A practitioner-research study of criticality development in an academic English language programme

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This chapter presents a practitioner-research study of criticality development in a five-week Pre-sessional academic English course, involving eight students and the lecturer (myself), at a UK partner university in Mainland China. The study begins with an exploration of criticality in the light of the literature on Critical English for Academic Purposes (CEAP), critical pedagogy, critical thinking, and critical theory. The aim of the research was to identify signs of criticality in what we did. Data collected included semi-structured interviews; students’ written reflections on learning; students’ reflective paintings; and video-recorded student talk about each other’s artwork. A conventional content analysis of the data was conducted, revealing three main overarching themes: being in charge; working with others; and socio-cultural awareness. In turn, these served as the basis on which to identify signs of criticality. The main signs of criticality include students’ enquiries into their own epistemic doubts; dialogue for understanding and joint enquiry; and developing awareness of the constructed nature of knowledge and socio-cultural discourses and practices, and of struggles in the performance of difference. The study contributes to understanding of the nature of criticality and of how to develop it in EAP contexts. The study shows the value to EAP of a broader understanding of criticality with contributions from CEAP, critical pedagogy, critical thinking, and critical theory.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Meaning of Criticality in Education Research
Subtitle of host publicationReflecting on Critical Pedagogy
EditorsAshley Simpson, Fred Dervin
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-56009-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-56008-9
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2020

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Education Research Methods
ISSN (Print)2662-7345
ISSN (Electronic)2662-7353


  • China
  • Critical English for Academic Purposes
  • Critical pedagogy
  • Voices

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