Critical data, and decide conclusions from the information or

Critical
Thinking

     As pointed out by Ennis (1985)
“Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on
deciding what to believe or do (P.45). It is “Disciplined, self-directed
thinking which exemplifies the perfections of thinking appropriate to a particular
mode or domain of thought” (Paul, 1992, p. 9)

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     According to critical thinking, the
critical person is someone like a critical consumer of information. Critical
thinking has been defined and measured in a variety of ways, but Pascrella and
Tereasim (1991) have noted that it typically involves the individual’s ability
to do some or all of the followings: Identify central issue, make correct
inference from data, and decide conclusions from the information or data
provided. John Dewey (1983 in Halpern, 2003) identified “learning to think
as the primary purpose of education”. According to Carroll (2007) one
approach to increase student’s thinking is to help students to understand the
big picture about the course.

 

Critical
Reading

     Teaching students to think while reading
is referred to the professional literature as “critical reading”. It
is described as “learning to evaluate, draw inferences, and arrive at
conclusions based on evidence”(Carr, 1988 in Collins). In fact, students
learn to read personally, actively, and deeply (Sweet, 1993 cited in Collins,
1989). One of the central skills in learning “turn knowledge into
wisdom” is critical reading: the ability to learn from text, to think
analytically and critically. Critical reading refers primarily to teaching
students how to analyze and develop reading and writing assignments from the
perspective of formal, logical pattern of consistency (Popkewits& Flender,
1999).

      Lee’s finding (2005) revealed that
teaching critical reading strategies helps students to become autonomous
learners and once students learn the critical reading strategies and understand
the importance of critical literacy, they will find reading more meaningful,
challenging and exciting.

     Caroll (2007) suggested that a noticeable
factor which separates student readers from more experienced readers is that
most of experienced readers bring rhetorical strategies to their reading as a
matter of course. Novice readers tend to take the text at face value, naively
accepting what they are reading as some kind of unmediated truth. He explains
that they essentially read for content, for ‘knowledge- getting’. Experienced
readers on the other hand, are very conscious of the author, of his/her purpose
in writing the text. 

 
Freire (1986) believed in the critical understanding of the act of
reading and maintains the fact that reading is not exhausted merely by decoding
the written language, but rather anticipated by and extending into knowledge of
the world. To put it differently, reading the world precedes reading the word,
and the subsequent reading of the word cannot dispense with continually reading
the world. Goodman (2001) also states that “reading should be active and
constructive process and it is a process of making sense from the
print”(P.3).

  According to Freire, one reads the experience
and the world he is living in prior to reading the word. One decoding the word
is not something overlapped on reading one’s particular world but continued
from it. To be literate, one should be able to read the world as well as the
word. Students usually think that the text knows best. They often passively
accept what is found in reading texts simply because it is often presented as
obvious (Wallace, 1990). Teachers are usually concerned with imparting the
grammatical points, vocabulary and content knowledge, thus rarely guide
students to question a text’s for granted stance.

     In critical reading course, students do
not read simply to find the facts and gain knowledge by memorizing the
statements within a text, but they try to recognize what a text says, how it is
saying, what it wants to do, and what it means as a whole. They try to relate
the text to their own life experiences, and find themselves in the text.

Critical Reader

     The critical readers respond to text in
their own voice, they ask questions, they relate the text to other sources,
they think of examples to corroborate or challenge the text, they play with the
ideas, extending or elaborating on them, they relate the text to their own
purposes or experience (Wallace, 1995). As pointed out by Luke (2000), students
need to participate in co-constructing meaning from the texts to truly engage
with reading. In general, good readers enter the reading process with certain
assumptions: that what they read will be connected into a coherent whole, that
it will contain “layers of meaning “, that the ideas being read are
connected to other ideas they have previously encountered and are relevant to
them personally (Harste, 1986 cited in Rings, 1994). Before they are good
readers, they inspect what they are to read, noting such aspects as the title,
author, and chapters, then they place this reading into a category. As they
read, they ask questions, note interesting features of the text, and draw on
their experience as a reader (Orndorff, 1987 cited in Rings, 1994). Rings
(1994) stated that reading can be seen as an interaction between the reader,
the author, and the text.

Conceptual
framework of Critical Reading

     Rosenblatt, a contemporary of John Dewey
who acknowledges his influence upon her thinking, developed a transactional
theory in which she contends that reading involves a transformation of both the
reader and the text.

     In the process of interacting, both are transformed
to produce a new meaning that could not be arrived at individually. The
foundation of this theory is the assumption that critical reading is a form of
critical thinking which corresponds to the more general assumption; that
reading, is thinking (Thorndike, 1917 cited in Rings, 1994) a basic concept
that cognitive scientists have returned to as the shortcoming of the
mechanistic paradigm has become increasingly evident. Thorndike as well as
Dewey and others, were aware that reading is an interactive, holistic process
(Kruger, 1986 cited in Rings, 1994).

     The conceptual framework for the process
of reading that is embedded in this organic paradigm is known as constructivism
(Rings, 1994).

