The Role of Literary and Cultural Theory in Enhancing Student’s Critical Thinking, Presented at the 2nd National Conference on “Quality Assurance in English Studies in Moroccan Higher Education” organized by the ALCS, Chouaib Doukkali Univ

The Role of Literary and Cultural Theory in Enhancing Student’s Critical Thinking, Presented at the 2nd National Conference on “Quality Assurance in English Studies in Moroccan Higher Education” organized by the ALCS, Chouaib Doukkali University,

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  Pr. Hamza Touzani, Chouaib Doukkali University, Department of English, El Jaia.   The !ole of "iterary an Cultural Theory inEnhan#ing $tuent%s Criti#al Thinking&bstra#t' Critical thinking is one of the most important goals and valued outcomes of education.Since it is central to all forms of progress, most countries' educational reforms andeducation's mission statements aspire to cultivate critical thinking as a core intellectualvirtue in students. Hence, enhancing student's critical thinking is an important indicator of any educational system's quality assurance. However, critical thinking skills andattitudes are scarcely taught in Moroccan Universities through specific courses. t isgenerally assumed that students indirectly acquire these skills and attitudes in the courseof their studies. n the !nglish "epartment at Chouai# "oukkali University, !l $adida,some of the content courses through which students are e%pected to acquire criticalthinking are those related to &iterary and Cultural heory. his paper e%plores, througha (uestionnaire destined to respectively semester four and five )Cultural Studies) and)&iterary and Cultural heory) students, how these courses participate through thenature of their interdisciplinary and multicultural content in enhancing student's criticalthinking. (ey)ors * Critical hinking, (uality +ssurance, !&, !ducational eform. *ntrou#tion' he advance of new technologies and the unprecedented e%plosion of information and its varied sources have made it necessary for Moroccan students to #eefficient critical thinkers. Students in the digital age no longer need to learn to o#tain a #ody of facts and information, #ut to learn how to #enefit from what they learn in their everyday lives and how to put it into practice. Critical thinking skills and competenciescom#ined with foundational knowledge are #elieved to assist learners in developingautonomy, sound -udgments, ethical attitudes, and a#ilities to make appropriatedecisions and to participate fully in the media and new technologies saturated world+#dalloui, /01/* /23. iwari et al. maintain that 45the /1 st  century, with its glo#al social,economic, educational, environmental and health challenges, does not demand the teaching of soon6to6#e  o#solete facts, #ut, rather, the fostering of critical thinking at all levels of education 7 /008* 9:23. he promotion of critical thinking must #e at the core of the Moroccaneducational policies, in general, and higher education in particular, since this latter isconsidered an essential and lasting outcome as well as indicator of quality higher education. n fact, an education em#racing critical thinking as part of its foundation is a prerequisite for democracy and social equity ;ernard, .M. et al., /00<* 196//3. he=artnership for /1st Century Skills has recently identified critical thinking as one of several learning and innovation skills necessary to prepare students for post6graduateeducation and the -o# market &ai, /011* :3.n Moroccan !nglish "epartments, the curriculum is roughly divided into ;asic&anguage Skill's whose o#-ectives are generally centered on enhancing students'linguistic competencies, and Content Courses whose prominent o#-ective is to rise instudents high6level thinking and a critical spirit. n the !nglish "epartment at Chouai#"oukkali University, !l $adida, some of the content courses through which students aree%pected to acquire critical thinking skills and dispositions are those related to &iteraryand Cultural heory. his paper e%plores how courses such as )Cultural Studies) insemester four and )&iterary and cultural heory) in semester five participate through thenature of their interdisciplinary and multicultural content in enhancing student's criticalthinking. +hat is #riti#al thinking =aul distinguishes #etween two different approaches to university instruction* atraditional approach #ased on a 4 didactic theory of knowledge, learning, and literacy, 7 withlecturing as an e%ample> and a new approach #ased on 4 emerging critical theory of knowledge,and learning and literacy 7 with pro#lem6#ased learning as an e%ample 1?<?* /003. =aulargues that the heavy reliance on the 4 outmoded didactic lecture6and6drill6#ased, model of instruction 7 1?<?* //93 has led to poor critical thinking skills and little learning instudents.Critical thinking received full attention in the field of education at the #eginningof the twentieth century. Scholars such as "ewey started writing a#out the importanceof using critical thinking skills in education since 1?