, 29-49.
Paul, R. (1987). Dialogical thinking: critical thought essential to the acquisition of rational knowledge and passions. In: Baron, J., Sternberg, R. (Eds.), Teaching Thinking Skills. Freeman, New York, F. W, 127-148.
Pearson Education. (2012). Watson-Glaser critical thinking appraisal user-guide and    technical manual. Retrieved from http:// talentlens.co.uk/assets/news-and events/ watson-glaser-user-guide-and-technical-manual.pdf
Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an International language. Longman: London.
Van Laar, E., Van Deursen, A. J., Van Dijk, J. A., & De Haan, J. (2017). The relation between 21st-century skills and digital skills: A systematic literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 72, 577-588.
Wallace, C. (1992). Critical literacy awareness in the EFL classroom. In: Fairclough, N. (Ed.), Critical Language Awareness. Longman, Harlow,59-92.
Watson, G.B., Glaser, E.M. (2002). Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal UK. The Psychological Corporation.
Williams, R., L. (2005). Targeting critical thinking within teacher education: The potential impact on society. The Teacher Educator, 40(3), 163-187.
Wisdom, S., & Leavitt, L. (2015). Handbook of Research on Advancing Critical Thinking in Higher Education. Information Science Reference .
Yuan, R., Yang, M., & Paul Stapleton, P. (2020).  Enhancing undergraduates’ critical thinking through research engagement: A practitioner research approach. Thinking Skills and Creativity 38, 1-10.
Yuan, R., Yang, M., & Stapleton, P. (2020). Enhancing undergraduates’ critical thinking through research engagement: A practitioner research approach. Thinking Skills and Creativity 37, 70-89.
Zare, M., Barjesteh, H., & Biria, R. (2021). Enhancing EFL learners' reading comprehension skill through critical thinking-oriented dynamic assessment. Teaching English Language,15(1), 189-214.
Zhao, C., Pandian, A., & Singh, M. K. M. (2016). Instructional strategies for developing critical thinking in EFL classrooms. English Language Teaching, 9(10), 1. 189-214.
Zohar, A., & Barzilai, S. (2015).  Metacognition and teaching higher order thinking (HOT) in science education: Students' learning, teachers’ knowledge and instructional practices. In R. Wegerif, L. Li, & J. C. Kaufman (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Research on Teaching Thinking (pp.233-250). Routledge.