 Constructivism is the theory that knowledge is
constructed rather than transmitted in a pure form. In the reading process,
readers interpret the text, and their interpretation is affected by many
factors including their prior knowledge, their experiences, their attitudes,
and their understanding of the nature of the reading. Meaning does not reside
in individual words, sentences, or passages; instead, readers use the language
as a framework from which meaning is built. Thus, reading is an active,
thinking process (Spiro, 1980 in Rings, 1994). In this study attempts has been
destined to develop understanding. And to examine that if teaching critical
reading brings up superior thinkers who can apply these strategies in their all
reading instructions. Students should not be brought up to accept the contents
of reading text without question. That is, they need to actively engage in the
process of analyzing and creating messages. Since students in Iran have had
little instructional support in helping them to analyze and think about
reading, teachers can change their methods to provide a critical thinking
environment. In this way, the curriculum which emphasizes facts and isolated
strategies may move towards an emphasis on collaborative, active, critical
learning that involves complex thought and interpretations (Grant, 1993).

 

ESP Vocabulary
Learning and Critical Reading

According to
Stenberg (1987) even if most of the vocabulary is learned from context, one
should not conclude that this “is the fastest or the most efficient way of
learning specific vocabulary”(cited in Paribakht , 1999, P.94).

     One of the most important results of the
research done by Schouten-van parreren is that the learning of words can best
be achieved by reading. The learning of words through word-lists should be
rejected for the following reasons: 1. Words that have been learned from a list
are easily confused 2. Words that have been learned from a list are easily
forgotten because of the lack of any cognitive peg 3. Words that are known
within the list may not be known outside the list 4. The meaning of word as
learned in a list is often not appropriate in the context encountered by the
students 5.

The learning
motivation of the student will be slight because he has not yet felt the need
to find out the meaning of a particular word. Schouten-van parreren advocates
the presentation of words in text. This is because texts provide many points of
reference for the retention of new words. Schouten-van parreren focuses on
reading with the aim of vocabulary acquisition, and she argued that a combination
of guessing, and analyzing each word that has to be learned is very effective.
Guessing refers to the inference of the meaning of unknown word-form of the
context. This action is thought to contribute to a great extent to the
retention of new words. The analysis the word-form comprises the recognition of
relationships between new words and already known words in the target language,
the mother-tongue, or other languages, involving knowledge of word formation
and etymology. 

     The fundamental assumption in the theory
of Schouten-van parreren is that the inference of the meaning of words from the
context and the word-form is conductive to retention. This implies,
incidentally, that guessing wrongly should be prevented as far as possible, as
incorrectly guessed meaning also tend to stick in the mind. Therefore, the
guess ability of words should be optimal. Guessing is conductive to retention.
In the process of guessing, the reader performs a mental action on the
word-form, making associations between the context and his own personal
knowledge (both linguistic knowledge and knowledge of the world), and thus
establishing a cognitive peg.

     While learners are reading, they failed to
learn the meaning of unfamiliar words. The reasons are as follows. When reading
mainly for comprehension, learners ignore most unknown words considered
irrelevant to main ideas. Their ignorance of unknown words accounts for their
failure in vocabulary learning, because the basis for vocabulary learning to
take place was learners’ noticing and attention to unknown words (Hulstijn et
al, 1996; Luafer, 2003, 2005; Wesche& paribakht, 2000).

Learners also
overestimate their vocabulary size; that is, there are some unfamiliar words
that learners think they know but in fact do not know. The context may not
provide sufficient information to infer meaning, or to infer it correctly.
Learners’ inferences of unknown words might be incorrect, which causes them to
retain the incorrect meaning of the words. In contrast, if there is such a rich
context in which the meaning is easily inferred, readers may guess the meaning
only for momentary comprehension and not for retention, that is, the correct
guess does not necessarily lead to acquisition of the new word (Decarccio,
2001; Hulstijn et al, 1996; Wesche, 2000). Guessing requires good
reading strategies which may students lack (Huckin, 1999).

   Loafer (1997) argued that
a learner who has been taught guessing strategies would not automatically
produce correct guesses while reading. The factors, availability of clues,
familiarity with the clue words, and presence of misleading clues will effect
on guessing. As the researcher mentioned above, the participants paid attention
to the unknown words in the texts by applying some strategies of critical
reading. Inferencing was one of the strategies which the researcher has applied
while reading. This strategy is common in critical reading. Reading is a
holistic process that cannot be divided into discrete units. The reader is
actively involved in constructing meaning through interacting with the text.
And the meaning that the reader derives is affected by the context, the
reader’s purpose for reading and the situation in which the reading takes
place. Another strategy which the researcher explicitly taught during reading
was annotating strategy which is actively reading the
text while reading and marking, circling, or writing some key words, and the meaning of unknown words (synonym and antonym) and the
definitions in the margin(Diyanni, 2002).

 By applying this strategy, the
participants pay attention to the unknown words and they are not ignoring the
unknown words in the text. The participants should also have a pencil in hand
so that they can “annotate” their text. Signaling
the important information can be found with key words or symbols in the margin.
Also writing short summaries in the margins at the end of sub-sections,
and tracking or tracing steps in the process by using numbers in the margin can
be helpful; moreover, the participants can write
questions in the margin next to the section where the answer is, and identify
any ideas that challenge the knowledge, beliefs or attitudes of the audience.
They also can note any personal experience with the reflection on the topic.
Marking, circling, or underlining any words that define voice, tone, attitude
or diction, and identifying any information or evidence that defines the text’s
historical, biographical, or cultural context are recommended. The participants
are also taught to make any connections to
other sources they already have read on the topic