An exploration of the effects of teaching critical thinking skills to undergraduate English language learners in Lebanon on their argumentation skills: A randomised controlled trial

Objectives of the study

The study is a pilot trial to examine the effect of teaching critical thinking skills to English language learners at an undergraduate level on their argumentation skills.

Description of the sample

I will conduct a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of teaching critical thinking skills to English language learners at an advanced level (English 102 – TOEFL score between 570 and 597; SAT score of 440-489) in a university in Lebanon – The University of Balamand. The implementation of the trial teaching methods will take place in the Spring Semester from February 2015 to June 2015 and then will be repeated in the Fall Semester from September 2015 to January 2016. The number of participants in each semester will be around 250 students. The proposed teaching strategies will be trialled with the 2015 cohort and repeated with a second cohort to increase the number of participants to reach 500.

Three sections of English 102 that I will teach will form the experimental group. Other sections of the same level, English 102, taught by other instructors will be randomly assigned to the experimental group or to the control group. Instructors teaching sections that are part of the experimental group will receive detailed instructions on how to train their students in critical thinking skills. The number of instructors teaching the experimental sections will be around 4.

All students in both control and experimental groups will be given a standardized critical thinking test as a pre-test and post-test. Students in the experimental group will be taught with strong emphasis on critical thinking skills like analysing arguments, detecting fallacies, recognizing assumptions, drawing conclusions, and making inferences.

Methods and procedure of data collection

In order to examine whether training in critical thinking skills can have an effect on language learners, scores of the pre-test and post-tests of students in the control group and experimental group will be compared.

Course syllabi across faculties will also be collected and examined to understand if critical thinking skills are implicitly or explicitly taught. Since business studies, economics, biology, engineering, education students may be different, I will conduct interviews with instructors to understand their pedagogical styles.

Data management

The data are not sensitive because no individual names will be mentioned. Results will be the aggregated mean scores for groups. These will be analysed to find effect size of difference between groups. Effect size will be used to judge whether there is a difference between groups as a result of the intervention.

Sub-group comparisons will be conducted to see if there are differences between students in different disciplines and backgrounds (gender, age, major chosen, nationality).


Reporting strategies

Data will be reported in aggregated form and the intention is to publish it in at least two peer-reviewed journals. A monograph of the PhD findings is also planned.

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