Critical Thinking and Voice in EFL Writing

| September 28, 2007
Title
Critical Thinking and Voice in EFL Writing

Keywords: Critical thinking, voice, L2 writing.

Authors
Nuray Alagozlu
Baskent University, Turkey

Bio Data
Dr. Nuray Alagozlu got her Masters of Arts degree from the MA TEFL Programme at Bilkent University and completed her doctoral studies at the Linguistics Department, Hacettepe University. She is currently affiliated with Baskent University, Ankara where she works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages.

Abstract
For years, it has been observed that Turkish EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students suffer from weaknesses in expressing their original thoughts in writing in a foreign language. This problem seems to be associated with critical thinking, defined as making reasoned judgments to assessing the validity of something (Beyer, 1995) and individual voice, defined as authorial identity (Ivanic, 1998; Hirvela and Belcher, 2001). In this paper, two issues are investigated: firstly, whether Turkish EFL users in an English Language Teaching (ELT) department display elements of critical thinking and voice; and secondly, whether these students think they possess them. The argumentative essays of 76 EFL students were analyzed via Stapleton s (2001 p. 252) criteria which seek the elements of critical thinking (claims, kinds of reasoning, the extent of evidence, recognition of opposing arguments and refutation, and fallacies) and individual voice. Students perceptions related to critical thinking and voice were elicited through a questionnaire administered to the same group of respondents. The analysis of the essays shows that there are too many unsupported claims in the essays; therefore, the students ignore constructing arguments comprising claims supported with reasons and evidence from the texts they read.

The amount of evidence and reasons used to substantiate these claims is not sufficient to form healthy arguments, which implies that the students tend to write or copy what they read rather than filtering it through their judgment and reasoning. Opposing arguments in the texts do not seem to be recognized and refuted. Claims are not supported with logical and related conclusions. The questionnaire demonstrates that the students have a high level of critical thinking and individual voice in expressing themselves clearly and putting their own viewpoint into their writing, rather than sharing somebody else s viewpoint, which are not reflected in the essays. The results suggest that EFL students need to be supported in terms of critical thinking skills though they perceive themselves to be critical thinkers to overcome the difficulties in writing and to cope with the requirements of the multicultural world.

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See pages 118-136

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 9 Issue 3