@@. ScholarsA interest in criticalthinking in education increased in the second half of the twentieth century with ;loomAs1?983 #ook Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational  goals. n the 1?<0s, Critical thinking #ecame part and parcel of the curriculum indeveloped countries in !urope and Borth +merica Stern#erg, 1?<93.+t the outset of the twenty6first century, the role of critical thinking ineducation #ecame pivotal as most countries of the world started implementing it in their   curricula and at different levels of education nch  Darnick, /0113. he /00@ large educational reform which introduced the modular system inMoroccan ertiary !ducation failed to integrate Critical hinking as an independentcourse. n /01:, the Moroccan Ministry of Higher !ducation introduced another reformto overcome some of the pro#lems that plagued higher education. Some universitiesseiEed the opportunity and implemented critical thinking in the curriculum. +n e%ampleis the Faculty of +rts and Humanities in Meknes University Moulay smail3 whereCritical hinking is now taught as an independent course in the "epartment of !nglishChouari, /018* :9?3. he course o#-ectives as reported #y Chouari /018* :803intersect in many ways with those of courses taught at the "epartment of !nglish inChouai# "oukkali University such as 4Study Skills7, 4&iterary and Cultural heory7and 4Cultural Studies7..Critical thinking is a rather difGcult concept to deGne as different definitions of the term a#ound Facione 1??03, Fisher and Scriven 1??23 etc.3. t is #elieved to havethree components involving a personAs knowledge, attitude, and skills. Specialists havealso used a wide range of terms to descri#e the concept such as 4cognitive concepts7,4higher order skills7, 4thinking skills7, 4reective -udgment7, 4argumentation7,4pro#lem solving7, 4thinking methods7 or 4processes7 Macknight, /001* 1683.n a paper entitled 4Critical hinking as "eGned #y the Bational Council for !%cellence in Critical hinking7 presented at the <th +nnual nternational Conferenceon Critical hinking and !ducation eform during the Summer of 1?<2, Scriven, M.and =aul, . declare that ) Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively andskillfully conceptualiEing, applying, analyEing, synthesiEing, andIor evaluating information gatheredfrom, or generated #y, o#servation, e%perience, reection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to #elief and action. n its e%emplary form, it is #ased on universal intellectual values that transcend su#-ectmatter divisions* clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, #readth, and fairness... ) http*IIwww.criticalthinking.orgIa#outCIdeGneJcriti6calJthinking.cfm3he following consensus definition issued #y forty si% e%perts provides acommon vision a#out critical thinking* 4 De understand critical thinking to #e purposeful, self6regulatory -udgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well ase%planation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or conte%tual considerationsupon which that -udgment is #ased 5 +s such, critical thinking is a li#erating force in education and a powerful resource in oneAs personal and civic life 5 KitL is a pervasive and self6rectifying human phenomenon. he ideal critical thinker is ha#itually inquisitive, well6informed, trustful of reason, open6minded, e%i#le, fair6minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal #iases, prudent in making -udgments, willing to reconsider, clear a#out issues, orderly in comple% matters, diligent in seekingrelevant information, reasona#le in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking  results which are as precise as the su#-ect and the circumstances of inquiry permit. hus, educating goodcritical thinkers means working toward this ideal. t com#ines developing critical thinking skills withnurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the #asis of a rationaland democratic society. 7 Facione, 1??0* /3 Criti#al thinking through #ontent #ourses' ecent research in cognition advances that mastering content must come #eforean attempt to put it to good use. +s Mc=eck 1??03 remarks, to think critically, studentsneed something to think critically a#out. Dillingham /0023 argues that it is easier tolearn to think critically within a given domain than it is to do in a generic sense.esearchers such as rilling 1???3 maintain that applying critical thinking to contentknowledge increases motivation and improves learning outcomes. Most researchersworking in the area of critical thinking agree on the important role of #ackgroundknowledge and consider it as essential if students are to demonstrate their criticalthinking skills Case /0093, ennedy et al. 1??13, Dillingham /00233. Facionewrites* 4 +lthough the identification and analysis of critical thinking skills transcend, in significantways, specific su#-ects or disciplines, learning and