Chapter One Introduction
1.1 Research Background
The current demand for the development of critical thinking mainly includes twoaspects.First,the cultivation of critical thinking is the requirement of internationaleducation reporting.OECD published a research report in 2012,which mentioned thatstudents in the 21st century must acquire core competencies such as critical thinking,problem solving,decision-making,information processing,communication andcooperation(Schleicher,2012).The report pointed out that critical thinking skillshave become one of the core skills that students in the 21st century must master,andthe cultivation of critical thinking skills has gradually attracted the attention ofscholars in different countries.According to The Research Report on the 5C model of21st Century core competence(Chinese version)2018,critical thinking is proposed asone of the core competencies in the 21st century(Wei et al.,2020).As a corecompetency and an important goal of education in the 21st century,the cultivation ofstudents'critical thinking has become a top priority in many countries and regions.Second,the cultivation of critical thinking is the need for English subject corecompetencies.The English Curriculum Standards for Compulsory Education(2022Edition),referred to as"The Curriculum Standards(2022)",aims to help studentsdevelop students'core competencies consisting of four aspects:language ability,cultural awareness,thinking capacity and learning ability.Among these aspects,improving the quality of thinking is of utmost importance,which helps students torecognize,analyze and solve problems and assess things correctly(Mao,Liu&Lin,2022).The quality of thinking in The Curriculum Standards(2022)includes fivedimensions:profundity,flexibility,creativity,criticalness and agility.
1.2 Research Objectives
Although a number of studies have examined the effectiveness of PBL Englishreading instruction in developing students'critical thinking,certain shortcomingsshould be noted.First,the effects of problem-based English reading instruction onhigh school students'critical thinking have not been adequately studied.Second,previous researchers have integrated PBL into English instruction primarily toimprove students'critical thinking dispositions,rather than to improve students'critical thinking skills and English reading performance.Third,previous studies failedto determine whether the changes in students'critical thinking skills were related totheir English proficiency after the PBL teaching method was used in the classroom.
In response to the shortcomings of previous researches,the aims of this thesis arethreefold.To begin with,the study will verify effectiveness and feasibility of PBLmethod on cultivating junior high school students'critical thinking skills in Englishreading class.Besides,this study will explore the efficacy of PBL method anddetermine whether PBL method can improve junior high school students'Englishreading performance in the teaching of English reading.Finally,the study is to furtherclarify whether the development of junior high school students'critical thinking skillsis related to students'English levels.
Chapter Two Literature Review
2.1 Previous Studies on PBL
In this section,the definition of PBL is described and the characteristics andprocess of PBL are illustrated.In addition,previous empirical studies on PBL arereviewed.
2.1.1 Definition of PBL
There are two common models at home and abroad:problem-based learning andproject-based learning.Influenced by Dewey's empirical philosophy and the idea of"learning by doing",Kilpatrick formally proposed"project learning"in 1918(Liu,2022).This method was also known as"design teaching method"whose core ideawas that teachers created a problem situation and guided students to plan and solveproblems independently.Howard Barrows(1996),an American scholar who wascredited with being the first to name the term"problem-based learning"meaning thatstudents discovered and solved problems by themselves under the guidance of theteacher.Both methods emphasize the connection between learning and experience andthe active construction of knowledge.The difference between the two methods is theduration of the activity.For example,problem-based learning is relatively short,which can be limited to single-digit hours,while students have to spend a longer timeto complete project-based learning,from a month to a semester depending on thecontext(Liu,2022).
2.2 Previous Studies on Critical thinking
This section elaborates on the representative definitions and dimensions ofcritical thinking given by previous experts.Then,an overview of empirical researcheson critical thinking is presented.
2.2.1 Definition of critical thinking
The proposal of critical thinking can be traced back to the times of ancient Greekphilosophers such as Socrates,Plato and Aristotle.Socrates'"socratic method"brought to light the importance of obtaining evidence,testing hypotheses andreasoning as well as analyzing concepts,which were the basic strategies of criticalthinking(Guo,2014).However,Socrates did not give a definition of critical thinking.
In the bud period of critical thinking,John Dewey,the pioneer of criticalthinking,systematically discussed the issue of critical thinking in his book How WeThink and advocated"reflective thinking"(Dewey,2022:18).In 1962,Robert Ennis,one of the pioneers of critical thinking in the United States,criticized Dewey's"reflective thinking"and emphasized the central role of inductive inference in criticalthinking which was then defined by Robert Ennis as the correct evaluation ofpropositions(Ennis,1989).Since then,the concept of critical thinking has beenstudied by experts in different fields in the following decades,and two well-knownpeople who made the definition of critical thinking are John McPeck and RichardPaul.
Chapter Three Theoretical Framework ........................ 29
3.1 Constructivism Theory .............................. 29
3.1.1 Constructivism .............................. 29
3.1.2 Relationship between Constructivism and PBL ........................ 30
Chapter Four Methodology .............................. 33
4.1 Research Questions ..................................... 33
4.2 Research Variables ....................................... 33
Chapter Five Results and Discussion ............... 55
5.1 Results of Questionnaires ............................. 55
5.1.1 Data description of questionnaires in independent samples t-test ..................... 55
5.1.2 Data description of questionnaires in paired samples t-test ....... 56
Chapter Five Results and Discussion
5.1 Results of Questionnaires
This section explores the answer to the first research question:What effects willPBL have on junior high school students'critical thinking skills in English reading?The data from questionnaires is described and analyzed as follows.
5.1.1 Data description of questionnaires in independent samples t-test
An independent samples t-test was implemented so as to verify whether therewas a difference in the level of critical thinking skills for students in EC and CCbefore the experiment.The results are listed in Table 5.1.
Chapter Six Conclusion
6.1 Major Findings
This study provides an empirical evidence that PBL method has a significantimpact on students'critical thinking skills and English reading performance.Thisconclusion can be drawn by observing the improvement in the results of thequestionnaire given.Students'English reading performance also changed after beinggiven the PBL treatment,as can be seen from their mean scores before and after thetests.After a semester of experimental research on the application of PBL method toEnglish reading teaching in a junior high school in in Yuexiu District of Guangzhou,Guangdong Province,the experimental results were analyzed and discussed bycollecting all the data from the questionnaires and tests.The main findings aresummarized as follows:
First,PBL can help enhance junior high school students'critical thinking skills.Specifically,students'sub-skills of explanation and evaluation are improved moresignificantly,while the improvement in the sub-skills of analysis and reasoning is notobvious.Data analysis of the questionnaire survey before the experiment shows thatthe critical thinking skills of the first-year students were at an intermediate level,butstudents lacked strategies for solving problems involved with critical thinking skills inEnglish reading tests.After a semester of English reading teaching with PBL method,the researcher conducted the post-questionnaire on the students in the experimentalclass again.The data from the post-questionnaire showed that the students in theexperimental class improved their critical thinking skills after the experiment.Thestudents developed a sense of achievement in solving problems in group cooperationafter the adoption of PBL method in English reading classes.They were willing to participate in the class with greater motivation and initiative in English reading class.It can be seen that PBL method can improve critical thinking skills for junior highschool students.