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Volume 5 Number 1, Spring 2008, Pages 1-157   

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Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking in TESOL: East vs. West

    Megumi Oda

TESOL educators in general assume that Asian L2 students are challenged in using critical thinking for L2 academic purposes. They believe that the students' native hierarchical and collectivistic cultural background render them less capable of expressing controversial viewpoints in their L2 writing and speech. This widespread assumption will be challenged here on the basis of studies demonstrating Asian L2 students' unique, yet adequate critical abilities. The present paper argues that what undermines accurate understanding of Asian L2 students' critical cues in L2 classrooms may be the Western ESL teacher's presupposition that these students have somewhat defective critical abilities. It also probes in the differences between monological and dialogical critical thinking. Dialogical critical thinking, which, unlike the monological type, recognizes a variety of opposing viewpoints and opinions, offers students both in the East and West an equally relevant and beneficial approach to critical thinking. Similarities between such Western modes of dialogical critical thinking and Eastern modes of thought are illustrated to provide a new definition of critical thinking that is inclusive of both Eastern and Western values as a valuable option in L2 classrooms. The paper concludes with pedagogical implications.

Keywords: critical thinking, monological and dialogical critical thinking, L2 academic writing