applying these skills in many conte%ts requiresdomain6specific knowledge. his domain6specific knowledge includes understanding methodological principles and competence to engage in norm6regulated practices that are at the core of reasona#le -udgments in those specific conte%ts5oo much of value is lost if critical thinking is conceived of simplyas a list of logical operations and domain6specific knowledge is conceived of simply as an aggregation of information 7 1??0* 103. ;ailin argues that domain6specific knowledge is necessary for critical thinking #ecause what constitutes valid evidence, arguments, and standards tends to vary acrossdomains* 4 5 it makes no sense to refer to a process of interpreting which remains constant regardlessof su#-ect matter. ather, what is involved in and even meant #y interpreting varies with the conte%t, andthis difference is connected with the different kinds of knowledge and understanding necessary for successful completion of a particular task  7 /00/* @883. n fact, critical thinking skills cannot #e taught in isolation, and learners cannot #e engaged in serious critical thinking unlessthey are provided with a meaningful rich, motivating conte%t of a speciGc su#-ectmatter.he su#-ect matter with which the present paper concerns itself is 4&iterary andCultural heory7 which if properly e%ploited would enhance studentsA critical thinkingthrough its interdisciplinary and multicultural nature. StudentsA awareness of differentcompetitive, #ut most of the time complementary theories, which are in fact ways of seeing the world, with their value and limitations, helps them learn to see themselvesand the world through valua#le new lenses. his awareness influences many aspects of their everyday lives such as how they view television, #ehave as voters and consumers,  how they react to others with whom they do not agree on social, religious, or politicalissues> and how they recogniEe and deal with their own motives, fears, and desiresayson, /0083Henning 1??@* 9:3 #elieves that literature has 4 a crucial role to play 7 #ecause as4 students learn how to read and interpret comple% te%ts, they #ecome #etter a#le to manage effectivelyelsewhere in the real world .7 Nn the other hand, #eliefs, values, and practices of everydaylife are developed and questioned under the influence of e%posure to popular culture inall forms and the use of such materials provides opportunities for students to connectthemselves with different local conte%ts &u, =., /01@* :6@03.ayson maintains that* 45if we #elieve that human productionsOnot -ust literature #utalso, for e%ample, film, music, art, science, technology, and architectureOare outgrowths of humane%perience and therefore reflect human desire, conflict, and potential, then we can learn to interpret those productions in order to learn something important a#out ourselves as a species ) and ) strengthen our a#ility to think logically, creatively, and with a good deal of insight 7 /008* /6@3. o e%plore, though at a small scale, studentsA perceptions, attitudes and opinionsa#out the semester four 4Cultural Studies7 and semester five 4&iterary and Culturalheory7 courses in relation to enhancing critical thinking, we sampled twenty6fivestudents from each group with a total of fifty students to whom we addressed a(uestionnaire of ten open6ended questions. De opted for open6ended questions #ecausethey allow respondents to include more information concerning attitudes and feelings.he (uestionnaire was designed to provide an opportunity for students to give generalfeed#ack a#out these courses, and to furnish a wide spectrum of e%pectations andresponses. +ll participants in the study had the same teacher. De used qualitativecontent analysis which revealed that though some found the courses challenging anddifficult all students en-oyed the courses and e%pressed positive attitudes. +ll participants e%pressed their satisfaction with the courses and admitted thatattending the courses caused a change in their attitudes as they #egan to see thingsdifferently. Nne of the respondents wrote as an answer to the question* 4 did you en-oy thecourseP 7* 4  completely en-oyed the course, #ecause  #enefited from it a lot. My view has completelychanged a#out things surrounding me .7 +nother respondent answered the question* 4 did thecourse make changes in your attitudes and #eliefsP HowP 7* 4 he course made me realiEe that  was acultural dupe.  changed to an open6minded and critical thinker  .7 Concerning the coursesA content most respondents e%pressed their satisfactionas they were provided for each course with a course6#ook containing all the chapterstackled inside the classroom. Nne of the students wrote* 4 he lessons were very interesting #ecause of the diversity of theories we learned, #ut at the same time difficult #ecause there are a lot of information 7. +nother wrote* 4 Dhat  liked much is that the course gives us the opportunity to ask 
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