HomeAcademic ResourcesReview: Contextualization of Critical Thinking Cultivation in Higher Foreign Language Education

Review: Contextualization of Critical Thinking Cultivation in Higher Foreign Language Education


Cui Jiayi

Innovative ability is a necessary skill for the new generation of college students and a key aspect of talent cultivation. The fundamental prerequisite for cultivating innovative talents is to foster contemporary college students’ critical thinking abilities.

The cultivation of critical thinking abilities is considered the most important goal of modern education, and over the past two decades, China’s higher education has gradually given it attention. At present, China’s higher education is breaking away from the shackles of traditional teaching models while various advanced teaching models are being introduced into university classrooms.

The book Contextualization of Critical Thinking Cultivation in Higher Foreign Language Education, authored by Professors Li Yingxin, Yang Mei, Gao Jie, and Guo Yaling, exemplifies this integration.

Contextualization of Critical Thinking Cultivation in Higher Foreign Language Education
Contextualization of Critical Thinking Cultivation in Higher Foreign Language Education 

The book is structured into four main parts.

The first part provides a comprehensive review of critical thinking literature, emphasizing its significance in Chinese higher education, particularly within foreign language teaching for college students. It also discusses the current state of critical thinking research among foreign language majors and factors influencing its development.

In the second part, various teaching models are explored in relation to critical thinking. This includes an analysis of traditional Chinese teaching models alongside modern approaches like Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). The focus is on understanding how these models impact the cultivation of critical thinking abilities.

The third part focuses on the theoretical construction and practical implementation of localized critical thinking cultivation models. It examines the localization of PBL and SIOP teaching models, exploring their theoretical underpinnings and practical applications within the context of Chinese education.

Finally, the fourth part presents the research findings and discusses their implications. It highlights the positive effects of localized teaching models on students’ critical thinking abilities, drawing conclusions from both quantitative and qualitative research. Additionally, it addresses the implications of these findings from both theoretical and practical perspectives, while also identifying areas for future research.

Literature review

Developmental history of critical thinking

The book begins with a detailed review of the rise and development of critical thinking, tracing not only its origins and evolution abroad but also its introduction and gradual growth in China. This historical context helps readers understand how the concept of critical thinking has influenced globally and gradually taken root in Chinese academia and educational practice.

Overview of domestic and international research findings

Extensive referencing of over 400 domestic and international sources provides a comprehensive overview of critical thinking research. It highlights three key characteristics of foreign research: systematic and mature theoretical exploration, rich empirical studies, and broad research subjects. This deep analysis reveals the multidimensional and multilayer exploration of critical thinking by foreign scholars, providing valuable reference for related research in China.

Summary of domestic research achievements

The book also presents a synthesis of domestic research accomplishments, showcasing the contributions of Chinese experts and scholars in areas such as translation of foreign theoretical research, introduction of critical thinking connotations, characteristics, and composition, research on critical thinking cultivation strategies and methods, and research on critical thinking evaluation. These achievements not only demonstrate the hard work and unique contributions of Chinese scholars in the field of critical thinking but also provide a solid theoretical foundation for promoting critical thinking education in China.

Localization Theory Construct                                 

In exploring teaching models for critical thinking, this book creatively constructs localized PBL and SIOP teaching models tailored to suit China’s educational environment, aiming to effectively enhance college students’ critical thinking abilities.

Firstly, the theoretical construction of localized PBL forms an implementation process of “three stages, four steps and two cycles” model, fully embodying a profound understanding and flexible application of China’s national conditions and student learning situations. The “three stages” refer to the complete teaching process, the pre-class, while-class, and post-class stages, which teaching must go through; while the “four steps” refer to the organization of teaching around problems as the main clue, including problem posing, analyzing, solving, and evaluating; and the two cycles refer to the twice-over process of students’ input and output of knowledge during teaching. This model emphasizes the combination of autonomy and cooperation and targeted cultivation of students’ critical thinking abilities, which has distinct Chinese characteristics and practical value.

Secondly, the book adapts the SIOP model for localization, constructing a “three stages, two phases” teaching process. The three stages are preparation stage, teaching implementation stage, and post-class reflection stage, and the two links refer to the review and evaluation, application and construction of knowledge included in the post-class reflection stage. The questioning strategies of SIOP are ingeniously integrated, stimulating students’ critical thinking through carefully designed questions, significantly enhancing their thinking quality.

Empirical Research on the Localization Application

In the process of in-depth exploration and practice of localized PBL and SIOP teaching models, the book based on detailed experimental data and rich teaching practice feedback, successfully extracts a series of highly practical teaching experience enlightenments. These enlightenments aim to provide comprehensive and detailed guidance for educators, helping them to accurately grasp the key points of instructional design, reasonably set questions and tasks, and scientifically construct evaluation mechanisms when using PBL and SIOP models to cultivate students’ critical thinking abilities, thus fully stimulating students’ learning enthusiasm and effectively improving their critical thinking abilities.

