Good literature not only holds the power to engage and to inspire, but also to invite readers to see the world from new and unfamiliar perspectives. Literature can thus challenge conventional ideas and received wisdom and as such may become a potent tool for stimulating critical thinking in the hands of the foreign language teacher. While there is little consensus among scholars as to what exactly should be understood by the term critical thinking (D’Angelo 1971, Fisher and Scriven 1997, Long 2003, Paul and Elder 2006, Seigel 1988), a common thread present in most definitions points to a habit of rigorous thinking that relies on rational argumentation and evidence, rather than on submission to authority. As the world today is rapidly changing in ways that are often difficult to predict, it is more important than ever for students to acquire the ability to judge and act independently. The foreign language classroom, especially at the university level, presents an excellent, if often underutilised, opportunity for the development of critical thinking skills. In this presentation, I will discuss the case study of my own experiment in developing an English speaking skills course based on George Orwell’s novella Animal Farm. The course was designed for undergraduate English majors at Osaka University, a national university in Japan. I will identify five aspects of critical thinking that I think are especially relevant for a literature-based EFL course and discuss examples of how my students showed development of critical thinking skills through engagement with the text.
Michael Hofmeyr, Osaka University, Japan
Stream: Literature and language learning
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