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Critical Thinking in Practice: Teachers’ interpretation and translation into practice of critical thinking in the A level classroom – an ethnographic perspective.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Although the Critical Thinking field is replete with theoretical models and conceptualisations of what Critical Thinking is deemed to be, there is a consensus that such theoretical perspectives are yet to transfer pedagogically to the classroom. This thesis addresses the disjuncture between Critical Thinking theories and pedagogical enactment through a practice based exploration of three A level teachers’ interpretation and translation into practice of a trans-disciplinary model of Critical Thinking in one secondary school.
Research was conducted from an ethnographic perspective, drawing on the tools of observation, formal interviews, teacher commentaries on lessons, as well as textual analysis of relevant documentary evidence related to the teaching context. 18 lessons were video and audio recorded, with audio recordings of selected lessons and associated teacher commentaries transcribed for systematic linguistic analysis in accordance with micro-ethnographic methods. Each participant teacher constituted an individual case study.
A significant dynamic to emerge from this thesis was the relationship between Critical Thinking as outcome, contextualised and rendered visible in this study by each subject’s A level specifications, and Critical Thinking as pedagogical process, enabling students to achieve such outcomes. Based on a constructivist view of teacher professionalism, this research reveals how teachers engaged in their own individual critical processes of interpreting, selecting, reformulating and blending the Critical Thinking model with other pedagogic conventions in order to address specific epistemological difficulties presented by their respective A level, rather than pursuing Critical Thinking as a pedagogic aim in its own right. As a result, Critical Thinking in this study assumes its significance and meaning through each teacher’s translation of it into the context of their practice, manifesting itself in their own situationally relevant enacted pedagogy.
Whilst the focus in this thesis has been Critical Thinking, it also serves at a meta-level as a study into the processes at play when grand pedagogical concepts are brought to real classrooms.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date2018

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