An investigation into the transformation of Thailand's higher education curriculum: what are EFL teachers' perceptions and practices regarding the integration of critical thinking to optimise learning outcomes

Year: 2021

Author: Srirak, Sudarat

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This article addressed the recent transformation of the higher education curriculum in Thailand. The 20-year Plan on Higher Education Development 2018-2037 focuses on integrating critical thinking into classroom teaching to enhance learning outcomes. Entailing both cognitive and meta-cognitive skills by engaging learners in complex thinking and reflecting processes, critical thinking and its value in English language learning is widely recognised. Yet little is understood about EFL teachers' perceptions towards critical thinking and its integration in English classroom teaching. This article examined how teachers from EFL programs in a higher education institution that developed their curriculum by including critical thinking as a teaching and/or learning strategy perceived the value of critical thinking and its integration into classroom practices. A mixed-method design with the combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection was conducted. Fifty EFL teachers participated in an initial survey phase and 11 of them continued in a second phase in which data was collected through a semi-structured interview. Analysis of the findings revealed that most research participants understood critical thinking as cognitive and higher order thinking involving reasoning, analysing, evaluating, and thinking creatively. They also perceived critcal thinking as a valuable and useful strategy to be integrated into classroom teaching because it engaged students' higher order thinking, improved teaching and learning outcomes, and encouraged language use for real-life purposes. The findings also implied that these EFL teachers integrated critical thinking by teaching students to make good arguments supported with evidence, give reasons logically, and think creatively. However, the teachers had teaching difficulty particularly when they taught in teams and when they taught students with low English proficiency. The implications of this study suggest that EFL teachers who engaged in the curriculum transformation were aware of the change in teaching required by the curriculum regarding the application of critical thinking to drive language learning outcomes. Yet more support and guidance, as well as teacher collaborations, are imperative to help EFL teachers integrate critical thinking into classroom teaching effectively.