Deep integration of PBL instructional design and critical thinking cultivation

In the application of PBL model, problem design is the core link that triggers students’ deep thinking and critical exploration. This book emphasizes that teachers should deeply understand the inherent development laws of critical thinking abilities when conceiving questions, fully consider students’ English language foundation and cognitive development stage, and carefully design open, complex, and appropriately difficult questions.

In this way, teachers can not only successfully stimulate students’ thinking vitality, guide them to actively participate in the problem-solving process, but also ensure that students maintain an appropriate level of comfort when facing challenges, preventing them from weakening their interest in learning or feeling frustrated due to problems that are too simple or difficult.

Innovation and optimization of the PBL evaluation system

To maximize the catalytic role of evaluation in cultivating students’ critical thinking abilities, this book advocates that teachers should resolutely abandon the single, summative evaluation tradition and turn to a diversified, formative evaluation system. In the PBL classroom, teachers should actively encourage students to conduct self-evaluation, improve self-awareness and critical abilities through reflecting on their own thinking processes; at the same time, encourage peer evaluation among students, cultivate their ability to accept diverse perspectives and critically examine others’ opinions through peer exchanges and collisions of ideas.

In addition, teachers need to integrate evaluation throughout the entire process of instructional design, instruction, and reflection, implementing continuous, dynamic formative evaluation so that they can timely adjust teaching strategies to meet the personalized needs of students’ critical thinking ability development.

Advocacy and practice of process-oriented assessment and continuous evaluation in the SIOP model

In the practice of the SIOP teaching model, the innovation of assessment methods is regarded as a key lever to promote students’ critical thinking ability improvement. This book clearly states that teachers should completely say goodbye to the summative assessment mode that only focuses on learning outcomes and instead fully promote the assessment mode that focuses on the learning process.

Specifically, teachers should pay close attention to students’ knowledge acquisition, skill development, attitude changes, and embodiment of critical thinking during the learning process through continuous evaluation. This process-oriented assessment method allows teachers to gain an in-depth understanding of students’ learning details and provide accurate data support for teaching decisions.

Finally, the book organically combines the cultivation of college students’ critical thinking abilities with the construction of innovative teaching models, integrating the localized theory of teaching models with teaching practice, exploring pathways for cultivating critical thinking abilities.

Significance of the book

The core value of this book lies in closely integrating the cultivation of college students’ critical thinking abilities with the construction of innovative teaching models, achieving a virtuous interaction where theory guides practice and practice enriches theory.

Firstly, the book takes the cultivation of college students’ critical thinking abilities as the research objective and the construction of innovative teaching models as the research content, clearly defining the direction and tasks of research, striving to cultivate students’ autonomous learning ability, cooperative learning ability, debating and oratory skills, analytical and comprehensive ability, problem-solving ability, inquiry ability, and information discernment ability under the guidance of innovative teaching model theories, ultimately improving students’ critical thinking abilities.

Secondly, the content of the book closely revolves around the practical application of English language teaching in colleges, actively responding to the educational goals of cultivating professionals with expertise, innovative spirit, practical ability, and international vision under the new liberal arts situation, providing practical examples and novel attempts for cultivating college students’ critical thinking abilities in China by applying innovative localized teaching models in college English classrooms.

In summary, this book takes critical thinking as its central topic, deeply mining relevant research findings at home and abroad, innovatively constructing localized teaching models, and striving for the deep integration of theory and practice. It offers invaluable theoretical guidance and practical references for cultivating critical thinking abilities in higher education in China. Its rigorous academic attitude, broad research vision, distinct innovative consciousness, and pragmatic operational suggestions make it a masterpiece worthy of extensive study by educators and researchers.

Shortcomings of the Book

Despite having many advantages, there are still quite a few drawbacks. First of all, the construction of a localized teaching model has not yet ascended to a higher theoretical level and will require continuous refinement and improvement for a considerable time ahead to mature.

In addition, there are limitations in sample selection, professional choice, and test effects in teaching practice, and this study only selected courses and student majors according to the teachers involved in the research group. At last, the testing of the research results is limited to the aspect of critical thinking abilities, focusing only on the impact of localized teaching models on the development of students’ CT abilities.

However, these flaws do not overshadow the book’s overall value. Taking the cultivation of college students’ critical thinking abilities and the construction of localized teaching models as its theme, the book has a comprehensive and reasonable framework, smooth and clear writing style, clear concepts, and strong readability. It can serve as a reference for relevant college teachers and researchers, as well as for educational management departments or university teaching evaluation agencies.

*The author is affiliated with School of Education & Honors College, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, China and can be reached at yxlicui@163.com 

**The opinions in this review are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.

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