"Developing students' critical thinking skills and intercultural competence in EFL textbooks"
Sala de Graus 19.04.2018 Divulgació  -  A talk by Dr. Pawel Sobkowiak next Monday at 10:00, April 23, at the Sala d'Actes of the Facultat de Lletres i Psicologia.

Developing students' critical thinking skills and intercultural competence in EFL textbooks

By: Paweł Sobkowiak, PhD., D. Litt.
Adam Mickiewicz University
School of Law and Administration
Poznań, Poland

Globalization, advanced internet technologies, and the status of English as a lingua franca have posed a considerable challenge for the EFL profession. In such a new context, where  students are likely to move between cultures on a regular basis, the long-established objectives of English language teaching have to be  re-considered and an intercultural (IC) approach has to become one of its prerequisites (Bennett, 2013; Byram, 1997; Corbett, 2003; Deardorff, 2009; Kramsch, 1993; Liddicoat and Scarino, 2013). Intercultural competence is important for successful communication across cultures, and so is critical thinking since the two, if they are not “parallel” (Bennett, ibid.), at least overlap (Deardorff, ibid.).  In my lecture I will investigate the linkage between developing critical thinking and intercultural skills, and report on the findings of research done on whether and to what extent EFL textbooks used in Polish high schools contribute to fostering critical thinking skills in students and thus, their intercultural competence.  

The study analyzed the cultural content of 20 course-books to check whether they go beyond depicting the target culture/s, or various foreign cultures, and involve students in practicing critical thinking. The research focused on investigating whether the books prompt students to explore cultural contents, intercultural encounters and processes, and scrutinize how their own understanding of reality, deeply rooted in their native culture, influences their perception of diverse cultures. The emphasis in the study was put on examining whether students, while working on cultural contents, are provided with opportunities to formulate hypotheses, question the presented input and investigate it further on their own, notice similarities and differences, compare and contrast, find alternatives, explore viewpoints to finally draw conclusions. The research revealed an insignificant and limited capacity of the  textbooks to develop students’ critical thinking, thus low potential to foster intercultural competence.

In the second part of the session some practical applications of the presented theory will be discussed. Participants will be asked to design exercises which, focusing on critical thinking skills, are conducive to developing students’ intercultural competence.

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