Skip to main content

Incorporating Skeptical Thinking into the Classroom

Here is my presentation for the International TESOL Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 18, 2011. Below the presentation, you will find a link to the handout I distributed. This presentation is an update to a similar one I gave at the 2009 MIDTESOL Conference in Springfield, Missouri.

This is the link to the handout.
The 2-page handout is a PDF, so you will need Adobe Reader to view it. Click here to download the latest version of Adobe Reader.

Response to questions raised during the presentation:
After the presentation, I realized that 2 points should have been made clearer: 1) the reading ability of the students, and 2) the course objectives. I have described these below and I believe this will make it easier to understand how far along the students were in terms of reading the ability to think critically.

I may have made the wrong assumption that most attendees were familiar with ACTFL's proficiency standards, and I should have been more elaborate on the reading ability of the students upon entering the course.

1) Reading Ability - All of the students entered the course completing a novice-high reading course at the ESL Institute. This means they have read at most one page of text from an ESL textbook for a given class assignment. They had the ability to answer comprehension questions including personalizing and a little evaluation. My class is the first time they are introduced to a book. After 2 semesters, I discovered that a balance of academic and non-academic texts satisfy their linguistic and affective needs.

2) Objectives - The objectives of the course can be found in the class blog I presented, but I will reprint it here for your convenience.

ESL 111-001 is designed to assist ESL learners in the development of reading for academic purposes, emphasizing science fact and fiction. Student will develop their reading skills and strategies in and outside the classroom environment as well as improve their vocabulary. Students will be introduced to the concept of skepticism. They will be provided with the foundation of the scientific method. Students will also read various science-fiction short stories. Online science guides will supplement their understanding of certain concepts.

Primary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students should be able to perform all of the following tasks:
  • read fiction and non-fiction at the level of an American high school student
  • preview fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify the main idea of fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify general and specific statements
  • guess vocabulary from the context of the reading materials
  • identify contrasting statements
  • identify causes and effects
  • identify support for the main idea of the reading materials
  • summarize fiction and non-fiction texts
  • identify the setting, character, and conflict in fiction
  • identify themes in science-fiction
Secondary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students should be able to perform most of the following tasks:
  • practice and use their newly acquired reading vocabulary
  • make inferences based on the reading
  • infer conclusions from the reading
  • make outlines of the readings
Tertiary Goals - By the end of the Spring 2009 semester, ESL 111-001 students might be able to perform some of the following tasks:
  • demonstrate an appreciation for the sciences
  • apply skepticism when encountering pseudoscientific claims or statements
  • seek out science readings or science-fiction stories on their own


Popular posts from this blog

The Horror! A Listening Curriculum for English Language Learning

I've been inspired by Clare Maas' blog post, which was inspired by Dr. John Field's TEASIG/CRELLA talks, to share my shock at the listening curriculum of an intensive English program where I previously worked. To be fair, this listening curriculum was designed twenty years prior and my job was to lead faculty efforts to revise it. Unfortunately, the program went through financial difficulties and leadership changes, resulting in the "non-renewal" of most of the curriculum committee members.
Upper-Level (EAP) Listening (B2-C1) Listening was relatively equally integrated with speaking and reading skills in one course set apart from another course that focused much more on writing. This was the case for the two highest levels for students who intended to matriculate into the university as undergraduates. The highest level was not dependent on any one coursebook, so all of the listening material had to be collected by the instructors. When I was the curriculum coordi…

Research in the ELT Profession & Industry

My career has taken me to the uncomfortable and sometimes exciting spot in English language teaching or education in general: middle management, a term I dislike. As an advocate of teachers, I find my direction and passion by supporting teachers, helping them make their jobs more meaningful. Unfortunately, I have had to work with supervisors that didn't understand or share this vision. I'm not sure if they saw me as someone to "manage" teachers, but it often felt like it. If you don't know what middle management jobs are, and there are a lot of them, they go by many different names. Match any of the words in the left column with the words in the right column to create a job title that can describe the same job.

It seems that most of these job descriptions do not include research, which I believe is essential in developing curriculum and professional learning. It also seems obvious to me that a background in pedagogical research (and for ELT, research in applied …

Media in the Learning: Reflecting on a "New" Media Paradigm

The 21st century has been around for nearly two decades and media has always been used for teaching and learning. I'm trying to think of language teaching without any media, which can be defined as communication tools for storing and delivering information, and I cannot. When we talk about 21st Century Skills and New Media, I think most people don't know what they're specifically referring to. I traced the term "21st Century Skills" to the Framework for 21st Century Learning designed by P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. It's a brand that has already grown old with ideas that are even older. However, these skills are often overlooked for mostly political reasons. I believe most teachers would like to focus on these skills more, but that's not what usually counts in most standardized exams.

The other term, new media, is a teacher-centered term because the media is "new" for the teachers who did not grow up with computer-mediated technol…